With some of the mildest temperatures on record, this past winter was anything but ordinary. As we transition from winter to spring, and snow melts once and for all, the change in temperature can cause many people to catch a common cold. Why does this happen around the change of seasons, and how can one stay healthy? Dr. Howard Hinestroza of CareMount Medical shared his tips on how to stay virus-free this spring.
"Generally, our immune systems are able to protect our cells from viruses," said Hinestroza. "However, these mechanisms are only effective when we’re at a core body temperature of 98.6 degrees. A recent study showed that cold weather could alter airway cells, inhibiting their ability to mount a natural immune reaction against the common cold agents. Therefore, our grandmothers were right when they told us to cover our heads and mouths to prevent catching a cold."
However, the flu is another story. One misconception is that people can catch the flu simply by going outside without a coat. "The only way to get the flu is through exposure to the influenza virus," said Hinestroza. "Although, I wouldn’t be surprised if a future study revealed that our defenses against the flu could also be temperature dependent. That's why I still recommend oatmeal for breakfast and non-caffeinated fluids like ginger lemon tea to warm the body and start the day."
Hinestroza also wanted to remind parents that an active child is a healthy child, especially as they transition out of colder months. "Minimize screen exposure to less than three hours a day and encourage your child to exercise regularly," he said. "Children should also be sleeping 9-11 hours daily to ward off viral invaders."
For the general population, Vitamin C can be a useful vitamin to ward of seasonal colds. "While it won't necessarily prevent contraction, taking supplements before the onset of a cold may shorten the duration of symptoms," said Hinestroza.
When it comes to reducing the catch or spread of viruses, Hinestroza recommended a simple, tried and true method: hand washing with soap. "This is especially important for young children, because they don’t tend to wash their hands on their own," he said. "Introducing good hygiene practices can be a powerful way of protecting both kids and communities."