"If you don’t wrap up, you’ll catch your death of a cold." Many of us have heard similar words of advice about the connection between being cold and catching an illness. Although most of us believe that being cold does not cause illness, the jury is officially still out. Most research supports that being cold does not affect one’s likelihood of catching a virus that causes the common cold or the flu.
Medical research in the 1950s exposed 400 volunteers to cold viruses using various temperatures and conditions as variables. The result was no difference in the rate of infection between the different groups. A similar study in the late 1960s produced comparable results.
However, some studies imply that being cold cause illness. Some arguments indicate that if you’re cold, your body is more stressed and therefore less resistant to fight a virus. Research by Cardiff University’s Common Cold Centre in Wales has proven that a drop in body temperature can cause a dormant cold virus to develop. If a person becomes chilled, for example by wearing damp clothes in cold weather, the blood vessels in the nose become constricted. When this occurs, the warm blood is closed off, and is no longer supplying the infection-fighting white cells.
One study involved the effects of volunteers placing their bare feet in an empty bowl for 20 minutes or soaking their feet in a bowl containing ice-cold water for the same length of time. Within five days after the experiment, more participants who had soaked their feet in cold water developed cold symptoms than the other participants. According to the study, most likely several of those participants already had the cold virus but were not yet displaying symptoms. The lowering of body temperature was a contributing factor; in this case being cold caused illness, not the virus, but the development of the virus.
The more likely reason that people tend to get sick more often in the winter season is the increased inside contact with others, some of whom have viruses. As the weather is chilly, people tend to stay indoors more often, making places such as schools, stores, airports and offices likely places to for catching a cold.
People usually catch colds via the airborne droplets from a sneeze. Other methods of catching a cold are by contact from the hand to nose or eye areas after direct contact with a person who has the virus or indirect contact, such as touching the same doorknob.
The best way to avoid a cold or virus is not to avoid being cold, but instead avoid crowded places and frequently wash your hands. Results from yet another study indicate that those who have a positive outlook and are upbeat are less likely to catch a cold than those who were had a more negative emotional style.