How cold weather can impact your health and ways to stay prepared

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Tuesday, January 16, 2024
Can cold weather cause a cold? Doctor shares ways to protect yourself
Eyewitness News spoke with Dr. Adan Alvarez about how the cold weather can impact your health and how it can affect children more than adults.

As we brace for the cold, you may be wondering how these temperatures can impact your health.

Eyewitness News spoke with Dr. Adan Alvarez from Luxe Primary Practice on what you should know when it comes to keeping yourself safe during this type of weather.

Our first question to Alvarez was about catching a cold during this time around.

So, does cold weather actually cause colds?

"It does not. However, cold weather does decrease your body's ability to fight infections, and studies show that there's a 40% decrease in immune response when the nasal passages are exposed to cold air. So this makes you more likely to get an infection when you are exposed to viruses," Alvarez said.

If you are exposed, what do you do to prevent getting the flu or a cold?

"So, unfortunately, there's no 100% way to prevent viral illnesses. However, there are ways of decreasing your chances of getting sick. First and foremost, staying up to date on your vaccines," Alvarez continued. "Vaccines help your body make memory cells to whatever you're being vaccinated against. So that way, when the actual virus comes along, your body knows what to look for and is more efficient about fighting it off."

Alvarez said another way to prevent infections is by boosting your immune system. He said that means getting a good night's rest, eating well, decreasing stress, and getting a daily dose of vitamin C. He added that wearing masks and washing your hands can also help prevent the virus from entering your nasal passages.

Does bundling up work?

"So staying warm will help, especially if you try to keep your face nice and covered and warm," he said.

Are people with chronic conditions impacted differently?

"So the big thing with chronic conditions is to try to be prepared - so making sure you that have enough medication to last you at least a week is very important. The other thing, it really depends on what the chronic condition is," he said. "Asthma is very, very common, so of course, making sure you have your inhalers available because the cold will make asthma worse." He says to seek medical attention if your symptoms worsen and your inhaler isn't working.

People with arthritis and chronic pain conditions experience more pain when it's cold, according to Alvarez, so it's important to stay within your prescribed course of medical treatment.

What about elderly or children?

"So actually elderly and children are at greatest risk for the cold because they have a harder time regulating their core temperature," Alvarez said. "So it's this population that we really recommend that they dress in layers because that way, if they start to feel too hot, start to sweat, then you take a layer off. If you're feeling too cold, then add a layer on." He added that keeping this population with warm fluids is key.

Alvarez said it is a lot easier for children to become hypothermic versus adults.

According to the CDC, some symptoms and signs of mild hypothermia include:

  • Shivering
  • Pale skin
  • Balance issues
  • Slurred speech
  • Numb hands

Signs of severe hypothermia include:

  • Body feels cold to the touch
  • Shallow breathing
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Stop shivering

"The biggest thing is really being prepared," Alvarez said. "Making sure that you're doing everything possible to remain as healthy as possible so that way your immune system is working well and your likelihood of getting any flu, viruses, are minimal."

WATCH FULL INTERVIEW: Doctor shares cold weather impacts on health

ABC13 reporter Nick Natario had a one-on-one interview with Dr. Adan Alvarez of Luxe Primary Practice about the impacts of the cold when it comes to your health.