COLUMBIA, S.C. — The arctic weather across the United States is bringing unseasonable and unpredictable weather here to the midlands. Chilly temperatures are a mixed blessing. On one hand cold weather can kill off germs and disease carrying bugs. On the other hand, cold weather can make it tougher for the body to fight off infections.

How does weather affect the immune system?

One reason, during winter months, people spend more time inside and in close contact with each other. This means that the flu, coughs, colds and all those germs are more easily spread.

Secondly, breathing in cold dry air causes the blood vessels in the respiratory system to constrict and narrow. This is one way the body protects itself by conserving heat. But this process may also keep the white blood cells, the cells responsible for attacking foreign invaders and microorganisms from reaching mucous membranes and making it harder for the body to fight off germs.

The Bottom line, it’s bacteria, viruses, and microorganisms like influenza, that cause colds and the flu, not the weather itself. However, exposure to cold weather can increase a person's risk, making it easier for your body to catch a cold or flu.

How can you decrease your chances of catching a bug this winter?

The CDC says common colds are the main reason that children miss school and adults miss work. Each year in the United States, there are millions of cases of the common cold. Adults have an average of two to three colds per year, and children have even more. However, there is no vaccine to protect you against the common cold.

To protect yourself , wash your hands regularly, get your flu shot and plenty of sleep , stay hydrated, always sneeze  and cough into clean tissues; if no tissue is available, it is better to use an elbow rather than the hands, and be sure to avoid sharing foods, drinks, crockery, and utensils with people who have a cold or the flu.  These are few ways to boost the immune system and decrease your risk of getting sick this winter.

The CDC also suggests to stay at home while you are sick and keep children out of school or daycare while they are not feeling well.

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