Colds are more than a nuisance. Ask anybody. They can incapacitate you to the point where you have a very difficult time getting through the day. Whether it’s at work, at home taking care of the kids, or even trying to get a good night’s sleep.
All of us know of someone who frequently gets colds, it might even be you. Indeed, have you ever wondered why some people get colds all the time?
The National Institute of Health (NIH) has a possible explanation.
Colds: NIH Study May Have The Answer
NIH researcher Ellen Foxman at Yale University found that cells that line our airways are capable defenders against cold viruses. But these defenses are compromised, if at the same time, they also must defend against cigarette smoke, pollen, and air pollutants. This compromised defense effect is even more pronounced in seniors, whose immune system may already be weak due to chronic illness and taking multiple drugs.
Indeed, previous research showed that people become infected with viruses much more often than they actually develop cold symptoms. In this study, cultured epithelial cells that line the nasal passages and lungs from healthy donors were studied. They were infected with either a virus or exposed to small molecules that mimic a viral infection. The responses were measured.
The research team discovered the anti-viral response was stronger in the nasal cells. In contrast, lung cells were stronger against polluted air substances such as smoke, pollen, and other irritants.
These and previous experiments suggest there is a trade off between defending against viral infections and other kinds of tissue damage. To corroborate this finding, the researchers introduced a virus to cells from the nasal passages after they’d first been exposed to cigarette smoke. As suspected, those cells showed a greater susceptibility to viral infection.
These results suggest a possible path to better strategies for preventing the common cold. And, as well as infections caused by non-flu viruses. Even small improvements in prevention can have beneficial effects for the health of seniors. And, also for the general population, and the nation’s economy. Every year, Americans come down with more than 500 million colds and similar infections, leading to reduced work productivity, medical expenses, and other costs approaching $40 billion.
These results show that the lining of our airways is effective against viral infections and other types of damage. But defenses fall off when faced with both challenges at once. This explains why smokers and those with allergies or chronic conditions like with senior citizens, get more severe viral infections than other people do.
For now, keep your colds to a minimum and wash your hands often, don’t smoke, and stay away from those who are sick.