My mom used to tell me to put a hat on my baby when the weather was cold. I used to argue, “Mom, babies don’t catch colds from the cold. They get them from viruses. I’m not putting a hat on the baby.”
But now it seems that my mom could have been on to something. Could the cold weather actually play a role in catching a cold?
Researchers at Yale University recently published a paper (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) that looked at how cooler temperatures affect the nose when viruses present. The idea is that cells in the nose may not fight off viruses as well in the cold. So they tried a series of experiments on mice and exposed them to a rhinovirus at different temperatures.
In the study, researchers tracked the ability of specific enzyme receptors within the nose cells to fight off a rhinovirus they introduced. They found that at cooler temperatures, the cells failed to detect the intruding virus and alert the immune system to fight. At higher temperatures, the cells did their job and fought off the virus.
The mice study raises the possibility that inhaling cooler air could lower the resistance of cells lining the nasal cavity to fight off viruses.
But wait mom…these were mice.The virus was adapted and altered to work with them. The effects may not be the same for humans. So until they try this on humans, we can’t say this is true for us!
Still, maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to throw out mom’s age old advice. What do I lose if I put a hat on the baby in the cold? Mom could be right and we argue less.