Can this cold really make you sick? Well, sort of
It’s really considered an old wives’ tale – getting too cold can make you sick. Aside from the real dangers of the record temperatures of the past few days, the truth is cold alone doesn’t make you sick.
Reid Health’s infection control expert says the cold can certainly contribute to illness. “The cold weather is not directly responsible for making people sick – but there are viruses that cause colds that may spread more easily in lower temperatures,” says Kim Schneider, RN, Reid Health’s infection control officer.
Another reason bugs may spread faster in cold months is that people tend to stay indoors more, closer together. So if someone gets sick, it’s more likely others will too. And some studies suggest that being cold can affect the immune system’s ability to fight off infections; other research indicates some viruses also replicate better in cooler temperatures.
Schneider offers the following tips that truly can help keep you well, even in cold weather and especially in flu season:
- Consider using a vaporizer in your home. The immune system doesn’t function as well without good mucus flow. Running heat dries out the home and also can dry out sinuses, making them less able to handle potential bugs.
- Wash your hands. This age-old advice is often given as a way to avoid the flu and other illnesses -- and it’s because it works. If unable to wash with soap and water, use hand sanitizers.
- If you get sick, stay home until you are sure you are not contagious.
The good news – at least so far – despite the record cold blast is that the number of flu cases is down compared to last winter’s season, Schneider says. The health system has logged only 224 positive flu tests up to this week, compared to more than three times that last year at the same time with 799.