Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

Being cold, makes you sick

‘Take a jacket with you because its really cold outside and you’ll get sick’. This is a phrase I’ve heard from my parents every winter since I was a little girl. The classic old belief that cold weather makes you sick. I don’t know about you but every winter I seem to come down with a cold. In fact, I come down with quite a few colds during that 3 month period of time. Since winter is known as “flu season”, Australian’s automatically assume that the reason for this increase in people constantly getting sick, is due to the weather being so chilly outside. I mean it sort of does make sense that you would develop a cold because of such low temperatures. However, this is a myth! To understand why, you need to know the science behind a cold. So what is a cold?
The common cold is a viral infection which occurs in either the nose, sinuses, ears or bronchial tubes. There are over 100 different cold viruses in the world. The most popular one which causes up to one-half of colds is the rhinovirus. On average children get 6-10 colds per year, while adults average up to 3 colds a year. Common symptoms of the cold include runny nose, sneezing, sore or itchy throat, cough, nasal obstruction, hoarseness and general symptoms like fevers, headaches, chilliness and feeling unwell. Why are colds so common?

The reason colds are so common is because they are highly cold-and-flucontagious and can literally be found anywhere. They can be found on anything you touch, and even the air you breath. You know that doorknob you touched today, well someone with a cold also touched it 3 hours before you did. Viruses can only multiply when they are in living cells, however, they can live for hours on an environmental surface before dying. This is the reason why you will wake up tomorrow with a runny nose and a fever; you’ve caught the cold virus. Colds usually last for up to one week. Now there are many methods you can use to eradicate the cold. Some of these include resting up in bed, eating lots of hot chicken soup, taking zinc or treating the symptoms with natural medicines. However, over the years its become increasingly difficult to get rid of colds and they are now sometimes lasting for up to 4 weeks. Why is this the case?

Well there are a couple of possibilities. One could be your immune system. Our immune systems help us to fight against viruses. Its made up of a network of organs, tissues and cells that work together to protect our bodies. The most important cells in the immune system are leukocytes, which are white blood cells that destroy disease-causing organisms or substances. However, over time our immune systems can be compromised and slowly become weaker, making it harder to fight against viruses. Another reason could be the increasing resistants of these viral cells. When the same methods are used to eradicate viruses they start to become resistant and build up defences against them, making them even harder to kill off. If we are unable to kill them off, the new resistant cells start to multiply and the cycle continues on. Hence, why different methods and different medications need to be used every time you get a cold so that viral cells cannot become resistant to them.

So there you go. The cold weather itself does not make you sick. Germs are the reason you get sick. So the next time you go outside and your mum makes a comment about you catching a cold because you didn’t take a jacket, ‘Thats a myth mum. You can’t catch colds from chilly weather!’



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  • “Immune System”. N.p., 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.
  • “Myth Busters: Does Cold Weather Make You Sick?”. Healthline. N.p., 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.
  • “Understanding Colds”. N.p., 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.
  • “Wave Goodbye To Colds For Good!”. Fitness Magazine. N.p., 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

4 comments on “Being cold, makes you sick

  1. jackson3732
    May 8, 2016

    Nicely written blog, I must say I was always kind of confused when mum would insist on me taking my jumper to places in case it would get cold. Because i kind of thought, how would that possibly help? But I never really gave it much thought so it was nice to be enlightened by your blog. However I did do a very quick internet search on the subject and I did see a few sites contradicting the notion that the cold doesn’t make you sick, stating that the cold weakens the first line of the nose’s immune system In contrast I also found sites to confirm what you were saying i your blog, needless to say I’m a little confused.


  2. jessthepharmacygirl
    May 8, 2016

    I could never believe my mother or grandmother if they said this. It never made sense to me! And now I am old enough to provide insight to their wive’s tale.

    However from my understanding, they are still quite related, rather than cause-and effect as they say. I believe it is the cold weather that can over time deplete the immune system, which makes us more susceptible to infection! So, if we are out in the cold for quite a few hours, our immune system may slow down a bit. So, any germs we touch or if someone nearby sneezes, we might just have a lack of immune strength to fight it off! The more you know, ey?

    And surely this doesn’t just apply to colds: by this information, we could explain getting other problems like bacterial infections, maybe a chest infection- it could be simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time when it comes to being out in the cold. So still rug up, your mum was partically right 😀


  3. juliarachelsholo
    May 9, 2016

    The title of this blog certainly intrigued me, as to this day I still am encouraged by my parents and even grandparents to refrain from facing the winter cold with out a jacket, or to cover my neck and ears to avoid getting sick. My understanding on my parents and grandparents motives was that when it is cold, circulation and most other aspects of our internal state input substantially more energy in maintaining our body heat, and so, as there was more expenditure of energy in the cold, there would be a decrease in the bodies ability to fight off potential microorganism threats. So it was definitely interesting to read and provided valuable information in a easy-to-read format. I will definitely be paying closer attention to frequency and susceptibility of colds and flu’s between summer and winter seasons.


  4. chrisjwalker
    May 10, 2016

    This is quite a good general blog post on why colds are most prevalent in cold weather. However, Science has also pointed to the outer shell of the viruses hardening in cold weather. This provides greater protection for the cold causing virus. This means the virus will live longer when suspended in the air from sneezing and coughing and also on surfaces such as doorknobs when people don’t wash their hands properly. While it has this hard, gel like coating, it isn’t really dangerous but once the virus infects a person’s warm body this coat melts allowing the virus to infect that person. In warmer weather this coat is already soft and therefore much more susceptible to the environment giving the virus a shorter life span resulting in less infections.



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This entry was posted on May 8, 2016 by in Burwood - Wednesday 11am.

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