Why common cold may thrive at low temperatures 

The “common cold ‘prefers cold noses’,” reports BBC News, while The Independent recommends that you “heed your mother’s warning: cover up or you’ll catch a cold”.

While these headlines might make you think this study is proof of a link between colder temperatures outside and catching a cold, this isn’t quite what the researchers looked at.

Our nasal passages are naturally a few degrees colder than the core of our body. It has long been known that rhinovirus – the most common cause of the human cold – grows much better at these lower temperatures.

The current study has looked at why this might be. It found that mouse airway cells were less able to mount immune defences against the cold virus at the lower temperature seen in the human nose than at the higher temperature seen at the core of the body.

While this study may suggest a possible explanation for the known effect of temperature on cold viruses, it is very early stage research, testing just one strain of rhinovirus in mouse cells. The experiments will need to be repeated with different strains and ideally with human airway cells.

Also, while the authors speculate about whether this could explain beliefs around the impact of cold environmental temperatures on catching a cold, and wrapping up warm to prevent a cold, this study didn’t actually assess this.

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