Infection-causing viruses flourish in cold temperatures: Experts

People with COPD, chest congestion face hardships; ‘Avoid gatherings, follow SOPs’
A kid holds Kanger amid chill in Kashmir, on 9th January 2022. [Representational Image]
A kid holds Kanger amid chill in Kashmir, on 9th January 2022. [Representational Image] Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

Srinagar: With Kashmir witnessing sub-zero weather conditions, common cold, flu and other respiratory illnesses spike during winter as infection-causing viruses thrive in cold temperatures, experts said on Tuesday.

“People are indoors more often, allowing viruses to pass more easily from one person to another. And the cold, dry air may weaken resistance,” Epidemiologist and Assistant Director, Health Services, Kashmir, Dr SM Qadri, told Greater Kashmir.

“Colds are more common in winter but the temperature isn’t the reason, it is because we spend more time indoors, close to the people and in closed spaces,” he said, adding “This worsens the situation when you have so much health scare going around.”

As temperatures drop, hospitals are witnessing a rise in the number of patients suffering from various respiratory issues.

According to pulmonologists, the number of such cases increases by 30 per cent during winters in Kashmir.

Noted pulmonologist, HoD, Chest Disease Hospital, Srinagar, Dr Naveed Nazir, told Greater Kashmir that the number of patients with breathing problems from common cold and flu, visit the hospitals these days.

“People with chest diseases should make sure to consult their physicians before the onset of the winters,” Dr Nazir said.

He said that the number of patients coming to register for OPD consultations at the hospital doubles during the winter season. He advised people to avoid spending long hours indoors and suggested to remain in constant touch for the health advisories.

“People with asthma and COPD must always carry bronchodilators. They should use masks while going out,” he said, adding “A few of the respiratory diseases can be prevented by taking vaccines before the onset of winter.” He said that viral infections that cause the common cold or flu can range from a nuisance to a serious health threat.

People with respiratory problems such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), bronchitis, bronchial asthma, post-TB complications, those with compromised immunity such as ones with diabetes, hypertension and renal failure must take extra measures in such weather conditions.

“Increase in hospitalisation and mortality during winter months is seen among the population, especially elderly. Cardiovascular diseases and respiratory infections are responsible for a large proportion of added mortality and morbidity during winters,” Consultant, Anaesthesia, Directorate of Health Services, Kashmir, (DHSK), Dr Masood Rashid, said.

“Cold leads to vasoconstriction which decreases respiratory defence mechanism, converts subclinical to clinical respiratory infections,” he said, adding “Seasonality of respiratory viral infections is a recognised phenomenon for thousands of years. Common cold, influenza and recently SARS Covid hit mankind during the winter months. Flu vaccine in the September-October season is protective against influenza infection during winters.” “Other reasons might be, during winters spread of communicable respiratory diseases between human population is more common than summer due to various reasons like people usually stay indoors and poor ventilation.”

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