Get a Chill, Catch a Cold?


WHEN 1T COMES TO catching colds from getting a chill, maybe mom was right after all. Although infectious-disease specialists have long debunked the notion that cold, wet feet can trigger a cold, researchers at Cardiff University's Common Cold Center have shown that chills can lower the nose's natural defenses and unleash latent viruses. Previous studies over the past 40 years have infected subjects with a cold virus and then gotten them chilly and wet, but failed to find any link to developing a cold. This study targeted instead the cold viruses many of us are already carrying around.

"When colds are circulating in the community, for every person you see who is symptomatic, there are two or three who have a sub-clinical infection," says lead researcher Ronald Eccles, PhD, DSc. "It's those people who are prone to developing a common cold when they are chilled-they've already got the virus, but the chilling is actually reducing their respiratory defense."

Science already knew, Eccles adds, that chilling the feet causes vasoconstriction in the nose. That blood-vessel tightening reduces the number of available immune cells in the nose and impairs the nose's natural ability to clear its cells with mucus, giving viruses more opportunity to make you sick.

The British researchers split 180 seemingly healthy subjects into two groups and made half sit for 20 minutes with their bare feet in buckets of cold water. After several days, 13 of the chilled participants came down with cold symptoms, compared to just five from the dry and warm control group.

TO LEARN MORE: Family Practice, November 2005. Free abstract at .

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