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“Don’t spend too long outside or you’ll catch a cold!”

That warning famously uttered by fretting parents has seen much debate over the years — naysayers scoff and say it’s a myth, others use it as an excuse to recline indoors from December through to March.

Finally, a new study reveals the truth: cold temperatures do in fact impact your body’s inability to fend off a cold.

The findings, gathered by a group of Yale University students and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, state that a slight chill will cause rhinoviruses to multiply. Lower temperatures allow cold viruses to replicate more efficiently and produce more infectious particles.

The study group put the theory to the test on lab mice. What they observed was that when exposed to chilly air, the cells that lined the nasal passage which contain interferon, a cell’s nifty virus fighter, become less active when the temperature drops from 37 C to 33 C. Furthermore, the molecules that have the job of detecting the rhinovirus and then ordering the production of that interferon also become less sensitive as temperatures plummet. So do the proteins that deteriorate viruses or block them from entering in the first place.

Now anyone who is on the this-is-all-a-myth camp will say that your body cannot generate a cold simply from being cold. This is still true. Your body has to be exposed to the rhinovirus initially, it’s just that breathing in freezing air is what allow a much speedier duplication of those particles that lead to scratchy throats and waterfall noses.

Anyone who is a runner though, likely already knows that running does a whole world of good for the immune system. Many have said that running eliminates airborne bacteria from lungs and that constant sweating and increased blood flow kills viruses early. Plus, it’s a natural decongestant.

The exercise will benefit you so long as you’re not going too hard or too long. But if you do come in contact with a nasty bug this winter, a little self care will have you back running in no time.

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