Fight Common Cold with Warm Nose?
Your mother was probably right when she said you could catch the common cold if you went outside without your coat and mittens in the cold weather. But did she know it might be good to fight the common cold with a warm nose?
The common cold is one of the most prevalent illnesses on the planet and one of the most studied, yet scientists are still discovering new factors about it. One thing scientists have known for quite some time is that the rhinovirus, which is the most frequent causative villain in this condition, reproduces better in a cool nasal environment than it does in the warmer confines of the lungs.
Now, however, a Yale University team has explored this idea further and discovered why this is so. In basic terms, they found that the airway epithelial cells that support replication of the rhinovirus initiate a stronger response against the virus at lung temperature than it does in the nasal cavity.
The bottom line appears to be that the cooler temperature in the nasal cavity supports replication of the rhinovirus, at least in part, because of a reduced antiviral immune response. Thus a colder nose is more supportive of the common cold than a warm nose.
How did scientists come to this conclusion? They used airway epithelial cells taken from mice and compared the immune response to the common cold virus when the cells were incubated at 98.6 degrees F and at 91.4 degrees F.
The investigators observed that
- The immune response to the common cold virus is impaired at 91.4 degrees when compared with normal body temperature
- Varying temperatures have an impact on the immune response as well rather than the virus itself. That is, the virus was able to reproduce at the higher temperature in mice that had genetic deficiencies in the immune system responsible for detecting viruses
This study does not close the book on how to fight the common cold. However, the scientists believe that although the study was conducted using mouse cells, it provides important information that can help humans. In fact, according to Akiko Iwasaki, the study’s senior author and a Yale professor of immunobiology, the findings may support your mother’s advice to keep bundled up in cold weather, and keep your nose warm, to help fight the common cold.
Other tips on how to prevent and fight the common cold include:
- Stay well hydrated
- Wash your hands often. Plain soap and water is fine
- Drink tea with lemon. Lemon helps thin mucus and the steam from the tea can stimulate the hair follicles in the nose to eliminate germs in your nasal cavity
- Maintain a healthy protein intake, as low protein levels jeopardize the immune system
- Rinse your nasal passages daily using a neti pot or syringe. This helps remove viruses. Nasal saline irritation products are available at drugstores and most grocery stores.
- Inhale steam to help clear your sinuses
- Consider taking zinc lozenges, which can help relieve symptoms
- Practice stress relief, such as deep breathing, meditation, progressive relaxation, or simply spending quiet time alone.
- Consider taking probiotics
- Stress burdens the immune system, making it more difficult to fight the virus
- Get adequate sleep, meaning 7 to 8 hours per night. That’s the amount necessary to stimulate the body’s natural killer cells to attack the common cold virus
Foxman EF et al. Temperature-dependent innate defense against the common cold virus limits viral replication at warm temperature in mouse airway cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 2014 Dec online