Why Does Cold Weather Make You Sniffle?


| 3 Comments
runny nose, part 1.jpegIt's that time of year again where a chorus of sniffles fills classrooms and lecture halls. It's not paranoia setting in that everybody is sick, but rather the weather. Ever wonder why you end up sniffling when you walk from class to class? Ever wonder why your nose turns into a snot factory as soon as it gets cold outside? I have some good news for you: You're not actually sick. 

As WiseGeek pointed out, when you're healthy, your nose can make about 32 ounces of mucus every day. So, what does this mean when it gets cold outside? A very simple explanation.

Your nose has blood vessels underneath the snot-producing glands. When it gets colder outside, those very same blood vessels have to work harder to make the cold air warm after it is inhaled. The blood vessels dilate, which ends up helping your nose. The blood vessels that dilate help keep your nose safe from the cold weather, but turns you into a bucket of snot. 

It also doesn't help that cold air is drier, which also makes your nose's blood vessels work overtime to prevent your nose from drying out! 

If you're interested, NPR aired a piece that discussed this topic back in 2009, where Dr. Andrew Lane from Johns Hopkins University said that this is a very normal process, and it is a good reaction. 

Of course, there's one plus side over the fact that cold weather induces sniffles more. If you're sick with a cold or allergies, being outside in the cold air helps ease congestion, allowing you to blow more mucus out of your nose. Sadly, when you go inside where it's warmer, you tend to get stuffy again. 

PS. The picture above can be credited to this guy

3 Comments

this is very interesting. I always thought I was getting sick when I had the sniffles. so, is there a case where an individual's blood vessels fail to do this process? like there is a genetic mutation involved?

When explained this way, it makes complete sense why everyone's nose sniffles when the weather is cold outside. In addition, I learned once in a high school anatomy class that when it's cold outside, the cilia in your nose gets cold and therefore has a harder time controlling the movement of the mucous in and out of the sinsuses. This sometimes causes excessive dripping of the mucous and in turn more sniffles. I also think when the weather is cold out during the winter, people are more inclined to get sick and will then be sniffling because of a cold.

I never really thought about this. You always hear the chorus of sniffles in class, but I always assumed people were just sick. It's also interesting that the cold air can help congestion, because when we're sick we always stay bundled up inside. The cold air being dry also explains why we're more susceptible to nosebleeds in the winter because the nose can dry out and crack and those blood vessels are just beneath the surface.

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