Is the cold able to make us sick?

During the last days we are invading polar currents that produce cold waves with intense temperature drops. Is the cold able to make us sick? Who has not heard of "I got confused because I left with a wet head" or "I got bad because I caught cold"? In winter there is a rebound in constipation, tonsillitis, bronchitis and other respiratory diseases. Also, as everyone knows, flu epidemics arrive and, mysteriously, there is also a surge in gastroenteritis.

We have been able to see the athletes of the Cross of Atapuerca or the runners of the Behobia-San Sebastián race competing under icy conditions or heavy rain. If the cold were capable of producing, on its own, the diseases listed above, these sporting events would have ended up as the aurora rosary, with half of the participants admitted. But no, the cold is not capable, on its own, of producing such infections.

For colds, gastroenteritis, etc. to occur. the presence of viruses is necessary, which are the infectious agents that produce them. We know more than 200 able to knock us out and knock us out for a few days.

Virus diffusion

With the drop in temperatures we have a natural tendency to take refuge in closed places. This produces a situation of overcrowding that favors that we get infected.

The presence of sick people causes the viruses spread through the air in microdrops, as an aerosol, being able to remain in poorly ventilated spaces for a long time. Also direct contact, when shaking hands or kissing, or indirect contact when touching contaminated objects such as a table or the keyboard of a computer or the buttons of an elevator, can cause contagion. Be careful in airports, it seems that one of the most dangerous objects in that regard are the trays of security controls.

However, indirectly, cold can contribute to this type of pathology. Heating and air conditioning can cause dryness of the mucosa of our airway, which is one of the defense mechanisms to prevent viruses from entering the body. The cold also produces a narrowing (vasoconstriction) of the peripheral blood vessels, for example those of the skin, with the intention of reducing heat loss. It also appears that the effectiveness of our immune system may be diminished in the presence of low temperatures.

Fight the cold

What preventive measures can we take to mitigate the effects of the cold? Ventilating rooms or enclosed spaces at least ten minutes a day can prevent the accumulation of airborne viruses. Extreme hygiene measures, washing our hands frequently or using hydroalcoholic antiseptic solutions. If we are sick we can protect ourselves by sneezing or wearing masks to avoid spreading viruses and infecting nearby people.

As general measures, try to eat properly with abundant fruits and vegetables, get enough sleep and exercise frequently, preferably outdoors. In this way, our immune system will not weaken. It is important to get a flu shot when your doctor recommends it. It must be done every year since the viruses that produce it change and therefore that of other years is not valid.

It is important to remember that because of many antibiotics you take, virus-caused diseases are not cured with these medications. Thus, use antibiotics only when prescribed by your doctor, if it can not cause resistance and not work when you really need them. Anti-inflammatories such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, among others, will help control symptoms such as fever or discomfort.

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