Doctors say some viruses thrive in cold weather


(WJHL)- A long-standing misconception for some people is that cold weather kills germs that cause viruses or bacterial infections.

But Matt Krolikowski, an Infectious Disease Physician at Ballad Health, said not so fast.

“Heat denatures the proteins in the virus especially viruses that are not as hardy as bacteria. That’s why you can’t lick the floor and you get the flu,” Krolikowski, who’s also an Assistant Professor for Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases at ETSU said. “There’s no science or evidence that cold weather reduces bacteria, reduces viruses, or has any impact.”

Viruses like the flu, spread through the air. 

“Viruses are all around in the air. It’s moist, it’s hot. They break down,”Krolikowski said. “But when you switch to cold air, and that’s the whole premise behind refrigeration, it’s meant to keep things alive just slowed down.”

According to Krolikowski, the most important trick is good hygiene.

“We’ve known that for over 100 years. [Use] soap and water,” he said.

So how can you stop infections from spreading?

Krolikowski explained, “[Wash your hands] before you eat, before you touch your face, after you touch somebody else, after you use the bathroom. You do all four of those. [Use] soap and water and sing happy birthday while you do it. Perfect!”

The hand washing technique is also important.

“What really matters is the soap and the bubbling from the soap and then the mechanical action of getting in between your fingers and getting the soap in there,” Krolikowski said. “Soap wraps around the bacteria like bubble wrap and pulls it off the skin, kills it off. Then, the water rinses it off trapped inside that soap.”

He also recommends getting a flu shot every year.

“It’s not perfect. Everybody says I got the flu from the flu shot,” Krolikowski said. “That’s not true. It’s a dead virus in the flu shot. You can’t get the flu from the flu shot. More importantly, there’s all kinds of studies that say there’s benefits.

He said we tend to stay inside more when it’s cold, which makes it easier to get sick.

“The heat’s on. Your nose is a little but runnier than maybe in the summer,” Krolikowski described. “So, it’s real easy. You may not even have symptoms yet. It takes 24 hours for flu symptoms to show up. You’re technically contagious before you ever even realize your sick.”

So the next time you blame the weather, you’re better off just washing your hands to fight off infection.

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