Cold weather and sneeze season seem to go together. You would assume that colder temperatures kill bacteria, yet they thrive like never before. Staying warm is an old trick to actually avoid getting colds, but it’s not as simple as just that. Just as much as you liked the ‘How to Beat the Heat’ post this summer – these cold season tips are as useful to prevent those boring common colds that drag you down. You can also simply enjoy feeling warmer with these ‘good to know’ tricks and tips.
Cold Weather = The Common Cold?
Cold weather does not cause the common cold – however there are reasons for why more people get sick during the colder months.
- When it’s cold outside it lowers the body’s core temperature and therefore suppresses immunity, which can lead to colds. If you have an overall healthy lifestyle, and a strong immune system your body will produce more mucus which protects you from infections. A weaker immune system will sniffle longer and draw the infection into the body making it more likely to get sick in the process.
- The cold season weather also causes the blood vessels close to the outside of the body, i.e. those found in the nose, to contract. This leads to dryness when you are outside. When you then return to the inside the blood vessels open up and you nose starts to run. While the dryness outside compromises the ability to filter out infections, the air inside is what gives you an actual common cold. The runny nose causes one to breathe with the mouth, and hence virus bearing mucus can be inhaled which can trigger colds and respiratory infections.
- Cold weather means increased humidity, and inside the air is much drier. The low humidity inside increases viral transmission rates, because dry air allows small viral droplets to stay in the air longer and travel further.
Cold Weather, Common Cold and Close Congregation
The nose is the culprit, not the weather! So much so that a common cold is most of the times a so-called rhinovirus – i.e. a nose virus :).
The rhinovirus gets into the cells lining your nose and starts reproducing. It arrives from other people — it is not cold weather that causes a cold, but the fact that cold weather causes people to congregate together indoors, which makes transmission of the virus easier. The virus generally moves from someone else’s hands to your hands (either directly or through some intermediate surface like a door knob), and from your hands into your nose or eyes.
Children are especially prone to common colds and flu – because they move around and play together whilst touching surfaces and each other. This is how kids should be, but interestingly studies show how children that play outside are not more likely to get sick – rather the opposite. Close proximity, dry air inside, and less than hygienic conditions are far worse than crisp outside air.
Stay Warm and Avoid Cold (s)
There Is No Wrong Weather – Only Wrong Clothes
Weather is often blamed for our inability to dress properly for cold and rain. There is an old saying in Sweden that says: “There is no wrong weather, only wrong clothes!” It makes me laugh when fellow bloggers quote us crazy Scandihooligans and our love of the being outside in all weathers! Read here what Joanna Goddard from NYC says about this Swedish proverb in her blog ‘A cup of JO’. – How I hated to hear about ‘wrong clothes’ as a teenager! Now of course I agree with the statement, and have learnt that it is not the thickness of the coat that matters most – but rather the layers underneath.
3 Cold Weather Tips
- Dress in layers. Think about an onion and dress accordingly. Underwear should be natural materials that breathes, and filter sweat. Silk and cotton are perfect choices. The same goes for a body warming base layer, that is your protection No 1 under any jumper, T-Shirt or top. The next layer is a top that is thin enough, to work on its own inside a centrally heated environment. Always have a cardigan, or outer jumper, that you add when you go outside – and take off depending on the temperature when you return inside. Outside you need a weather resistant jacket, or coat. Top tip: Take it off the moment you step inside! Many make the mistake of keeping their outside coat on inside. That creates extra heat, and increases infection risk, as your body reacts to the sudden increase of temperature. It also makes you suffer the cold more when you go outside again.
- Sport and Fitness Clothing has to be carefully chosen so you don’t run the risk of hypothermia – i.e. a body temperature that sinks too much outside – nor should it be too warm. Your body should be allowed to react normally when moving. Today new materials have been invented that are perfect for sports. Good Sports Clothing allow you to breathe, exercise while staying warm. Check out this great guide from SparkPeople.com on how to dress for cold weather workouts.
- Heat escapes through the body’s extremities so lined gloves, hat, and good quality shoes are essential in cold weather. Double gloves work well too – with great new additions on the market. Thermal Liner Gloves that can be used with a smart phone are a great addition to your cold season wardrobe.
