In winter, we take acute respiratory viral infections (ARVI) for granted. Meanwhile, its pathogens are active all year round. According to the statistics, 20 percent of all ARVI cases occur during the warm season. The fact is that many bacteria and viruses that cause an inflammatory process in the upper respiratory tract are manifested at this time, despite the abundance of vitamin food and the sun's rays. Therefore, according to doctors, one should not overestimate the warm weather, but rather pay close attention to one's own health.
Sergei Vashetko, Lieutenant Colonel of Medical Service, Deputy Head of the BSMU Department of Military Epidemiology and Military Hygiene of the Military Medical Faculty, spoke about the causes of acute respiratory viral infections, its prevention and other aspects associated with these diseases.
Is it true that chances of 'catching' ARVI when it's warm outside are minimal?
It should be said that this statement is erroneous. Firstly, with the advent of sunny days, people take warm clothes away, spend more time outdoors. At the same time, temperature fluctuations are often sharp. Secondly, UVA and UVB radiation have a negative effect on the immune system. Long-term exposure to solar radiation can suppress immunity. Thirdly, it is considered a big problem that those who become ill with a runny nose and cough that have arisen during the warm period often do not take it seriously and are in no hurry to treat it. As a result, the state of health is aggravated due to the development of all kinds of complications.
What causes such diseases?
Inflammations of the respiratory organs can be caused by various disease-causing viruses and bacteria in the environment. In addition, opportunistic microorganisms that live in the respiratory tract, but are activated only when local immunity is suppressed, can play a role. The result of the impact of these pathogens on the human body most often becomes laryngitis (inflammation of the larynx) - manifested primarily by dry cough and hoarseness of the voice, pharyngitis (inflammation of the pharynx) - accompanied by severe pain, sore throat, debilitating coughing, tonsillitis (inflammation of the 'tonsils') when there is redness and enlargement of the palatine tonsils, severe pain when swallowing.
Among the main reasons that contribute to the occurrence of a cold in warm weather, there are drafts when people try to escape from the heat, sudden changes in temperature (when leaving a cool room or car interior to the street and vice versa), local hypothermia of the respiratory system (eating ice cream, ice drinks, etc.), prolonged exposure to high temperatures.
What are the features of 'summer' ARVI?
At this time, as a rule, acute respiratory viral infections last longer than in winter. In cold weather, fearing complications, patients tend to 'lie down', 'drink off' with medicinal drinks, strictly following all the doctor's recommendations without exception. In warm weather, if there is no high body temperature, the sick person continues to go to work, drink cold water, sit under the air conditioner. “It's not January on the street, so there is nothing to be afraid of,” he says. However, this is a deep misconception. Unaddressed factors that suppress immunity continue to have a negative effect on the weakened body, further undermining health. And in such conditions, it becomes very difficult to overcome the infection. Therefore, the 'summer' cold is delayed and often leads to serious complications if measures are not taken in time.
What should be done in order not to catch a cold when it's warm outside?
There are a number of rules. First. Avoid excessive exposure to sunlight. The sun is the main natural source of ultraviolet radiation (UVR), which is necessary for normal human life. In its absence, deviations develop in the body, called light starvation - vitamin deficiency, in which phosphorus-calcium metabolism and the process of bone formation are disturbed, and a decrease in immunity. On the other hand, long-term exposure to high doses of UVR has a negative effect on the body and can cause, on the contrary, suppression of immunity and activation of pathogenic and opportunistic microorganisms in the body.
To prevent harmful exposure to sunlight, it is recommended to limit the time spent in the sun at noon, if possible, take shelter in the shade, wear light-colored clothing, and use sunscreens for exposed areas of the body.
The second rule. Avoid drafts, beware of sudden changes in temperature. Being in a draft quickly leads to hypothermia, especially if the body is sweating. In a gusty wind, our body perceives +25 ° C as +18 ° C. Therefore, when ventilating the room, try not to be in the path of the air flow. On public transport, do not sit near open windows.
Indoors, we save ourselves from the heat with the help of an air conditioner or a fan, although they are one of the main culprits of ARVI. Constantly circulating air dries out the nasal mucosa, which serves as a protective barrier against infection. And viruses easily enter the body. In order not to get sick under the influence of cold air from the air conditioner, it is necessary not to stand directly under the air stream, avoid excessive cooling of the room (car interior) compared to the outside temperature, etc. The room temperature must be at least 21 C°. Ideally, the difference between room and outdoor air temperature in warm weather should not exceed 5-7 ° C.
Sudden temperature changes are stress for the body and it may not be able to cope with. And the biggest mistake is getting into cold water hot. With a long exposure to the sun, the vessels near the surface of the skin are completely filled with blood. If you suddenly plunge into cold water, your body temperature will drop. Such hypothermia is fraught with colds. To avoid it, before swimming, it is recommended to sit not in direct sunlight, but in the shade, waiting for the normal temperature to return. You should enter the water slowly, and swim for a short time. After the heat of the day, the evening can be chilly and cause hypothermia. In this regard, when going for a walk, dress warmly, and it is better to put on closed shoes on your feet.
Third rule. Drink and eat cool, but not icy. Feeling like ice-cold drinks or food (like ice cream or fruit) quenches your thirst is deceiving. They refresh for a very short time, but for the body it is a shock that provokes the development of tonsillitis, laryngitis or pharyngitis. A sharp hypothermia of the respiratory system leads to vasospasm, deterioration of the blood supply to the mucous membrane and a decrease in the concentration of secretory immunoglobulins (protective antibodies) in the mucus covered with it. And these are risk factors for colds, since ideal conditions are created for pathogenic microorganisms. Before you eat or drink something cold, it is recommended to let the food stand at room temperature for a while. It should be consumed in small portions, in small sips, pieces, so that they have time to warm up in the mouth.
Rule four. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap (at least 20 seconds), treat them also with an antiseptic. No matter how trite this advice may sound, it is always relevant. During the day, millions of bacteria and viruses settle on the hands, which can easily enter the oral cavity, and then into the respiratory tract, causing the development of the disease. To avoid these problems, it is enough to carry out mechanical removal of pathogens.
In this regard, a few words must be said about the coronavirus COVID-19. As evidenced by research scientists, SARS-CoV-2 was much more resistant to high temperatures than other viruses. Therefore, one can get sick with COVID-19 no matter how sunny or hot the weather is. Moreover, experience shows that warm weather does not stop the spread of coronavirus infection. And to protect against it, you need to wash your hands often and thoroughly, do not touch your face, mouth and nose.
The fifth rule. Eat a balanced diet to help strengthen your immune system. This recommendation is perhaps the most important. The immune status of a person is a reflection of the formed lifestyle and dietary habits. If the food consumed does not provide the body with all the nutrients it needs, health problems soon arise. Proteins, healthy fats, dietary fiber, vitamins and mineral compounds should be present in the daily human diet in sufficient quantities.
Some advices to the readers.
It is worth taking appropriate measures to prevent colds during the warm season. It must be remembered that the opinion about the safety of ARVI when it is warm outside is nothing more than a myth. These diseases are just as dangerous in warm weather as when low air temperatures. Therefore, at the first symptoms of the disease, you should immediately consult a doctor. Only through joint efforts will you prevail over the insidious disease. Take care of yourself and be healthy!
Authors: Oksana Kurbeko, spokesperson – interviewer; Sergei Vashetko, Lieutenant Colonel of Medical Service, Deputy Head of the BSMU Department of Military Epidemiology and Military Hygiene of the Military Medical Faculty – interviewee.
Photos are taken from the archive of the Faculty of Military Medicine and public sources.
Translation: Anastasiya Karnacheva.