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Cold and the Common Cold

Photo: Blonde woman in green and blue striped shirt blowing her noseFor years we’ve been told that there is no connection between cold weather and the common cold. The idea that “catching cold” can make you “catch a cold” is an old wives’ tale embraced by previous, less-scientifically-informed generations. But a new study conducted by Yale University scientists and published by the National Academy of Sciences found that even a slight chill caused cold viruses, or rhinoviruses, to replicate more quickly and efficiently in mice. At colder temperatures, molecules inside the cells lining the mice’s nasal passages that detect viruses and order the production of the virus-fighting protein interferon were less sensitive. That lower sensitivity reduced the production of interferon and other proteins that block the release of viruses and kill virus-infected cells.

What does that mean to you and yours? Well, you still have to be exposed to a rhinovirus to catch a cold, but once you are, inhaling cold winter air creates an environment in which cold viruses like to replicate and causes your immune system to respond less aggressively. In addition, in cold air mucus in the respiratory system becomes thicker and less able to clear unwanted particles out to prevent them from reaching your lungs. So, what can you do to help the situation?

  • First, if you must be outside in cold weather, wrapping a scarf around your mouth and nose allows the air you breathe to be warmed before it enters your nasal passages. If you don’t have a scarf, it is better to breathe through your nose than through your mouth. Our nasal passages are equipped to warm up the air we breathe quickly thus preventing the cold air from getting to our lungs.
  • Second, drink plenty of fluids to help keep the mucus in your respiratory system thin and better able to rid your body of unwanted particles.
  • Third, wash your hands frequently to reduce the number of organisms that can enter your mouth and nose.
  • Fourth try to avoid contact with sick people to decrease your exposure to respiratory germs.

If, despite these precautions, you do catch a cold, you simply have to let it run its course. But other respiratory illnesses my need medical intervention, so when in doubt, come to Hillcrest Medical, the best place for urgent care in Dallas. Our goal is to help you be as healthy as possible in 2015.

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