Why Severe Cold Weather may have you feeling Sick like the Flu more often

The Midwest and Chicago in particular has been victim to one of the coldest and snowiest Winters on record. This may have many of you feeling sick or like you have the flu more often and/or actually catching every virus more readily. So, why does this happen?

The origin of the word “flu” comes from the Italian phrase Influenza di freddo which means Influence of the cold. 

It’s not so much the cold itself that causes us to be sick, but what we do in response.

In the winter, we close ourselves off like bears to in a cave and limit our exposure to the elements. This often places us indoors in closed environments where germs are consistently blowing around through the same air space. Schools, offices and closed transportation sources like buses, air planes and commuter trains are often the primary “germinating” centers for bacteria, microbes and viruses when we sneeze or cough, and then touch things with unclean hands afterward.


At 41F, the flu virus is the most stable but at 86F it can’t be transmitted anymore. It’s for this reason, we see cases of the flu and other viruses that thrive under these conditions as the weather turns colder.

But we can’t avoid contact with all human beings. So, what should you do?

Basic Tips for Staying Healthy in the Winter:

1. Cover up when you sneeze or cough – This will cut down on the transmission of germs. Sneezing or coughing into the elbow are of your sleeve has proven best.

2. Keep clean! – Clean your hands in particular as they are the largest transmission tools and receivers of germs. Using anti-bacterial gel for keeping your hands clean on the go is fine, but good old fashion soap will do the trick.

3. Be disciplined about taking vitamins daily especially Vitamin D to replace your lack of exposure to sunshine. This helps strengthen your immune system and give your body balance to see yourself through the day.

4. Get some fresh air – While I’m not recommending you go out for a walk in the middle of a blizzard, taking a walk 2-3 times per day and breathing in fresh air helps to revitalize your senses and positively stimulate the brain.

5. See your doctor at least 1x/year especially when really can’t shake symptoms like consistent fever, discolored drainage, changes in skin color (e.g. red rashes) and lethargy. All may be signs of a winter flu or virus. Best to come and see us to be sure!

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