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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — When the mercury falls, cold and flu cases rise. But 2020 is unlike any other, so what will this year’s winter weather mean for COVID-19?

“Cold weather doesn’t lower the immune system,” explained Dr. Phillip Zinser, Director of Infection Control at DePaul Health Center.

But what cold weather does do is spark sniffles.

“When people are outdoors the tissues in their nose and sinus produce more secretions,” Dr. Zinser said, “so when they cough or sneeze, if they have a virus that cough or sneeze carries those secretions.”

Basically, people’s nasal response to cold weather makes them more likely to spread viruses and infections.

Mercy Primary Care Practitioner Dr. Ritesh Gandhi explains why sniffly noses increase our chances of getting sick, “The cold weather can impact your nose and upper respiratory system to make it more susceptible to obtaining a virus or bacteria infection.”

Increased secretions and increased risk for catching illnesses could mean a influx of COVID-19 this season, but doctors are not sure. “We might be more at risk for those reasons,” Dr. Zinser said, “It’s a new virus and it’s behaving a little differently, partly it’s because we don’t have any immunity to it.”

Dr. Zinser says we won’t know how weather will affect COVID-19 until a full year has gone by.

One thing we can do this winter is bundle up, because there is some science to support staying warm. “Warm clothing helps the body because when you get really cold your body has to spend a lot of energy trying to warm up,” Dr. Ritesh explained, “your body could potentially not use that energy to fight off infections or help maintain your body’s composition.”

Dr. Ritesh suggests staying healthy this winter by staying hydrated, using a humidifier if your home gets dry and keeping your nose and mouth warm with a scarf or face covering.

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