Why Do We Catch Colds When It Is Cold?

Although there are worse incurable diseases the common and extremely irritating cold, has to be one of the most annoying.  As bells start jingling and the weather becomes slightly worse than during the average UK summer, cold season gets well and truly under way.  Understanding why we get colds, when it is cold, can help to combat the viruses that cause the common cold and, although we may not yet be able to cure them, we can at least reduce our chances of catching the little bugs that cause them.  Apart from the inconvenience of regular trips to the doctors, or the lack of availability for flu vaccinations, these simple steps should help.

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Contributing Factors

·        Our blood flow is reduced during spells of cold weather and this has been directly shown to increase the chances of catching a cold.  Our bodies naturally conserve the heat in essential regions of our body: our torso where important organs are functioning and in our brains.  This reduces the blood flow in other parts of the body which in turn cuts the amount of white blood cells in our system.  The white blood cells help to fight viruses and germs and with less of these in circulation we become more prone to catching bugs in the first place.

·        In addition to the above, the amount of energy that our immune system uses can be reduced during periods of cold weather.  If you feel like hibernating during the winter this is because our bodies have evolved to slow down during the colder months. Unlike some animals we don’t (rather sensibly) sleep through the worst of the weather but we are designed to take things easy, stay in one place and stay warm.

·        The effect of reduced blood flow and less activity in the immune system can mean that we become prone to viruses and bugs, however, modern lifestyles mean that unlike our ancestors we often overstretch ourselves during winter.  Healthy regular exercise, aerobic exercise in particular, can help to increase the blood flow and get those all-important white blood cells circulating during cold snaps.  Adapting our lifestyles during winter to reduce the amount we do, the stress we encounter and simply relax and rest more, can also help our bodies to combat the bugs that are flying around at this time of year.  If you have an always on lifestyle, try switching off a bit earlier in the day for a change.

·        Reduced humidity in the air in winter can affect our bodies and make them more prone to colds.  Viruses do not, in general, like warm moist conditions, but prefer things cold and dry.  Some experts recommend using humidifiers in the home or office to increase the humidity in the air, reducing the likelihood of bugs getting their feet under the table.  However, humidifiers can cause moulds to grow and this can pose health risks and is not widely considered the best solution.

·        Although exercise is generally considered beneficial at any time it has been found that exercise in cold conditions can affect the respiratory tract, causing swelling and inflammation.  This in turn makes us more vulnerable to breathing problems and infections.  While it’s important to eat well and keep up exercise levels it’s also important to avoid exercise out of doors in extreme cold.

·        Vitamin D is an important vitamin for a healthy body and immune system.  The main source of this for our bodies is sunlight, which is often sadly lacking in winter.  For many people the commute to work is done in darkness both in the morning and evening, meaning that we get limited exposure to what sunlight is available.  Ensuring that you can get out and about during daylight hours –a lunch break for example – will help to maximise your exposure to the sun.  Vitamin supplements can also help to top up your system and vitamin D supplements should be considered.


Carlo Pandian is a freelance writer and reviews health resources covering everything from the benefits of private clinics such as Blossoms Healthcare to latest well-being check-up technology. He loves to provide tips and helps the online community to improve their wellbeing.


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