Cold Season

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As I sit in my 8 am class, I am surrounded by a chorus of sniffling and coughing.  Indeed it is that time of year again, when the weather starts to turn and people start getting sick.  It has long assumed to be common knowledge that the cold is caused by cold weather suppressing the immune system and allowing the body to be infected with the rhinovirus which causes the common cold.  I had some questions about the validity of this long-accepted hypothesis, so I decided to to some research.

The answer I found:  It is possible, but only under certain circumstances.  Just stepping out into the cold air will not immediately lower your immune system, however, hypothermia does lower your immune system, so you should avoid long term cold weather exposure without proper clothing.  One interesting point worth mentioning is that cold weather actually improves the immune system because it causes the hormone norepinephrine to circulate which is a decongestant.

The fact is, there are too many different virus variations of the common cold for your immune system to block, so even if it is performing at its highest level, you are still able to get a cold. The virus is able to mutate into different versions of itself in order to bypass even the most active immune system.

The actual culprit of the common cold is that people tend to stay inside and in closer contact with others during cold weather, and if the other people have the cold virus, than it transmits more easily.

This connection between cold weather and causing the infection of the rhinovirus is an excellent example of correlation not equaling causation.  It would seem that this hypothesis has been long accepted because it sounds plausible on the surface.


 Rhinovirus courtesy of  

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There seems to be a cold spreading throughout my residence hall recently. I consciously make an effort to wash my hands more often, and this has been known to lessen the negative effects of germ spread. Here are some other ways to combat the cold season.

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