If your mother always warned you to wrap up warm to avoid catching a cold, it appears she may have been right all along.
British scientists say they have proof that a drop in body temperature can kickstart viruses which lie dormant in people during the cold season, from October to March.
And getting your feet wet, they found, can triple the risk of developing cold symptoms such as sore throat, sneezing and coughing.
Staff at the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff, Wales, asked 90 hardy volunteers to keep their bare feet in icy water for 20 minutes.
A third of them developed colds during the following five days, compared to just 9 per cent of another test group who did not get their feet wet.
So while parents can now be confident in their advice to children to wrap up well in winter, the findings do contradict accepted scientific wisdom which dismisses a link between chilling and viral infection.
Professor Ron Eccles, of Cardiff University’s Common Cold Centre, led the research and said the findings supported centuries of common sense thinking.
“Mothers can now be confident in their advice to children to wrap up well in winter,” he told the Daily Mail.
“We have reports going back hundreds of years where people knew if they got soaking wet they were more likely to develop a cold, so it passed into folklore for good reason.
“It’s only today, when it’s less likely that people will get drenched and they can warm up more quickly because of central heating, that the connection has been cast into doubt.”
The research findings published in the medical journal Family Practice say the fact that common colds are more prevalent in the winter could be related to an increased incidence of chilling causing more clinical colds.
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But another explanation could be our noses are colder in winter.
“A cold nose may be one of the major factors that causes common colds to be seasonal,” Prof Eccles explained.
“When the cold weather comes, we wrap ourselves up in winter coats to keep warm, but our nose is directly exposed to the cold air.
“Cooling of the nose slows down clearance of viruses from the nose and slows down the white cells that fight infection.”
Anyone becoming chilled and worrying about developing a cold could help themselves by warming up as quickly as possible, Prof Eccles added.
But the best protection against the miserable common cold could be simply to dress warmly in winter and keep feet dry.