A new study suggests that being exposed to cold weather can actually increase the chances of getting a nasty cold.
The study, carried out by Yale University scientists, showed that exposure to even a slight chill dramatically increased the chances of lab mice acquiring rhinoviruses, or symptoms associated with the common cold. The study also revealed that exposure to cold temperatures directly impacted the body’s immune system, making it harder to block viruses from taking hold.
Although this is not the first study to draw connections between cold weather and the common cold — a 1960 study presented similar findings — many scientists have questioned this link. And the new study, which was recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, does not suggest that exposure to cold weather causes a rhinovirus infection. Instead, it merely shows that cold weather can help a cold to spread.
In other words, going out in the January cold won’t give you an infection, but it could lower your body’s defenses — making an infection more likely to occur and then spread throughout your body.
And the temperature difference doesn’t have to be dramatic. According to Yale immunologist Akiko Iwasaki, the shift from 33 celsius to 37 celsius temperatures can have a significant impact on our bodies.
“Altogether, these temperature effects can result in an 100-fold difference in the level of cold virus,” Iwasaki says.