As winter approaches, many people have one question in mind: Does the cold weather make you sick? It’s very difficult to answer this question because of how the cold might interact with other processes that could make you sick. But at the end of the day, if your illness is an infectious strain, germs are what make you sick, and not the cold weather itself. Still, there is a connection between feeling cold and getting sick, and cold air can create conditions that lead to illness.
Perhaps when you were young, your parents warned you not to walk outside in the cold with wet hair. Wet hair in the cold can lead to frostbite or hypothermia, but can it also make a person more susceptible to viral infections? Some studies assert that the influenza virus is most stable in cool, dry temperatures, while other studies show that the disease is also prevalent in humid, warm climates. This means that other factors, whether it be sudden temperature changes, the impact of dark and light cycles, or dry indoor spaces, all have the potential to affect your immune response, and get you sick quickly.
When it’s chilly outside, the air is drier both outside and inside because of indoor heating. This leads to your mucous membranes drying up and making it easier for viruses to take hold. When there is poor air circulation, rooms with poor ventilation can also make you more susceptible to catching a cold.
The nose is also a great host for some viruses in lower temperatures. Though the average core body temperature is 98.6°F, the average nasal cavity temperature is 91.4°F. The cooler temperature makes the nose an ideal breeding ground for rhinovirus.
Viruses and Immune System
When you catch a cold, viruses attach themselves to cells in your nasal passages and sinuses. After they get inside, the cells increase in number, which spurs the immune system into action using a host of different cells to attack the invading viruses.
The cells involved in the body’s immune response communicate with one another to attack an infection.They do this by producing chemical messengers known as cytokines.
Cytokines are an integral part of the body’s immune response, but they’re also involved in producing many of the familiar, and less welcome, symptoms of an infection. Cytokines trigger fevers, inflammation, runny noses and aches often associated with the flu. While these side effects can be unpleasant, an effective attack against infection depends on the organizing power of cytokines.
Some antibodies against the virus remain in your body after you recover from a cold. If you are re-exposed to that virus, your body will remember it and produce more antibodies to combat it. This means that even if you are reinfected, you might not necessarily become as ill, where your cold may not last as long or be as severe as the first time you got sick. But in general, if you want to prevent the common cold, you can maintain a healthy immune system by making sure that you get plenty of vitamins, such as vitamin C, and more vegetables into your diet.
Humidity Level in House
A humidity level of 40-60% indoors is thought to prevent many airborne viruses. This humidity level reduces the amount of time that the airborne flu can stay contagious, making indoor humidity regulation critical for preventing airborne infections .
When heating systems like house vents dry the air during the cold winter months, indoor humidity frequently falls into the dry danger zone. As a result, influenza retains its potential to infect individuals at low relative humidity levels. This means that central heat and air are even more crucial during colder seasons when illnesses are much more common.
One method to maintain a good indoor humidity level during the winter is to use humidifiers to add moisture to the air. Using a humidifier during winter can help increase the humidity level in your house and reduce your chances of contracting the flu. Continue reading for some pointers on how to check and increase the indoor humidity level in your house.
Cold Weather and Asthmatics
When someone with asthma breathes in cold, dry air, the muscles begin to spasm while also attempting to keep the airways open. This aggravates the lining of the airways, resulting in coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
Cold air can aggravate asthma symptoms and flare-ups, especially if it is dry. The dryness in cold air can cause breathing issues for many people with asthma. Cold air combined with windy conditions might also cause asthma symptoms. In general, the more severe your asthma, the more probable it is that the cold air can aggravate your symptoms.
To better understand how this works, imagine your bronchial tubes – the airways that deliver air to your lungs – as branches on a tree. A person with asthma has some constant irritation in their airways. Inflammation causes the airways to constrict, making it more difficult for air to reach the lungs. This is why people with asthma may have difficulty breathing even when they are not experiencing a flare-up.
So if you have asthma, try to warm up gradually before hitting your full stride outdoors, and wear a neck gaiter over your mouth to warm up the air going into your lungs.
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