The winter is often associated with more colds and flu infections. Here’s how the weather affects viruses and our immune systems.
We all know that it’s easier to catch a cold or the flu when it’s cold out, but beyond that, we don’t know why. While COVID-19 hasn’t been around for long and hasn’t provided sufficient evidence for scientists to understand it fully, other colds and flus have been around for decades, providing researchers with ample data to examine and understand them.
According to CNN Health, there are several reasons why people are more sensitive to these type of viruses during the winter, with explanations ranging from the amount of sunlight they’re exposed to, to the amount of time they spend indoors and without much physical activity.
Scientists explain that viruses like the rhinovirus, responsible for the common cold, replicate faster and stay infectious for longer when there’s cold weather. This temperature alters the make up of the virus, making their membranes more solid and rubbery. This consistency makes it easier for the virus to transmit from person to person.
While wearing an appropriate coat might not impact whether you catch a cold or not, inhaling cold air may impact your health adversely, especially when your immune system is compromised. This air can impact your respiratory tract, making it easier for viruses to latch on.
Another influencing factor for colds and the winter is vitamin D, which we obtain from the sun. Due to the weather and the fact that people spend more time indoors, people are less exposed to this vitamin, which usually keeps your immune system in good shape. This, accompanied by less activity and more time spent indoors with others leaves your body more compromised for colds and flus.
As we’ve learned from this pandemic, putting yourself in situations where you’re in close contact with others is the most straight forward way of catching a disease. Measures like washing your hands often and wearing face masks are helpful for all diseases, while caring for your immune system by moving around and eating healthy will build up your immune system and protect you from the common cold.
There’s much we don’t know about COVID-19, but when it comes to viruses responsible for producing flus and colds, keeping a strong immune system is an effective protective measure you can adopt.