Colds. We all, unfortunately, get them from time to time. Contrary to popular belief, you can't just catch a cold from being chilly or stressed. Colds are caused by small viruses; rhinoviruses are estimated to cause almost 50 percent of colds. Other possible viruses are coronaviruses, respiratory syncytial viruses, influenza and parainfluenza. 

The virus is caught either through physical contact with another person who carries the virus, or by touching a surface containing the virus. If you touch your eyes, nose or mouth afterwards, it's more likely that the virus will attach itself to the lining in your throat and nose, causing your cold. You can even contract one from inhaling the same air that someone has coughed or sneezed the virus into. 

So while there is generally only one reason for someone to have a cold, there are several things that make you more prone to getting a cold. Many of them are things that can be avoided, so do yourself a favor and learn about what can make you more susceptible to getting a cold. 

1. You're extremely tired.

This applies to nearly everyone. If it doesn't apply to you, then congratulations. No one knows how you get nearly enough sleep, but you keep doing you. For every other college student out there, it's crucial to know that lack of sleep weakens your immune system, thus making you more susceptible to catching a cold. To fix this, you've got to adhere to a sleep schedule that allows for at least eight hours of sleep per night. It's also important to keep your room dark and cool.

2. Constant changes in temperature.

If the temperature of your environment is changing frequently, it has the potential to irritate and inflame your airway, which makes it easier for a virus to latch onto the lining of your throat and nose. Try to minimize the damage by limiting how much you move back and forth between different temperatures. For example, if you're going back and forth between an air conditioned house and your backyard where it's hot and humid, pick one place and stay there for a bit instead of constantly moving in and out of the house.

3. Yes, you are more likely to catch a cold in winter.

This is merely due to the fact that viruses thrive in cold, dry environments. Here's the basic science behind it: the outer layer of the virus forms a hard shell in cold temperatures, which preserves the virus and makes it easier to transfer from person to person. The easy way to avoid this one? Stay clean. Wash your hands frequently and don't touch any area around your face before washing up.

4. Stress.

Here's another factor that we cannot avoid. We're all students and bound to be stressed out ā€” it's just the way things are. Research proves that the stress hormone cortisol regulates inflammation in your body. If cortisol levels are not balanced or healthy, it may not be able to reduce inflammation in your body when it encounters a virus, thus making it likely for you to catch a cold. The best way to deal with this is to identify which situations stress you out the most and to practice relaxation techniques.

5. Smoking and second-hand smoke.

Smoking damages the lining in your airway while also disrupting your immune system. The end result? It's easier for viruses to start affecting you since your natural defenses are lowered. The best thing you can possibly do is quit smoking, and try to leave the area for a little while when others around you are smoking.

6. Poor nourishment. 

Here's another uplifting factor for every student who lives off of macaroni and cheese. If you're not eating healthy or providing your body with the nutrients it needs, your immune system is unable to function at its fullest potential. Eating a healthy, balanced diet every day is vital to keeping your immune system in check. For more information on how you should be eating for your body, check your national food guides or consult with a nutritionist. 

Now you know how colds work, but even without the threat of a cold looming over your head, it's still important to do everything you can to stay healthy. With that being said, the school year is over for many of us and we have some time off to rest from school. Use this opportunity to get healthy and get into a good routine! It will contribute to your happiness, which believe it or not, also boosts your immune system. Just some food for thought.

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