By Andrea Pyka
Have you ever wondered why you catch a cold virus from being in cold weather?
Pile on an extra layer of clothing before stepping outside, because only a few months ago scientists finally confirmed the long-lasting theory that the cold virus can spread in cold weather.
A recent study shows that the cold virus is able to thrive in frigid, dry air, which makes the current winter weather an ideal breeding ground for a cold to spread among the UCSC population. According to Dr. Edward Drew Malloy, medical director of Cowell Student Health Center, cold, dry air causes the inner protective mucosal lining of the nasal passage to crack, which allows easier access for respiratory viruses or germs to enter a person’s body.
Furthermore, the crowding conditions of classrooms and buses during the wintertime further render the transmission of the virus via sneezing and coughing.
Malloy said that the extent of a person’s illness depends on the functioning of his or her immune system at the time of the exposure to the virus. Some students have strong immune systems and therefore rarely get ill, while others can get frequent infections.
“Similar to a fish that filters seawater through its gills, the air we breathe in may contain viruses that may make us ill,” Dr. Malloy said.
But instead of visiting the Health Center at the first sign of a cold, Malloy encourages students to drink extra fluids and get adequate amounts of rest to help the body with the recovery process, which usually takes up to seven days. For symptoms like sore throat and a cough, which can pass after four days, Malloy suggests taking over-the-counter cough suppressants. He strongly advises against students taking antibiotics, which treat bacterial infections rather than colds, which are respiratory viruses.
While some symptoms of the cold can be easily treated with adequate rest and over-the-counter medications, Malloy warns that students who have persistently severe symptoms like severe headache, sore throat and a fever of over 102 degrees could be suffering from the flu and should immediately visit the Health Center.
To protect against the flu virus early on, the Health Center currently provides UCSC students with flu vaccine shots for $20, charged to the student’s account. While Malloy cautions students about the flu, he nevertheless confirmed the chance of getting a cold in the wintertime weather. However, he disclaimed the common notion that standing outside with wet hair or wet flip-flops could be the cause of catching a cold. This just might be the start of another breaking topic to uncover for next issue’s “Did You Know?”
_For breaking health and science-related news, read each week’s “Did You Know?” section for a look into little-known and interesting facts about the health and science world._