‘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 contagious 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!’