Southern Californians seem to get a bad rep when it comes to complaining about the weather, especially the “cold weather”. People who don’t live here seem to think everyday is a nice, beautiful beach day with sunny, clear skies…but people who live in So Cal know that’s not always the case. We have serious weather issues that the rest of the country seems to ridicule and/or take lightly. Recently I have moved closer to the Inland Empire in So Cal which is closer to valleys, mountains, and dessert. Now what I did not take into account when packing is that the nights would get considerably colder than in my previous living situation. Now I’m not making this up but on one night in particular it dropped to BELOW 50 degrees Fahrenheit. I can already imagine the eyes-rolling from people in Washington, but this is a serious situation to me and many of my fellow Southern Californians. Coincidentally the next day I started feeling a bit “under the weather” and had to leave work early and for the next 4 days I was basically a zombie. I was lucky enough that I was able to return to work the start of the next week but I was determined to find out why immune system failed me and how to prevent that from happening in the future. Here are some of the culprits.
This would be the obvious root cause if you asked any mom or abuela but whenever I ask my abuela why the lower temperatures cause sickness she just says it’s true because she knows it’s true. Empirical evidence is fine with me but I am skeptical when it comes to many things, especially with family, but I did find this article that may actually have a scientific explanation of the correlation between cold and colds. Earlier this year, scientists at Yale University announced findings that suggest lower temperatures can weaken the nose’s first line of immune defenses.
A modified strain of rhinovirus was used to infect mice to study how the cells that line mouse airways fought off the virus at different temperatures. The conclusion was that cooler temperatures produced sluggish performances of the immune system which can lead to a higher susceptibility to infection. This is a break-through discovery for all grandmas and moms, science finally proving them right.
Just for the record, I am what they call a social/casual drinker. However…the day before I started to feel a bit sick I did have a few extra refreshments at a Halloween event. Go ahead, judge me.
I don’t think it would be shocking for me to tell you that binge drinking may have some adverse health effects (as well as some adverse legal effects) but recent research from the University of Maryland suggests that binge drinking may weaken your immune system during certain times when alcohol is still in your system. The study followed young adults and had them drink 4 to 5 shots of vodka and took blood samples at 20 minutes, 2 hours, and 5 hours after consumption. At 20 minutes the immune system responded by actually increasing three types of white blood cells that are integral to good immune function. However, at the 2 and 5 hour marks, the immune system drops to below typical values of sobriety and overall signifies weakening in immune activity. Empirically I have found the results from the study to be confirmed.
I am petty good about getting a workout 5 days a week but adjusting to the new living situation kept me away from LA Fitness for a couple of weeks. Working out, training, “beasting it” or whatever you might call it, all of these terms fit in the category of exercising which has been proven to increase T cells which are important for a healthy immune system. However, inactivity/resting lowers your heart rate and metabolism which may actually lead to a slower recovery. Something that I did not know is that exercising while fighting off a cold could help recovery. Now this depends on how severe the infection is and the ability of the person infected. If the person is asthmatic, they would be discouraged to do any type of exercise while sick. Moreover, if the person does not routinely exercise, then it is possible that exercising may do more damage than good as the body will have to recover from the overtraining on top of infection. If a fever is higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, exercising may increase body temperature to dangerous levels, so in that case waiting until the fever breaks and body temperature returns to normal would be a good idea. Bronchitis and illness with the lungs are also exceptions to the exercising while sick, however, doing weight training or anything that isn’t cardio intensive may be acceptable.
In conclusion, I have found that cold weather, binge drinking, and lack of exercise may have left my body vulnerable to infection. With the predictions of the El Nino bringing about a cold and wet winter here in So Cal, it is imperative that you take care of yourself. Have a delicious Thanksgiving and give thanks for your physical and mental health. Ciao.