Preventing a cold

The idea that cold weather, and exposure to cold weather, has been around for centuries.

Celsus, in the 1st Century AD, wrote:

“Winter provokes headache, coughs, and all the affections which attack the throat, and the sides of the chest and lungs.”

We all know to wrap up warm before going outside in the cold, but can simply getting cold cause a cold?

The short answer is no. Colds are caused by a virus, to which one must be exposed. Cold weather won’t by itself cause a cold. So why are there more colds, headaches, coughs and flu in the winter than in other seasons? Here is a breakdown of the main explanations.

  • First, exposure to cold may impair the body’s immune system, so that one is more susceptible to any viruses to which one comes in contact. Wrapping up warm is good advice in so far as it gives the body a better chance at fighting off infections.
  • Secondly, cold, dry air may be better suited for the survival of cold virii. The chances of exposure to a cold virus are therefore increased.
  • Thirdly, when the body is cold, the blood vessels in the nose constrict and the temperature of the mucosal membrane falls. This reflex could decrease resistance to infection. A 2005 study found that chilling people’s feet led to a 10% increase in colds within a 4/5 day period, perhaps due to this effect.
  • Fourthly, people are more crowded together in the winter months, so the chances of exposure to a cold virus are greater.

To prevent a cold, there’s no harm in following your grandmother’s advice. Wrap up and stay warm. Perhaps try to keep that cold nose away from other people, as when you are warm and your nose is warm, you may be better able to fight off infection. Finally, if you can’t avoid people entirely, which would be a sure way of preventing a cold, then wash hands often. Colds can be picked up from touching contaminated surfaces like door handles. Soap doesn’t kill cold virii, but it will help to remove them from the skin.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 29th, 2008 at 9:00 pm and is filed under health, home remedies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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