Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Can cold temperature give you a cold?

Published:Friday | December 23, 2016 | 12:54 PMDr. Douglas Street

It’s no secret; this is colds and flu season. In fact, there are a number of conditions that tend to flare up at this time of year and logic would suggest that the cooler temperatures must play a role in this phenomenon. Then how is it that some past studies failed to show a connection between the two? Let’s look at what current research shows.

It is well-known that at this time of year there is an increase in the number of person who are afflicted by colds, flu, allergic conditions (such as asthma, allergic rhinitis and sinusitis) and gastroenteritis. And those who have ongoing symptoms during other times of the year usually notice an increase in their severity. There is also a notable increase in the severity of other chronic illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, anxiety and depression. The popular thinking is that there is usually a breakdown in persons’ efforts to control their medical conditions. Holiday indulgences encourage persons to eat more than their fair share and may even fail to purchase their medications due to other financial obligations. But could there be more to it than that?

The traditionally accepted reason for the increase in the numbers of person with colds/flu this time of year is the increase number of gatherings of persons that usually occurs at this time of year. But could there be a common connection between these conditions?

Another observation made is that persons who are afflicted with the cold usually get better faster and are less contagious when they keep warm and do better when they do not make an attempt to totally eliminate a fever. In fact, it has been found that maintaining a temperature 990 – 1000 F is associated with better outcomes in these situations. Also, it is quite noticeable that the conditions mentioned above usually worsen at nights as well as conditions associated with itching.

It seems cooler temperature have a short and long-term negative effect on the immune responses. One study actually shows that cooler temperatures may affect the composition of our intestinal bacteria. The increased inflammation produced from this phenomenon may worsen the chronic illnesses, including obesity. This change may also contribute to the increase in anxiety/depression and gastroenteritis cases that is observed.
Can anything be done? Probiotics can improve the balance of the intestinal bacteria and may offer some benefit.