Why Do We Get Sick When the Weather Changes?

By Melena Gurganus

It seems as though with the changing of seasons from summer to fall, more and more people come down with colds or viruses than any other time of year. But why is this? Some people assume that the cold weather causes our bodies to become more susceptible to infection. However, there is no scientific evidence to support that notion. As it turns out, the cold weather doesn’t necessarily cause you to get sick, but the germs that thrive in these temperatures can be a root cause of the issue.

What Causes Us to Get Sick

You can catch a cold or come down with the flu any time of the year, but research suggests that cold, dry weather provides optimal conditions for germs to survive and spread more easily. This is why flu season typically runs from October to March, with cases typically decreasing as the warmer weather starts to hit.

Although the colder months may be more preferable by the germs that are causing you to get sick, there may be other reasons that you are feeling under the weather.

You’re Cooped Up Inside

When it’s cold out, you’re more likely to be spending your time cozying up indoors rather than soaking up the sun. And while no one wants to spend their time outside in the freezing cold, staying inside all day long can cause other issues. For instance, you won’t be getting as much natural vitamin D intake as you do during the warmer months, which can affect your immune responses.

Your Immune System is Weaker

There’s also evidence that exposure to cold temperatures suppresses the immune system, although cold weather does not explicitly cause you to get sick. However, researchers have determined that there is a connection between the cold and contracting the common cold. Essentially, cold noses can reduce the immune response in the nasal passages, and increase your risk of infection.

You’re Traveling

The fall and winter months bring cooler temperatures and snow days, but they also are home to some of the biggest holidays of the year. This means that people are traveling more than they do at other times, and simultaneously increasing the spread of germs, particularly in airports, trains, and other modes of transportation.

How to Survive the Seasonal Changes

The best way to prevent the common cold and other illnesses is to preemptively amp up your hygiene and boost your immune system to better fend of viruses and other foreign invaders from your body.

Here are a few steps you can take to make it through the colder months without contracting an infection:

  • Wash your hands frequently — You hear this all the time, but it really works. Washing or disinfecting your hands, especially before you eat, can help tremendously in the killing of germs to prevent them from getting into your system.
  • Try to keep your hands away from your mouth and nose — Sometimes we subconsciously introduce germs directly into our bodies by touching our faces with our hands when they are unknowingly covered in germs. For the same reasons that you wash your hands, you should also avoid touching your mouth and nose with your hands.
  • Avoid the airport — It’s not always possible with the holidays and travel times, but airports and other means of public transportation are breeding grounds for germs to spread. If you must board a plane, train, bus, or taxi, be sure to disinfect your hands (and luggage handles) immediately afterward.
  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep — Sleep is an important part of your body’s processes, especially when it comes to recovery and immunity. It’s important that you get the appropriate amount of sleep each night, to ensure that your body is fully recharged and less susceptible to infection.
  • Maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen — Strengthening your body from the inside out is the best defense to combat a viral offense, and consuming foods that are rich in vitamins (A, B, and C) and nutrients can help boost your immune system to keep you healthy.

Additionally, there are ways that you can enhance your recovery time if you’re already sick. Giving your body more time to rest than usual, as well as implementing natural remedies like drinking herbal tea or inhaling essential oils to help clear sinus congestion can make your symptoms more manageable.

Most people recover on their own from a cold or the flu, but other issues like bronchitis or pneumonia may arise and need additional treatment. If you notice that you have an abnormally high fever or symptoms lasting more than 2 weeks, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor.

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