Does being cold make you sick?


As Russ shuffled into work this morning I noticed he was lacking his usual contagious energy. He claimed to feel slightly sick and after an two hours decided to head home. Walking with him out the door, my motherly instincts came about and I said he was probably sick because he didn't dress warmly enough for the weather. And that's when I cracked the first smile out of him that day. It was not because he felt touched, oh no, it was because I was wrong. Apparently, you cannot get a cold from being cold. Well doesn't that sound obvious...not. Flus and colds come from viruses, not a drop in the temperature outside. Those smaller digits won't actually hurt you (unless you get hypothermia).

Then why do we see the number of colds rise when the dreary winter months come along? When it gets cold outside most of us tend to look for solace on the old couch with the chips stuck under the pillows, perfectly placed in front of the TV. If your couch is the comfiest or largest out of all your friends, you can bet everyone will be over to join you. A bunch of people enclosed together means that the pathogens that carry the viruses have a greater opportunity to spread. 

In winter, humidity levels also go down and the mucus in your nostrils dries out (yummy). Mucus helps protect you from pathogens as they provide a barrier to entry. When it dries out, this barrier is reduced and its easier for viruses to infect you. 

So the question stands, was my dearest mummy lying to me all these years when she told me to put a coat on if not I would get sick? The video below is a fun video to watch the arguments for and against the cold giving you a cold. 

The video mentions a study where participants had to put their feet in a large tub of iced water, and those who did were half as likely to develop a cold. The study was done at the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff and the authors don't actually suggest that getting chilled is the cause of the cold. Instead, some people already carry cold viruses without having symptoms. Getting chilled causes blood vessels in the nose to constrict, which will affect the defense in the nose, making it easier for the virus to replicate. 

So, apologies Russ, for blaming your cold on your lack of warm clothing. 

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