Sunday, November 28, 2010
Does getting cold make you catch a cold?
I write this as my throat is sore. It won't be long now before my symptoms turn into a full-blown cold with a stuffed up nose and all. So, did I walk around without socks on, or go outside without a hat, or with wet hair? Well, I probably did a few times, but that's not how I caught a cold. I probably picked it up at work from someone, or from my husband who brings home all kinds of germs from his office. We catch colds from other people. Colds are viruses, rhinoviruses to be exact. There are thousands of varieties of common rhinovirus floating around, which is why we can get a cold, and then a few months or weeks later get another cold. There are literally limitless cold virus types to test our immune system. The belief that getting physically cold will make you catch a cold probably developed because immune system weakeners make us more susceptible to getting a cold. Anything that lowers our defenses increases our chances of getting sick - not getting enough sleep, eating poorly, too much stress, another illness that takes a toll, prescription meds that affect the immune system, etc. Despite good habits, I am somehow a cold magnet (I get them often and I get them bad), whereas my husband is like cold-virus bulletproof. However, I have found that exercising more often decreases my yearly colds from about 3 or 4 to 1 or 2 (not scientific, anecdotal evidence, but studies back me up). Other people are more prone to strep throat, or influenza, or something else. And, the most comprehensive studies have shown that all that hand washing and sanitizing doesn't help much. Adults touch something like 15-20 objects a minute, on average, and kids even more. Washing your hands after using the bathroom and before eating are musts. However, are you really going to sanitize your hands 15 times a minute? The only sure way to defend ourselves is to keep the immune system in tip-top shape by exercising, eating healthy, sleeping enough, managing stress, taking it easy when we do start to feel under the weather, and staying home when we're ill (and encouraging co-workers to do the same).