Feeling a Chill Can Brrrr-ing on a Cold

Study provides first evidence that icy weather ups respiratory risks

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MONDAY, Nov. 14, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Your Mom may have been right: Being cold can actually help a person catch a cold, new research suggests.

The British study offers truly chilling evidence in support of a theory that's long been considered mere folklore. Previous research had dismissed any link between getting a chill and catching a cold.

Researchers at Cardiff University in Wales asked 180 volunteers to take off their shoes and socks and either soak their feet in ice-cold water or place them in an empty bowl for 20 minutes.

Of the people who soaked their feet in cold water, 29 percent developed cold symptoms over the next four to five days, compared to 9 percent of those in the control group, the investigators report in the Nov. 14 issue of the journal Family Practice.

Study co-author Professor Ron Eccles of Cardiff University's Common Cold Centre explained how getting a chill might increase the risk of developing a cold.

"When colds are circulating in the community many people are mildly infected but show no symptoms. If they become chilled this causes a pronounced constriction of the blood vessels in the nose and shuts off the warm blood that supplies the white cells that fight infection," he said in a prepared statement.

"The reduced defenses in the nose allow the virus to get stronger and common cold symptoms develop," Eccles added. "Although the chilled subject believes they have 'caught a cold,' what has in fact happened is that the dormant infection has taken hold."

More information

The American Lung Association has more about the common cold.

SOURCE: Cardiff University, news release, Nov. 13, 2005


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