Researchers may be proving parents everywhere correct that bundling up and staying warm prevents a common cold.
A study by scientists at Yale University has found that warmer body temperatures seem to help prevent the cold virus from spreading in many ways, Philly.com reports.
The research, led by Akiko Iwasaki, an immunology professor, examined human airway cells – the same cells that produce immune system proteins called interferons that fight off a cold virus. The cells were infected with the virus in a laboratory and incubated at either a core body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) or a colder 91.4 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Celsius).
The team used mathematical models and found that when infected cells were exposed to healthy core body temperatures, the virus died off faster and was not able to replicate quickly.
In other aspects, the activity of an enzyme called RNAseL, which attacks and destroys viruses, was also boosted at higher temperatures.
This new research adds to the body of work that the Yale team had previously conducted. In the prior study that was conducted on mice, Iwasaki and colleagues discovered that virus-fighting interferons were not able to do their job as well at temperatures below the core body temperature. The lower temperature also helped the cold virus spread in the mice’s airway cells, the researchers reported.
The common cold can be caused by any of the 200 strains scientists believe are the culprits, the most common being rhinoviruses. It affects the upper respiratory tract, primarily the nose, but also the throat, sinuses and voice box. Symptoms include coughing, sneezing, a sore throat, fever, runny nose and headaches. In extreme cases, pneumonia may develop from a cold.
Both studies suggest that “there are three [immunological] ways to target this virus now,” Iwasaki said in a press statement. Each of the pathways factor in how well the immune system is able to fight the virus that causes the common cold. The researchers believe that their findings can now provide scientists with new strategies as they develop to find treatments against this recurring illness that everyone has at least once in their lives.
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.