Cold weather and colds

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: February 9th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Don’t get chilled or you’ll catch your death of cold. Well, not exactly death… but most of us remember such warnings from childhood. And as adults we dismiss the advice and blame germs… not chills… for the common cold.

For years scientists have insisted we’re more likely to catch colds in winter. They say it’s because we spend more time indoors, which increases our chances of being exposed to more germs.

In testing the “chills cause colds” theory, though, researchers have gathered a few facts. They found that volunteers who were first exposed to infectious mucus and then forced to sit in ice-cold rooms caught colds at the same rate as those who sat in warm rooms. Now new research shows that cold weather really may lead to a cold. A recent study at the Common Cold Center in Wales found… for the first time… that a drop in body temperature could bring on a cold.

One-hundred-eighty volunteers participated. Some were forced to keep their bare feet in icy water for twenty minutes. The others stayed dry. Within five days, twenty-nine percent of those with “cold feet” developed sore throats and runny noses. Less than ten percent of the “dry” group developed symptoms.

Researchers say we may harbor dormant infections during winter that produce more severe symptoms when colder temperatures lower our immunity.

So while we probably won’t catch our death of cold, we may want to bundle up a bit to ward off those scratchy throats and sniffles.