The Two Ways Cold Weather Makes People Sick

“Colds” are actually viruses that get their name from the seasonal conditions they accompany. As children, we were all told by our parents to bundle up in the winter to avoid catching a cold. Has this been an old wives that stuck around in order for parents to persuade their kids to put on coats, hats, and gloves? Or can frigid, winter weather actually make you sick? The answer is yes; it can make you ill.

Scientists tested out this belief in January 2015. Mice were exposed to a strain of the rhinovirus (the most common cold-causing culprit) and then examined to see how effective they were at fighting off the infection in warm and cool temperatures. The study found that the chillier conditions yielded a slower and weaker response from the immune systems of the mice. This resulted in the cooler-temperature mice becoming sick, while their warmer counterparts were able to destroy the virus and stay healthy.

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On the other hand, experts believe that the chilly weather forces individuals to stay inside more often. With the heat on, windows closed, and everyone in close proximity, winter can increase our chances of catching each other’s germs.   There is proof to support this as well. The dry indoor and outdoor environments cause the mucosa in our throats and sinuses to lose moisture, which results in viruses more easily penetrating this barrier and causing more infections.

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Despite what we know, there is not much anyone can do about the frozen air or the necessity to stay warm indoors. The best way we can avoid becoming sick during the winter is by making preventative measures a habit, both at home and work or school. Grammar and high school students spend about 32.5 hours each week in school and full-time, working adults spend 40 hours a week on the job. Winter lasts about twelve weeks; however, the season can be much longer depending on location. The Centers for Disease Control recommends the following three practices to limit the spread of germs and viruses:

  • Keep hands clean! Frequent hand washing can cut down on the spread of respiratory infections, like colds, by 20%. Automatic appliances, like soap dispensers, faucets, and hand dryers or paper towel dispensers, are the more hygienic option for schools and workplaces. The need to touch is eliminated, decreasing cross-contamination.
  • Sanitize hands and surfaces everyday. According to microbiologist Dr. Charles Gerba, sanitizing surfaces and using hand sanitizer can have an impressive effect. In offices, 60% fewer surfaces harbored viruses, and school absenteeism could be reduced by up to 50% just by sanitizing personal workspaces once a day and hands several times a day.
  • Stay home and keep illness away from coworkers and classmates. According to Google Flu Data, there is a 6% decrease in the spread of the flu among working adults when sick employees stay home.

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Wintertime requires individuals to dress warmly, shovel driveways, and become more aware of their hygiene habits. The cold causes people to stay indoors, where the chances of picking up someone else’s ailment increase and they become more susceptible to germs. Regularly scheduling your business’s hygiene services is a great way to help your employees without having to put extra stress and work on your cleaning staff.  Hands-free appliances will ensure cross-contamination is minimized, keeping everyone healthier and their personal workspaces cleaner.

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