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Doesn’t it happen every time? As soon as we are done experiencing the erratic Indian winters and the month of March arrives, most of us are down with a cough or cold. Other common symptoms that herald a change of seasons are a runny nose, nose blockage, and a cough that won’t recede. Do you also get seasonally sick?
Experts say that March being spring time, is more susceptible to increased presence of rhinovirus. Rhinovirus is a type of virus that causes respiratory tract disorders (mostly, the common cold). Thus, common cold is a viral infection caused by the exposure to the rhinoviruses present in the air.
Dr. Bradley Chipps, President of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, says that in spring and autumn, i.e., months of March and October respectively, seasonal allergies are more common and this makes a person vulnerable to viral infections.
During this time, one can also develop pollen allergy or an allergy from pollen grains which are transferred from one plant to another by the wind, the bees and other insects. Pollen allergies can irritate your nasal passages and produce sneezing which may lead to nasal irritation, cold and cough. The seasonal allergies cause inflammation inside your nose which makes it easier for the viruses to create a habitat for themselves. As the immune system is busy defending the body against the assault by allergens, it fails to work efficiently against the viruses which cause common cold or viral fever.
The main problem with seasonal temperature shifts is the rise and fall in temperature that can irritate our nasal passages and challenge our immune system. Research shows that common cold is more common in cold temperatures.
A study from Yale University shows that even a small drop in temperature can mess with our body’s ability to fight against the viral infections that occur during this period. Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of Immunobiology at Yale School of Medicine, says that when our body is exposed to infections, we produce something called interferons to fight against those infections. But a small drop in body temperatures - from the normal 37 degree Celsius to 33 degree Celsius, can cause the body’s immune system to slow down and not work efficiently. Viral Infections are more common in March because compared to winter time, March is warmer and we are more likely to head out of our homes. Thus, the slightly warmer temperatures trigger the rhinoviruses. Also, our body temperatures are lower compared to the outside temperature, and this allows the virus to settle in our bodies.
Professor Iwasaki gives valuable tips to combat viral infections during this time.
• He asserts that we must keep our nose area warm and use a scarf to wrap around our face and necks. Keeping our necks warm will ensure that we don’t catch a cold which proceeds into a cough.
• Washing hands before eating and after we have touched our noses or eyes will ensure that we are not spreading the microorganisms.
• Regular exercise to keep ourselves warm and following a healthy diet will make sure that we are fit, and our immune system is efficiently combating diseases.
• Research also shows that taking Vitamin D supplements can help us be stronger and more immune to common cold and flu.
So the next time you find yourself sneezing when the seasons change, you know why and what you can do about it!
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