Many of us associate colds and flu with cold weather. This is not surprising as people tend to contract the cold when the weather temperatures go down.
However, it is not the cold weather but instead viruses that cause the cold.
The cold weather however does lower our immune system and makes it easier for the virus to travel.
Let’s find out more!
What causes the common cold?
There are over 250 different viruses that can cause the common cold. This explains why there is no cold vaccine as it would mean getting injected for all the different viruses which is not viable.
That said, the rhinovirus is responsible for over half of all cold cases. It causes mild symptoms. For people with an impaired immune system, however, it can cause serious issues such as pneumonia.
The common cold is quite common with many people around the world catching it as much as two or three times each year.
There are two ways by which cold viruses are transmitted:
● Person to person contact
● Droplets in the air which one inhales
How the cold weather affects cold viruses
Cold viruses attach themselves to the nasal cavity. Here they replicate. Research shows that it replicates best at temperatures of less than 37 degrees Celsius.
The nasal cavity is colder than the rest of the body at around 33 degrees Celsius making it an ideal spot for the cold virus to get into the body.
A decrease in environmental temperatures as well as a decrease in humidity will help the rhinovirus spread much more easily. And the colder the temperature gets the higher the infections.
The influenza virus is responsible for the flu and spreads best at temperatures of around 5 degrees. This also shows that cooler temperatures help such viruses spread easier.
Does cold weather affect our immune system?
Yes, cold weather does indeed affect our immune system. This happens in several ways:
Vitamin D – we get the majority of our vitamin D from the sun. However, during cold seasons our bodies don’t make enough of it. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in maintaining immunity.
More time spent indoors –other than not receiving enough vitamin D indoors, people are closer together which allows the viruses to spread easily.
Lower body temperature – this reduces the immunity of the cells to fight the cold viruses.
Narrow blood vessels – when the temperatures drop, the blood, located in the upper respiratory tract vessels constrict. This makes it harder for the white blood cells to reach the affected area.
How you can prevent the common cold
The good news is that it is possible to prevent the common cold with a few tips and tricks.
● Consume foods that are rich in vitamin D during the cold seasons, this includes fatty fish as well as eggs and mushrooms.
● Avoid sharing utensils and cookware with those who are already infected by the virus.
● Always wash your hands on a regular to prevent the viruses from spreading.
● When sneezing or coughing, do it in a clean tissue and discard to slow down the spreading of the virus.
● Get enough rest and stay hydrated.
While many of us tend to blame cold weather for the common cold, it is the cold and flu viruses that are responsible for the infections.
They tend to travel better and more efficiently during cold weather. The cold weather also negatively affects our immune system.
By staying warm, staying hydrated, getting enough rest, and consuming foods rich in vitamin D, we can manage the cold during cold weather.