How often have you heard someone say “dress warm or you’ll catch a cold!” While of course, it’s good advice to dress warm when the weather is cold, is it true that you can catch a cold from the cold? The answer is a simple No.
While the IDEA of catching a cold from the cold is correct, there is a little bit more to the whole story. Simply put, the only way to catch a cold is to come in contact with a virus. If you are exposed to cold weather and get a chill you may be more receptive to a cold virus, also known as rhinovirus, but the cold weather will not be the cause of your cold nor will it give you a cold.
Rhinovirus loves the cooler weather. In colder temperatures, the virus replicates faster. At the same time, your body’s immune system antiviral defense doesn’t fight off the virus very well if the temperature in your nose and upper air way and lungs are cooled off when you breathe in cold air. As a result, the rhinovirus has the perfect conditions to grow and make you sick.
Fact: There are more than 200 different viruses that can cause the ‘common cold’.
Risk factors that can lead to contracting a cold virus.
Time of year
During colder months people tend to spend more time indoors, which puts them in contact with more people. This, in turn, puts them at higher risk to contract a cold virus passed on from person to person.
To reduce your risk of catching a cold wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face with your hands while out in public after touching shared surfaces such as doorknobs and keyboards.
Fatigue and Stress
Poor sleep and stress both have negative effects on your body, including reducing your immune system. While it is important to get a good sleep year round, it is even more important during the cold and flu season. Basic lifestyle changes such as avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed, avoiding screen time (computers, cell phones, iPads) before bed, sticking to a regular sleep schedule, and keeping your bedroom comfortable and dark are all ways to help improve your sleep habits.
Smoking and/or reduced lung function
Smokers will often have worse cold symptoms than non-smokers, because tobacco smoke not only disrupts the immune system it also dries out and irritates the throat lining. Non-smokers such as children and others who are exposed to secondhand smoke are also at higher risk for developing a cold, bronchitis and pneumonia.
What to do if you Catch a Cold
Unfortunately, there is still no cure for the common cold. Not even grandma’s chicken soup. But what there IS are things you can do to help you feel better while you recover from your cold.
Should I Take Antibiotics for a Cold?
Remember, a cold is brought on by a virus. Antibiotics do not work against cold viruses, they only work on bacteria.
When to Seek Emergency Medical Attention
If you have a cold and feel you are having severe breathing problems, see your doctor or seek emergency medical help immediately.
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