Why do I get sick when the seasons change?

“Put on a jersey, or you’ll catch a cold!”

Your grandma, mother or aunt has probably told you this at some stage. In fact, maybe you are that mother or aunt? Although you may mean well, this old wives’ tale isn’t entirely true: the cold temperature won’t give you a cold. So why do we associate colds and flu with the winter season? Does the temperature have anything to do with it?

Spring & Fall
It may not be the cold weather that makes you sick. However, it’s true that certain viruses flourish in cooler weather. It’s these viruses that make people sick. Specifically, the coronavirus and the rhinovirus: two of the most common causes for the common cold. Influenza, the flu-virus, also likes cold, dry air, which is why you need to get your flu-jab before the end of April!

Infections of the summer can be a bit more complicated: you start off with an allergy, due to the pollen and dust in the air. This leads to a congested nose, and more mucous than usual. Your immune system goes into overdrive to fight with these allergens, and in the process, you become more vulnerable to a virus or bacterial infection.That is why, sometimes, you could start with a runny nose that is due to allergies, and only later develop a virus infection. It’s not always one or the other, but a combination.

Protecting yourself all year around
The advice is simple, and you must’ve heard it before. But we’ll remind you again:

  1. Wash your hands. You may think you are clean, but you don’t know who else has touched the surfaces you touch. Door handles, money, cellphones, toilets, cutlery – germs and viruses are everywhere.
  2. Exercise. Fit people don’t get sick as much, because their immune systems are stronger.
  3. Sleep 6 to 8 hours per night. If you’re tired, your immune system takes a knock, and you get sick.
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We know it’s not rocket science, and it can be hard to stick to, but if you make the effort to implement these habits now, you will save yourself days of sick-leave, and hundreds of rands in medication. Most importantly: you will feel great!