Staying warm is not only about keeping you cosy, it is also about keeping you healthy. And your nose has not the last role to play in it. The importance of protecting your smelling organ from the chill is proved by science.
There are a lot of misconceptions about the common cold and its link to cold weather. A new study suggests that they are indeed connected. But it’s not the chill alone that makes you catch a cold, but your smelling organ that is exposed to it. Here is what you need to know.
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The virus loves cooler temperature
According to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the virus that causes the common cold does its worst on your body when temperatures are chilly. That's because the virus loves cooler temperatures, but your body hates them.
Researchers from Yale studied rhinovirus, the most frequent cause of the common cold, in mice. It is known to thrive the best in a slightly cool environment, like the kind found in your nose, rather than the warmer environment in your lungs. But what the researchers found is temperature not only affects the virus itself but also affects how your body reacts to it.
Study co-author Akiko Iwasaki said:
Many of us have the cold virus in our noses without symptoms — about 20 to 25% of healthy people carry the virus. And if you are one of those people and you go out in the cold, you might develop symptoms.
Keep your nose safe
Yale researchers suggest that study results also explain why colds affect our noses more than anything else. Sniffling, sneezing and congestion come with almost every cold but less often does a cold virus lead to a lung infection because warmer conditions inside our lungs make it more difficult for those viruses to multiply.
While the study shows a correlation between cold temperatures and more vulnerable noses, the results don’t necessarily prove that keeping your nose warm will keep you from getting sick. But covering your nose in winter weather is never a bad idea — even if all it does is block the wind and make you feel cosy.
Especially important for asthma sufferers
One asthma attack occurs every 10 seconds in the UK where 5.4 million people are receiving treatment for the condition. Three people die every day following an asthma attack.
Charity Asthma UK and the medical community encourage people affected by it to wear scarves over their mouths and noses this winter as breathing in cold air can increase their risk of an attack.
Around four million people - three-quarters of those with asthma in the UK - say that cold winter air exacerbates their symptoms, which increases their risk of an attack.
Asthma UK clinical lead and practising GP Dr Andy Whittamore advised:
Living in the UK means that cold weather is impossible to avoid over winter but if people have asthma, simply wrapping a scarf around their nose and mouth can warm up the air before they breathe it in, reducing their risk of having an asthma attack.
- Good Housekeeping: Want to Avoid a Cold? Cover Your Nose With a Scarf
- Science Line: Cold viruses thrive in cold noses
- Independent: Asthma sufferers should cover nose and mouth this winter as inhaling cold air can increase risk of attack, experts warn