Cold Transmission by Prof. Victor Grech

10/11/2009 09:25

Winter is a time for cold and rainy weather and for this reason, houses, shops, classrooms etc are closed tightly to keep in the heat, and to facilitate efficient heating, particularly in the current climate of green awareness and high utility bills.

 Unfortunately, lack of good ventilation in environments such as these, allows germs to linger around us. And it is in this way that viruses such as the common cold infect us. Our first line of defense against these viruses is the nose, which warms and moistens incoming air, making it less hospitable to the virus. The nose and throat are also lined with mucus that traps virus particles. The lining also contains tiny hairs called cilia that gently waft up this mucus to the mouth where it is continuously unconsciously swallowed, and destroyed by acid. However, these viruses occasionally overcome all of these defenses and penetrate the nose and throat, causing an infection such as a cold or the flu. The symptoms of a cold, that is, the sore throat, congestion, runny nose, and cough all result from the immune system’s battle against the virus.

This happens once to three times a year for the typical adult, and up to twelve times a year in young children. Young children catch more colds because their immune systems are not yet fully developed, and because they are more lax than adults in their personal hygiene. In addition, every cold confers an estimated three to five year immunity to that specific virus and its close relatives, and children have not lived long enough to have developed much of this virus-induced immunity.

It is important to remember that colds spread by aerosol route (through the air when infected individuals cough, sneeze, or just exhale) or through direct contact since we all touch our noses subconsciously several times an hour, contaminating our hands and everything else that we go on to touch. Rubbing eyes when one has a cold also contaminates the hands with tears that contain the cold virus. Hand washing is therefore a crucial part of the cold avoidance protocol.

 It is also important to remember that

·         Cold air does not cause colds.

·         Wind, of whatever temperature, does not cause colds.

·         Undressing makes one feel cold, but does not cause colds.

·         Moving from a warm or even hot environment to a cold environment does not cause colds.

·         Removing items of clothing or even undressing altogether, after exercise does not cause colds.

·         Removing items of clothing because one is sweating, even if the environment is cool or cold, does not cause colds.

·         There is no need to cool down from a warm room before going out into inclement weather.

·          There is no such thing as a ‘cold in the kidneys’ (rih fil-kliewi/rih fid-dar) that is allegedly brought on by a current of cold air over a warm or sweaty back ?!

·         Overdressing children (or adults for that matter) does not prevent colds and may produce heat rashes, fungal skin infections with excessive sweating, or even exacerbation of eczema in predisposed individuals.


In the old days, our forefathers had no clue as to how colds came about and it was thought that these were caused by cold air or cold wind. We now know better and it is time this particular myth was laid to rest.