Why We Get More Cold and Flu During Winter

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A recent CNN health article writes that finally scientists have unlocked the biological reason getting more respiratory illnesses in winter.

Scientists are reportedly calling this a “scientific breakthrough”. A chill in the air reportedly “damages the immune response occurring in the nose”. According a new study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, “reducing the temperature inside the nose by as little as 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) kills nearly 50% of the billions of virus and bacteria-fighting cells in the nostrils”.

Dr. Zara Patel, a professor of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine in California, told CNN Health “This is the first time that we have a biologic, molecular explanation regarding one factor of our innate immune response that appears to be limited by colder temperatures.”

Dr. Benjamin Bleier, director of otolaryngology translational research at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston, told CNN “Cold air is associated with increased viral infection because you’ve essentially lost half of your immunity just by that small drop in temperature”.

“It’s important to remember that these are in vitro studies, meaning that although it is using human tissue in the lab to study this immune response, it is not a study being carried out inside someone’s actual nose,” Dr. Patel told CNN. “Often the findings of in vitro studies are confirmed in vivo, but not always.”

“The pandemic gave us exactly what we need to help fight off chilly air and keep our immunity high. […] wearing a sweater on your nose,” Dr Bleier added. “What we found is that when you’re exposed to cold air, the temperature in your nose can drop by as much as 9 degrees Fahrenheit. And that’s enough to essentially knock out all three of those immune advantages that the nose has.”

“The warmer you can keep the intranasal environment, the better this innate immune defense mechanism will be able to work. Maybe yet another reason to wear masks!,” agrees Dr. Patel.