does cold air kill germs? (thoughts of a fresh air fiend)

 

 

I was cleaning out an overload of emails on my computer yesterday and came across a few emails I had forgotten about between a friend of mine and me from last winter.

The gist of our “electronic conversation” was as follows.

 

 

***************************************************

 

 

My friend said she had a bad cold. The usual symptoms: congestion, ache, cough, lassitude, etc. Plus, blocked sinuses. The blocked sinuses were really bothering her. “I can barely breathe,” she wrote.

She said she was resting, sleeping a lot, drinking a lot of tea with honey, and STAYING INDOORS.

I advised her as follows:

— To get outside. To go for a walk, preferably a long one if she could manage to.

— That I thought fresh air would ease the congestion. “The cold, crisp air will be very good for you. I am certain that you will come back feeling much better.”

— I suggested drinking fresh squeezed orange juice.

My friend purchased nasal spray. I was wondering if it did any good and if perhaps it actually does more harm than good.

My friend wrote me back that, in her opinion, “the cold and wind make it worse.” That WARM air and temperatures are desirable when someone has a cold.

I said that, in my opinion, being confined inside with indoor heat makes a cold worse.

“Fresh air, yes, but not cold,” she replied. “There are a lot sick people outside at this time of the year. Coughing. Spreads germs!”

 

 

***************************************************

 

 

It is my opinion, as I wrote to my friend, that cold air KILLS germs. I had a job one winter a long time ago when I was in my twenties. I was outdoors all day in the cold and snow during the winter months. Shoveling snow; doing manual labor. I never had a scintilla of cold or flu-like symptoms all winter.

I said that I didn’t think she would or could catch a cold from others if outdoors. “How would germs spread in the open air?”

I told her that it has been my experience when experiencing symptoms of a cold or cough, that once I go out, the symptoms seem to ease (in the winter months, that is).

“Well,” she said, “if the cold temperature kills germs and viruses, why do humans usually get sick in wintertime?”

I answered that, from my own experience and observations, it seemed that colds develop from:

— constantly alternating between indoors (overheated) and outdoors (cold)

— not staying outdoors long enough to let the cold, fresh air work its beneficial effects

— staying inside most of the time, day and night

— overheated buildings

“The germs love the indoors — the perfect incubator for them. They can’t survive the cold outdoors. It seems whenever I have a cold or cough and get fresh air, I feel better right away.”

 

 

***************************************************

 

 

My friend thanked me for the advice. “Maybe you’re right,” she said.

I tried to encourage her, drawing upon my own personal philosophy; “FIGHT the cold,” “don’t let it shut you down,” “try to keep active,” “get fresh air.”

“Don’t take my word for it,” I said. I suggested that she Google the topic to see what she would find.

Then, I took it upon myself to Google the topic of fresh air, cold, and germs. And, guess what I found. Most of the “experts” seemed to DISAGREE with me!

A typical entry:

[W]when we breathe in cold air, the blood vessels in our nose may constrict to stop us losing heat. This may prevent white blood cells (the warriors that fight germs) from reaching our mucus membranes and killing any viruses that we inhale, allowing them to slip past our defences unnoticed.

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20151016-the-real-reason-germs-spread-in-the-winter

 

(And in The New York Times, it was stated, in an article on the coronavirus epidemic: “It is possible that the Wuhan coronavirus will fade out as weather warms. Many viruses, like flu, measles and norovirus, thrive in cold, dry air.” [italics added] — “Wuhan Coronavirus Looks Increasingly Like a Pandemic, Experts Say,” by Donald G. McNeil Jr., The New York Times, February 2, 2020)

 

 

***************************************************

 

 

I gave up.

But, you know what? I still think I’m right. Fresh air is the best medicine! At all times of the year.

 

 

*****************************************************

 

 
addendum, March 20, 2020

 
I live in New York City. Here, and elsewhere — in the midst of the Coronavirus epidemic — people are being urged or ordered to STAY INDOORS.

As a blanket recommendation, this seems to me unwise, medically speaking. Common sense and experience tell us that fresh air and sunlight are inimical to germs and to the spread of disease.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   February 2017; updated February 2020

2 thoughts on “does cold air kill germs? (thoughts of a fresh air fiend)

  1. Shelly

    I must express how happy it made me to read this article you wrote regarding fresh air and illness. It is that time of year when all of my coworkers are ill with colds and the flu and I am the only to remain healthy. (I must also note I have not had anything more than a slight cold for over 30 years and have never received a flu shot!) I am convinced it is due to my daily walks with my dog every morning. I dress warm to keep my body temperature comfortable, but my nose and eyes do water from the cold, which I was figuring eliminated any toxins. When I explain my theory to friends, it is not believable since science is saying otherwise. Thank you for expressing your thoughts as well on this topic.

  2. Roger W. Smith Post author

    You are welcome, Shelly. Thank you for your well expressed comments and thoughts. I am sure your not having colds is due to your daily walks. It works for me, too. How often I have been feeling under the weather in the winter or on cold days; I go out for a walk and I immediately feel better.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.