Have you been battling the flu or the common cold this winter? You’re not alone. The weather, yes, weather, could be to blame. Here are a few ways weather and germs might be teaming up to make you sick.
Viruses Like it Cool
There’s a reason why fall and winter are known as “cold and flu” seasons: germs simply like lower temperatures. According to research, it’s easier for certain viruses (including influenza and the rhinovirus—the strain responsible for most common colds) to multiply whenever the air is 5-10 degrees cooler than body temperature (98.6°F). Needless to say, fall and winter’s chilly days provide the perfect conditions.
Factor in the additional hours spent indoors, in close quarters with family, friends, and their germs, and you’ve got a recipe for wellness disaster.
Cool Air = Lazy Immune Systems
While viruses thrive in cooler weather, cold can actually weaken the body’s immune response.
One reason for this immunity slump is a lack of vitamin D—an immune-boosting vitamin that the body has less of during winter as a result of less sun exposure.
With less power to fight off germs, it means we’re left more susceptible to them.
Low Humidity Factors
How humid, or “wet” the air is can also play a role in how well the body fights off viral invaders. The lower the humidity, the less effective the body’s cilia (hair-like soldiers found in the nose and lungs) are at sweeping out viral particles. (Humidity lower than 40% is typically considered to be “dry” air.)
Spring and Fall Trigger Allergies, But That’s Not All…
Spring’s warm weather is ideal for waking up dormant trees and flowers, while its lion-like winds are notorious for whirling this pollen right up your nose, into your eyes, and into your mouth. Six months later, autumn’s dim sunlight and damp, rainy conditions cook up all types of mold allergens. But these seasons don’t stop at triggering your allergies. As any allergy sufferer can attest to, once your immune system is under attack from such irritants, it’s only a matter of time before a cold or the flu seizes the opportunity to hit you while you’re already down.
So What Can You Do?
Wash your hands. Because viruses can live on human skin for at least two hours, it’s important to keep hands clean. Use those alcohol wipes at the supermarket for surfaces and handles you touch. Here’s the proper way to wash your hands.
Take the D! Our levels of vitamin D dip in the wintertime. Supplements are important this time of year.
Adopt/Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle. Having a healthy lifestyle is the best way to reduce your risk of getting sick. A moderate level of exercise, good sleep patterns, going smoke-free, reduced stress, and eating a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables and immunity-boosting foods can all help you “weather” the storm against sickness, year-round.
Tiffany Means is a freelance writer and a degreed meteorologist. She specializes in weather forecasting and enjoys making the subject of weather (and the science behind it) more relatable. She currently resides in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.