This year, winter is coming to much of the U.S. early, with freezing temperatures starting this week.
Researchers say you may be more likely to get sick by a rapid drop to cold temperatures.
And it’s not because it’s cooler weather. In colder weather, viruses can live longer.
This week, a strong Arctic cold front is spreading across the U.S., with some places in the Midwest already experiencing record-breaking temperatures this year. It is reasonable to assume that the risk of contracting the common cold or flu is more relevant than ever as the temperatures hover in the single digits.
After all, winter is the Trusted Source peak season for sore throats, coughs, and runny noses. And a drastic drop in temperature, like those we see in this cold front, makes it even more likely we’re going to get sick. If temperatures decrease rapidly and humidity levels are decreased with it, viruses begin to get stronger and our immune system will strike.
Even so, it is not the cold weather itself, according to health experts, that makes us sick but lower temperatures in some ways increase our risk of infection.
“Data shows that viruses survive and proliferate more effectively at colder temperatures, enabling them to spread and infect more people at cooler temperatures,” said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at New York City’s Lenox Hill Hospital.
“Coupled with this, colder weather can blunt the immune response, making you more likely to get sick,” he said.
We have strong evidence that rhinoviruses — the cause of most colds — do best in cold, dry air. One research Trusted Source examined how viruses acted at different temperatures and levels of humidity. Researchers found that colder temperatures and drier air increased the risk of people becoming infected with rhinovirus.
When a virus first comes into contact with the body the nose or throat in general it multiplies to cause an infection. As in cold weather, once our body temperature decreases, viruses have an easier time to multiply.
In addition, colder temperatures provide the flu virus with a protective layer, making it firmer and less penetrable, explains Glatter. The virus loses the hard surface in warm moist weather and becomes weaker, thus less likely to spread from individual to individual.
According to Dr. David Cutler, a family medicine doctor at the Providence St. John’s Health Center, At the same time, drier air impairs our immune system’s ability to fight viruses.
“In addition, the drier air impairs your body’s local immune reaction to the arrival of the virus. Some have theorized that extreme cold will cause constriction of blood vessels, which further impairs the local immune response,” stated Cutler.
The cold actually makes it more difficult for white blood cells to enter the mucous membrane — where the cold virus is camping out and causing an infection and start to combat the virus. Winter’s short, dark days do not help either. People tend to have lower levels of vitamin D due to the lack of sunshine and time spent indoors, a vitamin that typically helps keep our immune system up and running.
Cutler recommends first of all that you focus on preventing colds, rather than treating them once you’re already sick. “There’s great money spent trying to treat colds and energy consumed. A few simple cold prevention measures will produce even higher results,” he said.
First it is a must to regularly wash your face. Germs spread from person to person, and you can prevent the transmission by washing your hands.
Secondly having tissues handy. Evidence has shown that having tissue boxes available in classrooms most significantly reduces the number of respiratory infections, according to Cutler. This is probably because people cough or sneeze in the tissue, rather than in the air around them or their hands, minimizing their risk of spreading the virus.
At last, use a humidifier to add moisture to the air. Viruses like dry air, so when we reach the cold and flu season, wetter air adds another layer of protection.


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