Why is it not possible to “catch a cold”?

Why is it not possible to “catch a cold”?

The temperatures drop in the morning and you are afraid of “catching a cold”? This is a misnomer, and it doesn’t really happen that way. Dr Gérald Kierzek, medical director of TipsForWomens, takes stock.

Put on your coat, you’ll catch a cold !” The phrase is so banal as soon as autumn arrives (especially on chilly mornings), that it does not shock us. And yet, while it is true that we often suffer from colds and illnesses when the temperatures get colder, the cold is not the culprit for our ills. Well, not in the way we mean it.

The cause of your cold: the rhinovirus

You can catch a cold (this is what we often mean when we say “catch a cold”), “not because of a draft, but when you are exposed to a virus that causes the common cold, usually a rhinovirus, explains Dr. Kierzek.

These cold viruses are mainly spread via suspended viral particles in aerosols or droplets which are the main route of spread of the virus in the body through the respiratory tract. Direct contact with infected people or contaminated surfaces and then touching your nose, eyes or mouth is also possible.”

The cold “favors” contamination situations

However, it is important to note that cold weather, in itself, does not cause colds. “What can happen is that in cold weather, people tend to spend more time indoors, where viruses can spread more easily due to proximity to other people. Additionally, cold weather can temporarily weaken the immune system, which can make someone more susceptible to a cold if exposed to the virus. continues our expert.

You can therefore catch a cold in cold weather, but it is not the cold itself that is responsible for the infection, but rather exposure to cold viruses which are more common in winter.

However, the cold might not be completely foreign if it touches your nose. In 2015, a study conducted in mice showed that the natural immune response to rhinovirus was altered with lower body temperature. This is why the nasal cavity, where the environment is cooler, is particularly favorable to it since it allows it to proliferate and persist; conversely, warmer parts of the body such as the lungs are not as conducive to its development. The results also suggested that temperature has a greater influence on the immune response than the rhinovirus itself. “In general, as the temperature drops, the internal immune response to the virus also drops.“, comments Dr. Iwasaki.

Good actions to avoid colds

If it’s cold, you can still cover up. But other actions are useful if you want to get through viruses:

  • Wash your hands very regularly (water + soap for 30 seconds). Hand washing should be repeated during the day, particularly after blowing your nose, sneezing or after being in contact with a sick person;
  • You can also rinse your nose with physiological serum in the evening to eliminate viruses entering the upper airways;
  • Use a single-use paper tissue to blow your nose or spit, then throw it in a trash can (if possible) covered with a lid and wash your hands;
  • Every time you sneeze or cough, cover your mouth and nose then wash your hands;
  • Do not spit on the ground but into a tissue, preferably single-use, which you throw in a trash can before washing your hands;
  • Finally, a healthy lifestyle (a balanced diet, regular exercise, good sleep, and sufficient hydration) will allow you to maintain good immune defenses.