Can Cooler Temperatures Lead to More Colds?

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Does Cold Weather Really Cause Colds?

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Folk wisdom says that cold weather and getting chilled can lead to illness. Over the past few decades, researchers have been arguing about whether this is true or not. It’s known that common rhinoviruses, the cause of most colds, replicate better in an environment that is slightly cooler than the normal human body temperature. For example, the nose is a favorite site for rhinoviruses because noses and other body parts that stick out of the periphery of the body tend to be cooler than the interior of the body. 

Seasonal Variations

Many people have noted seasonal variations in the prevalence of colds, with most of them occurring during the cooler months. However, El Dorado senior care professionals note that there are many other possible reasons for this observed seasonal variation other than air temperature. One is the traditional school year. When children get together inside schools, they pass many viruses around, and then bring them home where other children, parents, grandparents, and anyone else in close regular contact is at risk for catching the bug.  

Another factor for observing spikes in colds during the winter months is that people tend to stay inside and gather closer together during the winter months, allowing cold viruses to be passed more easily. The dryness of the air during winter can also dry out and damage the lining of the nasal passages, making it easier for cold viruses to enter the body.

Cold Nose

However, researchers have been exploring other reasons for the seasonal spikes in infection that are actually linked to the air temperature. In one study, volunteers who were cooled down with ice water were found to contract more colds than control participants in the week after the chilling, suggesting that cold itself can somehow impede the body’s ability to fight off the viruses.

Scientists have also recently discovered in laboratory experiments that when they cooled down nasal passage tissue, such as can easily occur during outings in the winter, not only did the rhinoviruses replicate more quickly, the body’s immune response to the invading viruses was dramatically inhibited. These studies suggest that in addition to washing hands frequently, people may be able to reduce the risk of getting a cold by keeping the body and nose warm. Bundling up and wrapping a scarf around the face or wearing a ski mask when going outside may help keep your senior loved one healthy this winter.

Winter weather can pose many challenges for seniors. Aside from being at a higher risk of catching cold, cold weather can make it harder for seniors to accomplish everyday tasks safely. If you think your aging parent could benefit additional help during this time of year, turn to Home Care Assistance. In addition to hourly and live-in care, we offer Alzheimer’s, dementia, and post-stroke care in El Dorado County, ensuring seniors have the help they need when they need it most. Call our office today at (916) 358-3801 or (530) 409-4411 for more information.