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New Study Unveils the Mystery Behind Winter Sickness

Discovering why you catch colds during chilly weather.

For many years, there has been a common belief that people tend to fall ill more frequently in colder temperatures. As the holiday season approaches, cases of the flu, common cold, and now COVID-19 tend to rise, prompting healthcare professionals to recommend getting vaccinated early in autumn. But what exactly causes this phenomenon?

In a recent study led by Dr. Benjamin Bleier, the head of otolaryngology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, a simple yet surprising explanation has been put forward. The reason behind increased illness during winter is that cold air actually harms the immune cells responsible for fighting off viruses in your nose. Even a slight decrease in temperature can weaken these crucial immune cells in your nasal passages, making it easier for virus and bacteria to invade your system.

“The association between cold air and heightened viral infections is due to the fact that just a small temperature drop essentially reduces half of your immunity,” Dr. Bleier elaborates.

Under normal circumstances, when your immune system is activated around your nose, your cells produce extracellular vesicles, which are like duplicates of themselves designed to lure and trap viruses. This is why your nose gets runny in winter; the mucus is mainly composed of virus-capturing extracellular vesicles being expelled from your body.

“Extracellular vesicles cannot multiply like cells, but they serve as small versions of cells specifically tailored to combat viruses,” Dr. Bleier explains. “They act as decoys, so when you inhale a virus, it adheres to these decoys instead of attacking the actual cells.”

This groundbreaking study has garnered praise from virologists as a significant advancement in the prevention of respiratory illnesses. While new treatments are in development, wearing a mask remains as one of the most effective ways to shield yourself from diseases during the winter. Masks not only block harmful pathogens from entering your system but also help maintain a warm and healthy environment inside your nose!

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