Does the cold make it easier for bugs to infect us?

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Mark Wallis

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Mark Wallis asked the Naked Scientists:
   Hi


My name is Mark from Sydney and I have a 'follow up' question for you. On one your recent Q&A shows (I think it was 17.05.09) another one of your listeners asked about wearing socks...to keep your feet from getting cold and thereby avoid catching a cold.

As always you provided a useful explanatory answer which simply said was, 'no you can't catch a cold from being cold'.

But what if you jumped on a crowded bus, one of your fellow puffy eyed, red nosed commuters sneezes and voila you breathe in some new microbiotic organisms that are now ready for playtime in your body.

So the question is, will being cold make it easier for the flu to take hold? Conversely will jumping straight into a nice hot bath (with bubbles) help your body to fight off those nasty little critters?

If so, are warm socks and bubble baths the best weapons we have in the fight against swine flu?

Thanks for your answers and your great show :-)

Mark Wallis

What do you think?

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Offline HankRearden

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Does the cold make it easier for bugs to infect us?
« Reply #1 on: 20/07/2009 12:48:38 »
I'm not an expert, but I believe the cold affects your immune system negatively so that viruses have an easier time infecting you.

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Offline LeeE

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Does the cold make it easier for bugs to infect us?
« Reply #2 on: 20/07/2009 19:43:44 »
Warm blooded animals are heat generators and unless you're suffering from hypothermia your body temperature will be pretty constant.  Just feeling cold won't make you more susceptible to virii.  Changing atmospheric conditions do change your body chemistry slightly though, as many Arthritis suffers will know, but I'm not aware of any impact on the immune system.
...And its claws are as big as cups, and for some reason it's got a tremendous fear of stamps! And Mrs Doyle was telling me it's got magnets on its tail, so if you're made out of metal it can attach itself to you! And instead of a mouth it's got four arses!