It was widely believed before people knew what viruses were, that the common cold was caused by exposure to cold weather. Presently this myth continues to persist, so it is my hope we can set the record straight by shedding some light on this confusing statement. Admittedly, the weather plays a role in when and how we get sick, although it is not in the way you might think. Humidity levels help airborne droplets travel through the air quicker; the lower the humidity, the more moisture evaporates from the droplet, shrinking it in size so it can stay airborne for longer distances. Cold weather is notoriously dry, which explains why we’re more likely to catch a cold while we huddle up inside when temperatures start to drop. This type of air can also dry out the mucous membranes lining our nasal passages; without this protective barrier that helps to trap microbes before they enter the body, we’re more vulnerable to infection. So we are weakened by the cold air we breathe in when it’s chilly out, not the chilly weather itself.
Now that we’ve established the mechanisms by which viruses such as the cold can be transmitted. Let’s take a look at some of the risk factors that also contribute the likelihood of us catching this nasty bug.
- Daycare attendance
- Increased intrapersonal contact, i.e., more people huddled indoors due to colder temperatures.
- Sleep duration less than 7 hours and/or interrupted sleep patterns.
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Chronic use of antibiotics and/or steroids
- Immuno-compromised (diabetics, nutritional deficiencies, aging, chemotherapy)
- Poor diet
- Over-consumption of stimulants (coffee, energy, drinks, etc.)
- Poor liver detoxification
Generally speaking, most folks are familiar with the symptoms associated with a common cold. Runny nose, sneezing, cough, sore throat, and just feeling crummy overall. Most symptoms tend to self-resolve over the course of a few weeks, yet it is not uncommon for a cough to linger for an additional 2-4 weeks. Should you notice over time, your cough progresses to being productive with a thick, yellow mucous presentation, your viral infection may have escalated to a bacterial respiratory infection. If you experience a cough longer than 3-4 weeks, and notice your presentation is not improving, schedule an appointment with your health care professional.
During this time of year, here are just a few recommendations to help support your body’s ability to defend itself and prevent sickness.
- Wholefoods balanced diet.
- Adequate hydration
- Positive mental attitude
- Appropriate supplemental support
- Breathing and relaxation exercises
- Healthy sleep hygiene
If you are interested in learning more about how to prevent the cold and flu. Schedule your appointment today!