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ADVANCE Perspective: Respiratory Views

Winter Weakens Lungs

Published February 18, 2016 1:36 PM by ADVANCE for Respiratory Care & Sleep Medicine

By Tamer Abouras


While people have differences of opinion about their favorite seasons, it’s safe to say that those of us that like winter most are in the minority. Gallup has periodically polled this question and repeated come back with the answer that — all things being equal — most of us prefer all of the three warmer seasons to the current one.


The reasons why are many but not limited to the severe cold, the constant specter of snowfall making our roads unfit for driving, freezing conditions that can affect our household water, the confinement that comes with having to spend the vast majority of our time indoors and so on.


In short, winter is a total drag. And that’s before we address the other elephant in the room: sickness. Few (if any) of us manage to pass through one winter, let alone multiple years of them, without coming down with at least one bout of the flu or a related upper respiratory infection. What’s more, even allergies can pose a threat during the coldest months and for most, it’s an unpleasant but unavoidable given that November through March will probably be the time of year that most sick time is used up.

SEE ALSO: 10 Tips to Combat Winter Allergies

Unfortunately, if new research published in the journal PLOS One is any indication, an individual’s susceptibility to these nagging conditions may be directly tied to the time of year in which they were born.


Professor Cecillie Svanes, one of the study's authors, explained.


“Having a mother who smoked when she was pregnant with you will affect your lungs in a negative way. The same is the case if you were born during the winter months, or if you experienced a severe respiratory infection at a very young age."


ADVANCE Opinion Poll: Is Hypoxic Drive Theory myth or reality?


In The Independent’s coverage of the study, it was noted that, “Studying over 12,800 people aged between 28-73 years over a period of 9-11 years, those exposed to early life risk factors were found to have a faster decline in lung function — practically meaning their lungs age more quickly.”


One of those said “risk factors” happens to be having been born during winter months — presumably for the risk of respiratory infections at the earliest stages of life, which could no doubt be added the list of reasons why winter doesn’t rate particularly highly on the list of most.


While it’s unclear as to how much more at risk those born in winter really are when it comes to earlier mortality or vulnerability to respiratory infection, here’s something that is clear and undebatable: spring is coming in 29 days.

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