Whenever there is a dip in temperatures, the likelihood of catching the flu rapidly increases. You find yourself with a running nose. Then a cough. Soon you have a sore throat, fever and aches. Like clockwork, the flu season has struck again. The question is, why is it prevalent during cold weather?
Many of us have been brought up in your typical Kenyan household where it was impressed upon us to dress warmly during cold weather lest we fell sick.
“Do you want to take yourself to hospital?” was a popular rhetorical question that our mothers used to coerce us into keeping warm and overdressing in some instances, during cold weather.
Were our mothers onto something? Yes, and no. It is quite clear that flu outbreaks are prevalent during the colder months but why this happens isn’t clear. As it so stands, scientists and health experts are only just starting to piece together information why cases of the flu are highest during cold weather. There are a few reasons why
Cold Air & Flu Virus
Myth: Cold weather causes you to catch the flu.
Fact: Cold weather actually doesn’t make you get sick. You might not feel great after moving around in cold weather with no jacket on, but it’s not an activity that causes you to get ill with influenza. There is something a little bit more scientific going on.
There is a theory that the influenza virus may survive better in colder, drier climates. When it’s humid outside, water droplets in the air fall to the ground. This is because they’re heavier, right?
When this happens, any viruses or germs surviving in those droplets also fall to the ground. During cold weather, however, it’s a lot less humid than the long dry and hot spells that Kenyans witnessed between December and late February. As a result, water droplets in the air can survive longer and prolong the amount of time the virus hangs around.
Give thought about all the time you spend in closed spaces, whether indoors or stuck in traffic in matatus with their windows closed.
You also tend to stay indoors during cold weather, right?
When it comes down to it, germs pass between people. When the weather is cold and we’re snuggled up, we’re more likely to spread germs to one another. You don’t have to get very close to catch the flu, either. During cold weather, we often keep windows and doors shut to keep us warm. However, that also keeps the virus inside as well. That’s why you can catch the flu from someone in your home, office or a matatu even if you’re staying far away from them. It’s in the air.
Another contributing factor that comes from being indoors during cold weather is the lack of vitamin D. We get vitamin D and melatonin from the sun. Both nutrients are key players in our immune systems. During cold weather, we are less likely to spend time soaking up the sun’s rays due to the prevalent cloud cover that drastically reduces the sun’s intensity, therefore it’s simply easier to get sick. If our bodies don’t have the right tools to fight a virus, we’re in for some trouble.
Dealing with the flu
The best way to beat the flu is to stop yourself from getting it in the first place. You should get your flu shot if possible. Also make sure you wash your hands, stay away from people who appear sick, and take some supplements for your immune system.1