Ever wondered about the connection between colds, flu and winter
? You’re not alone – doctors and scientists have long puzzled over how cold and flu viruses spread
Cold and flu
symptoms are undeniably more common in cooler weather, but low temperatures don’t actually cause colds. While cold weather may cool the nasal passages to make us more susceptible to falling ill,1
the cold or flu viruses what causes the illness- so it’s not the temperature that’s to blameHow cold and flu viruses spread
We often fall victim to a respiratory virus when we’re in close proximity to an infected person who is sneezing or coughing. Sneezes can propel tiny potentially infectious droplets through the air in an aerosol-like effect. Flu viruses spread through small particle aerosols that do not settle and can be transmitted over relatively long distances by airflow, and then inhaled which may lead to infection.
Another effective way of transmitting the cold virus is through hand to hand contact with a cold or flu sufferer.2
How viruses attach to you
Once a cold or flu
virus gets into your mouth, eyes, or nose, it gets to work quickly. Rhinovirus, the most common type of cold virus, attaches itself in the respiratory tract within minutes of contact, and some symptoms often appear 10 to 12 hours later3
The flu’s incubation period can be longer (one to seven days)4
but when it hits, it hits hard and fast. Fever and pronounced muscle weakness are telltale signs of flu
but are nearly unheard of for a cold5
Avoiding or limiting your exposure to viruses
Currently, there is no cure for the common cold. However, washing your hands regularly with soap and water can reduce virus counts on the skin,6
and studies have found that hand washing can reduce the risk of acute respiratory infection.7[REFERENCES]
1. Eccles R. (2002) An explanation for the seasonality of acute upper respiratory tract viral infections. Acta Otolaryngologica 122: pp.183-191.
2. Gwaltney, J>M, Moskalski, P.B., Hendley, J.O (1978) Hand-to–hand transmission of Rhinovirus colds.Annals of Internal Medicine 88:463-467
3. Harris, J.M. II and Gwaltney, J.M. Jr. (1996 December) Incubation periods of experimental rhinovirus infection and illness. Clinical Infectious Disease (CID). [online] Volume 23(6), pp.1287-1290. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8953073. Accessed 9 November 2011.
4. Heikkinen, T. and Jarvinen, A. (2003) The common cold. The Lancet Infectious Diseases. 361: pp 51-58.16.
5. Eccles, R. (2005) Understanding the symptoms of the common cold and influenza. The Lancet Infectious Diseases. 5(11), pp. 718-725. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16253889.
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Common Colds: Protect yourself and others. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/Features/Rhinoviruses/index.html. Accessed January 2016.
7. Rabie, T. and Curtis, V. (2006) Handwashing and risk of respiratory infections: a quantitative systematic review. Tropical Medicine and International Health. 11(3), pp. 258-267.