Come March we think we’re out of the woods from winter illnesses. Viruses have done their rounds, and we can finally kick open the doors and get some fresh air. How cruel then, it seems, to start coughing and spluttering in the spring sunshine. Why are there still filthy colds knocking about?
Spring is, in fact, the second yearly peak of the common cold. “The “respiratory virus season” in the northern hemisphere begins with an increase in rhinovirus infections in August or September and ends after the spring peak of rhinovirus infections in April or May1” says Dr Ronald Turner, who for several years studied the common cold at the University of Virginia. Whereas winter colds are often caused by coronaviruses2, the worst spring culprit is human rhinovirus.
Blame The Weather
Experts say several factors can cause this second peak in colds. The first reason is the change in temperature. Cooler temperatures allow viruses to replicate and spread more easily: if it’s warmer, your body expresses a better immune defence response, and if it’s colder, it can dampen an immune response. One study shows that rhinoviruses replicate more easily in a colder nose – 33-35 degrees Celsius as opposed to the body’s core temperature of 37 degrees Celsius 3.So, the spring sun may be warm, but it’s deceiving – it still may be cold enough for pesky viruses to breed happily.
The second reason is that your own vulnerability to viruses may cause you to catch a cold. We tend to stay indoors during the winter to stay warm, which means your immune system may be ill-prepared for fighting off viruses when you do venture outdoors again.
Seasonal allergies caused by pollen grains in the air are not only irritating, but they also increase your vulnerability to infections. Whilst your immune system is pre-occupied fighting off the allergies, it has less capacity to defend you from other intrusions. Additionally, whilst you’re busy sniffling and sneezing, your nasal passages become inflamed, which makes it easier for a virus to replicate.
So, what can you do to avoid a spring cold or cut it short? At Leapfrog Remedies we believe that the pillars of a strong immune system are good nutrition, regular exercise, quality sleep and stress management techniques. Add a few of the following simple hacks into your routine, and you’ll be better prepared to see off infection this springtime.
Let’s start with the basics! Human rhinovirus can live for up to three hours on hands and hard surfaces. Viruses are spread by you touching someone who is infected or a contaminated surface, and then touching your nose, eyes or mouth – the entry points of your body. Use good old-fashioned soap and water – or sanitizing gel if need be – to clean your hands of germs.
Sleep less than 7 hours and you are 3 times more likely to catch a cold. Scientists have found that during your sleep, your immune system produces cytokines that strengthen your adaptive immunity4. Melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone, counteracts inflammation when fighting infections. So, getting enough high-quality sleep ensures that our immune systems can fight off viruses and bacteria no matter the weather.
Good nutrition is crucial for a strong immune system to protect yourself against infections. Zinc has been found to inhibit rhinovirus replication and is a potential treatment to the common cold5. Vitamin C (found in oranges, broccoli, strawberries, grapefruit, and red peppers) acts as an antioxidant and helps defend off bacteria and viruses. Another key vitamin, Vitamin A (found in sweet potatoes, spinach, apricots, and carrots) is known as an anti-inflammatory and helps with immune function. Vitamin D is now well known to be critical for first line immune defences – it’s found in eggs, cereal and fatty fish, but a walk in the sunshine can help your skin synthesise vitamin D. Being mindful to stock up on these key vitamins when eating could help curb that Spring cold.
150 minutes per week of moderate exercise – even just a brisk walk – helps you produce more Natural Killer cells, which are deployed to kill cells that are infected. Exercise also ‘up-regulates’ your antibody production – proteins that your immune system makes to fight infection and defend you from getting sick in the future. The bonus is that moderate exercise can add up to three years to your lifespan.
Lactoferrin is found naturally in our bodies – in our saliva, tears, mucus and neutrophils (a type of white blood cell). It’s also the key component of breast milk, and is foundational to our innate defence against infections. An anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory protein, it also balances our immune system – encouraging it to fight infection when need be, but also call off the immune cell ‘sentinels’ when the infection has been suppressed. When we’re stressed or run-down, our natural Lactoferrin supplies may be depleted faster than they are restored, which can leave us vulnerable to infection. Supplementing with Lactoferrin, which is extracted from cow’s milk, may help restore our Lactoferrin levels. A recent study by Dr Hamid Merchant et al, pharmaceutical scientist at the University of Huddersfield, has found that Lactoferrin reduces the risk of respiratory tract infections6. It not only blocks the entry of pathogens, but also prevents the virus from replicating. That’s why it is the hero ingredient of our Leapfrog IMMUNE, an easy-to-take chewable tablet of Lactoferrin, Zinc and Vitamin C. The trio of ingredients works to leapfrog you over those dreaded springtime colds.
Read more immunity tips here.
1 The Common Cold, Turner, 2014
2 Coronavirus seasonality, respiratory infections and weather, Nichols et al., 2021
3 Temperature-dependent innate defense against the common cold virus limits viral replication at warm temperature in mouse airway cells, Foxman et al, 2015
4 Sleep and inflammation: partners in sickness and in health,Irwin, Immunology, 2019
5 Zinc for the treatment of the common cold: Johnstone et al, Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2010
6 Lactoferrin reduces the risk of respiratory tract infections: a meta-analysis of randomised, controlled trials, Merchant et al, Clinical Nutrition Espen, 2021