Cold Weather Food
- Build up resistance by increasing vegetables and fruit in this season. Vitamins and minerals are natures’ own defence warriors, and help immunity. Ginger, Chilli, Garlic and Turmeric have natural anti infection properties. Zinc and Vitamin C are great cold preventers too. Get into Juicing and mix fruits, vegetables, spices in tasty preventative health boosters.
- Slow Cooking is another great way to maximise the nutritional value of vegetables in this season. Get into new fun cooking techniques, and enjoy tasty health kicking boosts at the same time :)!
- Start your day warm by changing your breakfast to a hot porridge sprinkled with cinnamon, granola and berries. Warm breakfast heats you from the inside, and releases energy slowly – which is a perfect start of a cold day. If you are pressed for time try this recipe for overnight oats, that you can heat up in the microwave. Cinnamon naturally heats you up too – which is why adding it on your breakfast, or to spiced up peanut butter, or stews is wonderful when the temperatures drop.
Cold (s) Prevention: Hygiene
- Always carry handkerchiefs and blow your nose as soon as you come inside to make sure your nose stays dry – see above why the hotter air inside provokes common colds. Make sure to throw away the used (handkerchief) bacteria bomb as soon as possible. The absolute key here is to not touch your eyes or nose, and to immediately use hand sanitizing liquid so you avoid the germs.
- Wash your hands often. Get hand sanitizing liquid also and use it as soon as you come inside.
- A sure way to stay clear of germs is to gargle with Listerine or similar mouth wash. It has been practised in Japan for centuries to prevent colds and flu.
- When you come home from a long day make sure to have a shower not only to warm up — but to rinse away any bacteria that have landed on you.
- Dress in ‘new’ inside clean comfortable clothes, and make sure to wear socks and leg warmers as extremities are prone to floor draft and cold air sinks. Especially for children it is important to wash and change clothes when they come home. All those nasty germs live in clothes, and just imagine what that school uniform carries!
Cold Weather: Watch Your Drink
- Stay hydrated. We often forget to drink enough in colder weather, and dehydration adds to infection risk. Dry air, dehydrated bodies and cold germs don’t mix well – and you are more likely to catch a cold by not drinking enough. Hot dairy drinks are tempting but not as dehydrating as plain water.
- Alcohol does not mix with cold weather, as blood vessels get bigger. You inhale cold air outside which can lead to severe infections – as well as increase the risk of rhino infections, i.e. common colds, inside.
Cold and Flu Season Travel
If you travel, especially by air, think about how the closed dry environment promotes virus to flow around. It is certainly no joke these days where airborne diseases travel way further than we want. If you suffer from a pre-existing condition whereby your immunity is low – using smart tips when travelling will help. There is no guarantee that you will not get sick, but thinking about yourself – and your fellow travellers is good.
- Use your hand sanitizing liquid – and anti-bacterial wipes – after you have stored your luggage, touched the tray or magazine pocket in front of you, and buckled up your belt. These have been touched by more people than you care to know – so get that anti bacterial wipe out, and sanitize your hands too.
- Consider using a face mask especially if you suffer from a pre-existing condition – or pregnant. While these are used liberally around Asia, they are no so much in ‘fashion’ here in Europe (yet!). However – these days it really does make sense!
- If you yourself have a cold and must travel – please cover your face, and sneeze into your elbow and use common sense.
Cold Season Greeting
The GOODista team hopes you stay warm and healthy this season! Should you catch cold or want to know natural ways of getting rid of one, make sure to read Part 2 of this series. Why not subscribe? 🙂 We have scoured the web for the best natural cold remedies. If you have a great natural cold remedy please let us know so we can publish it!
Recommended and Related:
- Healthy Eating during the Cold Season – Healthyeating.org
- Cold Weather Impact on Health, Energy and Mood – thegoodista.com
- Perfect Layering for Winter Workouts – SparkPeople
- Cold Prevention Basics – Mayo Clinic
- How to Prevent Colds for School Children – Healthline.com
- 8 Tips to Treat Colds and Flu the Natural Way – WebMD
- Alcohol and Cold Weather – Drinkaware.co.uk
- Travel and Healthy Plane Travel Tips – WebMD