Oh no! The days are starting to feel cooler… everyone’s starting to break out their sweaters… the coffee shop has a new seasonal drink… and now…
Stuck home with puffy eyes, a super tired body, and a trash can overflowing with crumpled-up tissues, you might be wondering why you always catch a cold when the seasons change.
Seasonal transitions can be tough on your body, but they don’t have to be. From paying attention to your sleep schedule to making sure you’re eating a balanced diet, preventative measures abound! Build up a bi-annual toolkit to use to prep your body for those dramatic seasonal changes.
- While seasonal transitions can be some of the prettiest times of the year, they can wreak havoc on your body.
- Learn some ways to do a biannual self-tune-up to keep your body strong and healthy through the changing seasons.
Why Seasonal Changes Impact You So
While it’s commonly thought cold weather is the culprit for your sick-time woes, this is not necessarily the case. More often, it’s the situations that arise around the cooler weather, not the cooler weather itself, which cause you to fall ill.
Just think — what do you do when it starts to get cold outside? You spend more time warming up indoors… and what is indoors? More people to catch bad germs from! Additionally, drops in temperature tend to remove moisture from the air, making the air drier; this cold, dry air irritates your delicate sinuses and leaves your mucous membranes more prone to infiltration by bad viruses, for example. Hence, we are more likely to catch a cold virus and become sick.
While some studies indicate your immune system is made weaker the lower the temperature is, a stronger indicator of falling ill is a dramatic temperature change. The seasonal changes between fall to winter and winter to spring provide some of the starkest contrasts in temperatures in the shortest amounts of time.
Seasonal temperature changes are not the only culprit in seasonal illnesses, however. Viruses absolutely love these temperature changes and also work to weaken your body. Cold viruses, such as certain rhinoviruses or coronaviruses, abound during season changes because they are happiest at temperatures very close to the average human body temperature.
The average human core body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C). Cold viruses don’t quite like this temperature, but they do like the temperature of your airways as we’re breathing in colder air. In cooler weather, your nasal passages and airways become just the right temperature for these nasty little buggers to survive in.
In addition to making you more prone to viral infection, seasonal changes also bring about seasonal allergies, providing your body another onslaught of attack. Seasonal allergies can further weaken your body’s natural defenses, leaving you even more prone to catching a cold virus.
Tool Kit: 5 Ways to Prepare for the Biannual Season Change
Seasonal changes can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health. That’s why it’s important to have a game plan for how you will handle the biannual seasonal changes (rather than letting them handle you):
1. Get consistent sleep. According to research, when it comes to catching z’s, consistency is king. Try setting bedtime and morning alarms that work with your schedule; if at all possible, line these times up with sunset or sunrise. Get blackout curtains to make sure your room is pitch black, and avoid using artificial light devices (such as your phone) before bedtime. Research shows consistent amounts of the right kind of sleep promote a healthier immune system, decreased risk for chronic disease, and improved quality of life.
2. Try eating local honey. In addition to soothing a sore throat and potentially killing bad bacteria, honey can also help make seasonal transitions easier on your body. If you struggle with seasonal allergies, eating local honey can be thought as a type of exposure therapy to the allergens that affect your body. Eating local honey regularly through the year, and a bit more in the weeks around season changes, can help buffer your body’s immune response to the allergens when they arise in the environment. Exposing your body to small amounts of these local allergens throughout the year by eating honey has been compared to getting allergy shots to lessen your body’s allergy response. Of course, seek your doctor’s advice on this matter, especially if your allergies are intense.
3. Add vitamin D to your diet or supplement routine — unless you’re able to get enough from the sun! In addition to playing a key role in keeping your bones strong and healthy, vitamin D is also an important factor in immune support. If you go the supplement route, look for the activated form (D3) which matches the kind your skin makes when exposed to the sun. If you go the food route, be sure your diet includes oily fish like salmon or sardines, eggs (with the yolks), beef liver, or fortified products like cow’s milk, plant milks, yogurt, or ready-to-eat breakfast cereals — all these items are high in vitamin D.
4. Consider taking a multivitamin that includes immune-boosting vitamins and minerals. The two main elements you want to be sure are in your multivitamin are vitamin C and zinc. Taking a daily multivitamin in the weeks around seasonal changes can further serve to strengthen your immune system. Vitamin C has been shown to help reduce the time pesky cold symptoms stick around, and zinc is intricately involved in your body’s immune response.
5. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. As we discussed earlier, seasonal transitions can mean the air you’re breathing in is dryer. While your sinuses don’t like this, cold and flu viruses love it because it gives them an easy ‘in’ to your respiratory tract! Keep your protective layers lubricated by drinking adequate water every day; for the average person, an adequate amount of water each day is about 6 tall glasses of water, or about 72 ounces.
Season changes can certainly be beautiful. Whether you’re admiring the budding flowers peeking from under the snow, or are captivated by the changing leaves, season changes bring about a lot of beautiful change. However, they can also bring many not-so-beautiful changes to your body. Build up your biannual toolkit to help keep your body strong through the year so you can enjoy those seasonal drinks and ditch the sniffles.