Scientists have discovered why people are more likely to get sick during winter
By: April Carson
As the weather begins to grow colder, we are simultaneously entering cold and flu season. It seems that as soon as the temperature drops, everyone around us falls ill. These sniffles and sneezes always seem to come out of nowhere but follow winter weather closely. Scientists have unraveled the cause of this phenomenon, and it all comes down to humidity.
When the weather gets colder, air tends to become much drier. This reduction in moisture levels means that viruses can more easily survive in the air, making them more likely to spread between people when they inhale or exhale.
Germs are actually present all year long, yet people tend to get more colds, flu and now Covid-19 in the winter. So why is that?
In what researchers are dubbing a scientific breakthrough, scientists who conducted a new study may have discovered the biological reason we're more susceptible to respiratory illnesses in winter. Apparently, cold air damages the immune response taking place in our noses.
The scientists focused on the immune response that takes place in the nose specifically. It appears that cold air damages some of the cells’ activity, thus decreasing the protective role of our noses. This could explain why people get sick more often in winter, as viruses are better able to spread from person to person when cold air is present.
Dr. Zara Patel, a professor of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine in California who wasn't involved in the new study said "This is the first time that we have a biologic, molecular explanation regarding one factor of our innate immune response that appears to be limited by colder temperatures." She added, "This could have a huge impact in terms of helping us to understand why we are more susceptible to these respiratory infections in wintertime."
The study's authors said that further research is needed to determine if cold air can weaken our immune system in other ways, and whether there are steps people can take to reduce their risk for viral illnesses during winter.
A new study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology claims that lowering the temperature inside the nose by a measly 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) eliminates nearly half of the billions of infection-preventing cells present in nostrils.
Dr. Benjamin Bleier, a rhinologist and director of otolaryngology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear as well as an associate professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston stated that “Cold air is associated with increased viral infection because you’ve essentially lost half of your immunity just by that small drop in temperature.”
The study further reveals that the human nose typically operates at around 33.8°F (1°C) during a typical winter day, plunging down to 26.6°F (-3°C) on days with freezing temperatures. It is this drastic drop in temperature that induces an internal environment conducive for viruses and bacteria to thrive, leading to an increase in viral infections.
“Remember that these are in vitro studies,” Patel said via email. “This means that human tissue is studied in a lab setting to analyze the immune response. However, this does not necessarily reflect what would happen inside someone’s body. In vivo studies often confirm findings from in vitro studies, but this isn’t always the case.”
When you breathe in cold air, it causes a reflex that triggers the narrowing of your respiratory passages which can make it more difficult to fend off viruses or bacteria from entering the body through these pathways. This is why the common cold and influenza tend to be higher during winter months.
Regardless of the mechanism, there is evidence that people are more prone to viral infections and other conditions during winter months. Some studies have found that people typically experience a decrease in immunity during colder temperatures, leading to an increased risk of infection. Additionally, the holidays - with their large family gatherings, parties and travel - can create a perfect storm for the spread of disease.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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