Wellness Blog

Cold Season

Posted on February 2, 2016 at 2:45 AM

Welcome to the common Cold season…

The weather outside is changing and creating the prime conditions for increased colds and upper respiratory infections. Being cold by itself does not cause people to come down with the common cold. However, combination of the following can contribute to why colds occur more frequently during the fall and winter seasons.

• Rhinoviruses (viruses that cause the common cold) thrive in low temperatures. In 2013 Nature News and in 2009 Respiratory Medicine published research results showing in a cold environment, the upper respiratory tract temperature may be more favorable to the replication of rhinoviruses, leading to an increase in occurrences of the common cold during times of lower temperatures.

• At low temperatures, our bodies may produce fewer antiviral immune signals and leave us more vulnerable to infections. At the 2013 American Society for Microbiology conference, research was presented showing how low temperatures may compromise natural defenses against rhinoviruses. In the cold, fewer antiviral immune signals are produced than in warmer conditions. This reduction in antiviral signals allowed infections to persist more easily at colder temperatures.

• Cold temperatures and low humidity, characteristics of the “cold” season, are associated with increased occurrences of acute respiratory tract infections. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) explains that cold-causing viruses “survive” better in low humidity, which occurs during colder months. Furthermore, the NIAID also reports that cold weather can cause the lining of the nose to become drier and more susceptible to viruses that cause the common cold.

Knowing winter is stacking the cards against you concerning catching a cold, what should you do? First, wash hands well (and a lot). A quick in-and-out under the faucet isn’t going to keep pesky germs away. Instead, get your hands wet, lather all over with soap, scrub for 20 seconds (it’s longer than you think!), rinse, and dry. Despite recommendations to sneeze into your sleeve, remember rhinoviruses can live for days (up to a week) on fabric and surfaces. Your best line of defense is still hand washing to remove contact particles. Next, don’t skimp on sleep. Your immune system thrives on sufficient shut-eye — for both recovery and prevention. In fact, research shows that shortchanging sleep makes you more susceptible to colds. Finally, don’t let green mucus scare you. Contrary to popular belief, green mucus is common with viral infections — not just bacterial infections that may require a trip to the doctor.

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