As you stock up on cold supplies every year while your friends are out having fun without you, do you wonder why do I always have a cold while no one else seems to? A new study published by Yale researchers in Cell Reports might explain why you keep getting sick all the time while other people, well, just don’t.
Dr. Ellen Foxman, assistant professor of Laboratory Medicine at Yale University and lead researcher for the study, tells Bustle that the researchers found a link between irritants in the environment, such as cigarette smoke, pollution, or pollen, and increased susceptibility to respiratory viruses. Basically, Dr. Foxman tells Bustle, your body can’t do double-duty and protect you from both environmental irritants and respiratory viruses at the same time. If both are present, your body has to make a trade off and protect you from one or the other.
“The cells that form the lining of your airway, like the lining of your nasal passages and the lining of your airways that go down to your lungs, has to protect you against lots of different things that you breathe in,” Dr. Foxman tells Bustle, “so it has to protect you against viruses, but it also has to protect you against other things that aren’t so healthy, like if you breathe in cigarette smoke or pollution or, for some people, pollen that causes allergies or various other things that you might breathe in that could cause damage to your airway."
"When your airway just has to defend against those irritants, those cells survive and do fine," Dr. Foxman says. But if both environmental irritants and respiratory viruses are present, "the airway lining will choose to defend against these harmful irritants that could kill the cells, and it does that, but the cost is that now the airway lining is more susceptible to viral infection.”
According to Dr. Foxman, this is actually good news for researchers because it shows there are conditions in which people are exposed to respiratory viruses, but the viruses aren’t able to grow. The results of the study show that people actually get exposed to viruses that cause respiratory illnesses much more often than they actually get sick. With additional research, Dr. Foxman tells Bustle, experts can better understand the body’s natural defense mechanisms against cold viruses so we can decrease the number of cases from respiratory illnesses.
"I can’t tell you like I have a cure for the common cold after this study, but I can tell you that we found a big piece of the puzzle that really gives us a clue what to do next to figure this out," Dr. Foxman says.
Dr. Foxman, who is also a physician, tells Bustle that until more research can be conducted, the best way to keep from getting sick is still your standard cold prevention tips. According to the CDC, wash your hands often, try to stay away from people who are sick, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. And if you do end up getting sick, says the CDC, stay home and get some rest if you're able.