Viruses thrive at colder temperatures, local medical expert says

HOUSTON – With cold temperatures headed to the Greater Houston area, a local medical professional asked people to continue to exercise precautions indoors. She noted viruses thrive in colder temperatures.

Dr. Linda Yancey, an infectious disease specialist at Memorial Hermann, said the medical community is in a race between the coronavirus spread and the building herd immunity from vaccinations. She said the cold weather contributes to a recipe for concern when it comes to spreading viruses.

“Most respiratory viruses are able to infect you better at lower temperatures,” Yancey said. “As the temperature goes down, the temperature in your nose and sinuses go down and then you’re more susceptible to getting all of our respiratory viruses.”

The medical community is worried over various strains of the coronavirus, especially the South African strain that is more resistant to the vaccine and more contagious, according to Yancey.

Not to mention, doctors have recorded an increase in flu cases as well.

”Respiratory viruses have evolved along with us, and they are specialized in infecting the cells in the nose and sinuses and because those areas are always just a little bit colder, [the viruses] have evolved to replicate better in those areas, and that’s why when you get sick your body runs a fever,” Yancey said. “That fever is protective. All three arms of our immune system work better in higher temperatures and viruses replicate poorly in higher temperatures; so that fever of 101 while super annoying when you’re sick, that’s your body’s immune system protecting you.”

Yancey recommended that when people stay indoors next week and stay within the people in your “COVID bubble.” She said to continue to practice social distancing and stock up on supplies before the cold comes in order to help limit unnecessary time outside when temperatures are very low.

“We are getting over the post-holiday surge. Cases are going down, but we’re very nervous about the new variants in the area. We do not want to see another surge in the spring because of these variants,” Yancey said.