We’ve all heard the age-old advice to stay out of the cold to avoid getting sick. Even the words ‘common cold‘ create an association with cold temperatures.
Cold Case: Does Cold Weather Make Chest Infections Worse?
But does cold or wet weather increase your chances of getting sick or worsening chest infections? Or are we mistaking correlation with causation?
Read on to look into the facts around cold weather, the causes of illness, and how best to avoid viral and bacterial chest infections.
What Causes Chest Infections?
Chest infections only occur when certain viruses or bacteria make it into our respiratory tract, beat our bodies’ defenses, and replicate. Once the quantity of viruses or bacteria reaches a high enough level, we develop symptoms of illness.
Where do these bacteria and viruses come from?
They are carried by other people, who spread them via fluid transfer. This can happen in any number of ways.
The most well-known way that this occurs is when someone carrying the germs coughs or sneezes. The droplets released might end up on their hands, a nearby surface, or float briefly in the air.
Coming into contact with these droplets and getting them in your mouth, nose, or eyes can infect you.
Cold Weather and Chest Infections
You might be thinking, “Okay, so only germs cause chest infections. But why do more people end up getting sick during the winter?”
Cold weather and sickness indeed go hand in hand. However, the weather doesn’t cause you to get sick—there are other factors in play.
For one thing, when it’s cold or wet out, we’re more likely to spend time indoors. Enclosed spaces with low airflow facilitate the spread of germs.
Cold weather influences infection rates in other ways, too. We tend to spend less time outside, get less sun exposure, and be less physically active when it’s cold out.
This weakens our immune system and makes us more likely to fall ill if we contact germs.
Cold air can also dry out our lungs and nasal passages, making it easier for germs to penetrate them. It also makes it harder for our immune cells to get there and fight them off.
If you have asthma or chest infection symptoms, the cold can worsen for the same reasons. Drying out your lungs and restricting your airways can make your cough worse or exacerbate asthma issues.
The best way to avoid coming down with a chest infection is to avoid touching your face (unless you’ve just washed your hands). You should also avoid contact with infected people.
Be sure to wash your hands after you’ve been in public spaces or touched things often touched by others.
If you have symptoms of a chest infection, find helpful information on managing it in this post.
And with regards to the cold, avoid staying outside for too long. Chest infections are one thing, but hypothermia is another problem entirely!
Colds and the Cold
Bacteria and viruses cause chest infections. Cold temperatures might cause you to cough temporarily or aggravate symptoms you already have, but they’re not enough to make you sick on their own.
For more helpful articles, make sure to check out some of our other articles!