You may remember being told to put on extra layers before leaving the house as a child, especially when it was cold outside. This piece of advice has been widely accepted as a good way to prevent catching a cold, but the question remains: Does cold weather actually cause colds? This assumption may not make much sense, since viruses such as rhinovirus are known to be the actual cause of colds. However, it is common for most people to catch a cold during the winter season when temperatures are cooler. As a result, a relationship between cold temperatures and the likelihood of catching a cold may exist despite a lack of scientific evidence to support it. While previous studies have explained temperature’s effect on the cold virus’ ability to replicate, a recent study may better explain why cooler temperatures make you more prone to catching a cold.
Image source: Ariel Skelley
Researchers have discovered that at cooler temperatures, the immune system’s ability to fight off rhinovirus is weakened. The researchers extracted cells from the airways of mice and compared immune responses to the rhinovirus at the body temperature of 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) to a cooler temperature of 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 degrees Fahrenheit). The result was that the natural immune response to rhinovirus was weaker at the cooler temperature. The researchers also showed that temperature has a greater effect on the immune response than on the rhinovirus itself. Although it has been shown that the rhinovirus replicates better at cooler temperatures, this study revealed that mice with immune systems that were unable to respond to a rhinovirus attack featured rhinovirus replication at the higher temperature. This means that although the rhinovirus may replicate better at cooler temperatures, this doesn’t exactly reveal the relationship between temperature and the likelihood of catching a cold, because the rhinovirus still replicates well at higher temperatures. On the other hand, the effect of cooler temperatures on the immune system’s ability to defend against rhinovirus may serve as a much more reasonable explanation.
The results of this study explains why people are more likely to catch a cold during the winter season. But more importantly, this study has scientifically proven that your mother has been right all along: put on a coat before you leave the house or you could catch a cold.
Feature Image Source: Cold Tree by Stanley Zimny (Thank You)