How Cold Weather Really Does Make Us Sick
Most of us know it's germs—viruses and bacteria—that make us sick, and not the weather, as old wives' tales claim. But wait, not so fast. A new study suggests we are more likely to get sick when the temperature drops.
For the study, researchers collected more than 20,000 nasal swabs over the course of three years to detect respiratory illnesses. Then, they analyzed weather data from the same area over the same period of time. They discovered outbreaks of respiratory infections like the flu and the common cold occurred each year during the season's first week of low humidity combined with below freezing temperatures.
According to researchers, viruses travel in liquid particles that survive better in cold, dry climates. When the air is dry and cold, it absorbs extra moisture and the particles containing viruses remain airborne—where they are easier to breathe in. There’s another factor as well: When it gets cold, our bodies produce more mucus, which can increase the spread of germs. To avoid getting sick this winter, wash your hands often, stay hydrated, eat well, get enough sleep, and stay away from others who are ill if possible.
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