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The Smart Med Card

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cold Weather Blues

It's the weekend! Not only is it Saturday, but it is also the second day of Autumn. Hard to believe, huh? Today, I want to present a short but informative blurb about this time of year; the time where temperatures fall and sicknesses rise.

The Old Wive's Tale
Momma always says wear your hat and gloves when going out into the cold! Also, never leave the house on a chilly day with wet hair - you'll catch your death, pneumonia will become you! If you've grown up with this mentality from your parents too - your mom and my mom should meet - they'd get along great! All jokes aside, here is what you need to know about illnesses.

Bacteria and viruses (collectively called pathogens) cause illnesses and diseases.

In all of your days growing up - have you ever been told that cold weather is a bacteria or a virus? Hopefully the answer is no - because it's not. Cold weather does not directly cause illnesses, it will, however, initiate a cascading effect. 

Shiver Me Timbers
Cold weather lowers your body temperature - causing you to shiver. The shivering you feel is from the rapid tensing and relaxing of your muscles - like a mini-workout. In the same way you exert yourself during exercise and cause a rise in body temperature - your body, when shivering, has automatically initiated it's own workout-routine in order to cause a rise in internal temperature. It takes large amounts of energy for your body to do this and when you start shivering, much of your other bodily functions, such as the immune system, weaken in order to divert it's energy to the more pertinent problem. It's right there - that weakening of the immune system which causes the problem. Now that your immune system has weakened, any pathogens it has been fighting have an open window to flourish. Generally, within a few days after an extended stay in cold weather without proper clothing you can become ill due to the lost fight between your body and any pathogens it was suppressing. As a quick aside - athletes often become just as sick, in any weather due to the large amounts of energy required to fuel their body during their sport. Their sport causes a weakening of their immune system in order to keep up with energy demands just like shivering.

There you have it - the correlation between cold weather and well, colds (and pneumonia just in case you didn't fully catch the full correlation)! So, if you choose to run around without the proper cold-weather gear - that's up to you - just hope you haven't been exposed to and were fighting some nasty bug!

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