influenza, Cold and flu, cold and flu symptoms, Flu Season
Why Winter and “The Sniffles” Are Synonymous
We all remember a time when we’ve headed toward the door on a blustery day, only to be halted by the “mom” or “dad check.” Wet hair, or lack of enough layers was instant grounds for heading back to our rooms to try again. Amidst the holiday cheer and beautifully decorated city sidewalks lingers the ominous threat of contracting the flu or cold viruses. According to the Centers for Disease Control, incidences of influenza increase in the month of October – with activity peaking December through February.
While wearing extra layers is a great defense against sharp and biting temperatures, it’s technically germs that trigger illness. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t the cold itself that makes us come down with a cold, but rather the frequent time spent inside with other infected people in dry, circulating air. However, there is a link between cold weather and the common cold. The icy air that flushes through our nasal passages can actually reduce our local immune response. This is why it’s highly effective to cover your face with a scarf when out and about (so, mom/dad wasn’t all wrong).
A study published by the National Institutes of Health maintains that the flu virus is actually strengthened during wintertime. A unique strain of virus, influenza features an outer molecular membrane made up of lipids – better known as oil, waxes, and fats. At warmer temps (i.e., above 105 degrees Fahrenheit) this outer layer exists in liquid form; however, freezing conditions solidify this material into a gel – making it resilient enough to survive the tundra-like weather and travel from infected person to person. The germ-ridden doorknobs, keyboards, ATMs, and sink faucets we are forced to touch don’t help, either; so, be sure to practice diligent hand-washing as a preventive measure.
The rhinovirus, better known as the cause of the common cold, also thrives and replicates more successfully in lower temps. This can explain why our nasal passages – which are typically a few degrees cooler than the rest of our body – can become a breeding ground for germs. The dry heat we are exposed to everywhere from grocery stores to offices during these chilly winter days may also make it simpler for these viruses to find their way into the nasal passages. Humidifiers are a great way of combatting dry conditions that lead to dehydrated sinuses; however, be sure to maintain them properly and utilize them at a moderate humidity level, or they can cause the opposite effect.
Are you worried about contracting the flu or a cold this winter season? While there is no cure for the common cold, there are many measures you can take to keep these bugs at bay. From getting a surplus of shut-eye, to loading up on Vitamin C, your physician can recommend tips and tricks for staying healthy during winter. If you’ve already contracted a cold, or are looking for ways to fight the early stages of one, reach out to Rockville Concierge Doctors.
The providers at Rockville Concierge Doctors offer a personalized approach to primary care, making it a snap to get seen. They see a smaller group of patients so that they can better focus on quality of care and are available 24/7. Don’t suffer with cold and flu symptoms; call (301) 545-1811 to get the help you need.
Health.harvard.edu (Harvard Health Publishing)