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Can a sudden change in temperature affect our health?

Sep 21, 2022 10:35AM ● By Content Editor
Photo: CBS

By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield - CBS Minnesota News - September 21, 2022 

Fall is right on cue this year. Temperatures will be plunging quickly by about 30 degrees over the next few days.

So that got us wondering: Can a sudden change in temperature affect our health? Good Question.

As the sun sets on summer 2022, some are holding on tight. Patrick White of Minneapolis took a two-hour walk Tuesday.

"I'm really trying to just enjoy this sun," White said.

Others are happy the sun is setting on the season. Ben Jahnke took a sweaty midday run Tuesday.

"I actually like it when it's a little bit cooler," Jahnke said. "I don't like to sweat, and obviously I'm sweating like a madman right now."

Sweat be gone, because in Minnesota and Wisconsin, fall is a sharp descent. The temperature plunge can be tough mentally and physically, too, as some people complain of cold symptoms, headaches and feeling off-kilter.

Dr. Benji Mathews is the chief of hospital medicine at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. He says it's that viruses thrive in cold and dry air.

"They don't break down at all, and they also build this protective shell around them that helps them travel through the air longer and longer," Mathews said. "The viruses love it."

And he says the cold affects our mucus and makes us more likely to trap bacteria. And we get trapped inside, which makes it more likely to spread sickness. Dr. Mathews says people with chronic conditions get hit the worst, but anyone can feel off.

"Early on we may start feeling, 'Oh I don't feel right,' because you're working in a different environment all together," he said. 

There are only a few studies on acute temp changes. This one concludes, "A decrease in either temperature or humidity, rather than their levels per se, increases the risk of HRV (common cold) infections."

"Some of this is based in science, some of this is a little bit of how our body reacts to some things," Mathews said.

He says the best way to beat getting sick is to keep those summer habits of exercise, eating well and socializing going strong.

To read this original story and more news, follow this link to the CBS Minnesota News website.

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