Even without the threat of sickness, it’s always a good idea to dress warmly when dealing with cold weather. Common sense dictates that the sweaters should come out when winter settles in — but there’s more scientific grounding now. Getting sick from the cold is more than a matter of temperature drops; it’s a problem built into genes themselves.

Research by Cambridge University’s John Todd confirmed as much. By examining 22,000 genes from 16,000 subjects, he and his team discovered that the human body can and does adapt to the environment. More specifically, the immune system grows stronger and weaker throughout the year to prepare for varying levels of health threats. During the winter months, however, the immune system can overcompensate and add extra levels of inflammation — which ends up causing the colds that it’s trying to prevent.

It sounds unpleasant, but Todd suspects there’s a secret benefit to the cyclical system. If a person’s immune system ramps up in the winter months, then that also means vaccines will be more effective; more antibodies will be produced by the body, and offer up a stronger safeguard. The best course of action, then, might be to move those vaccinations to a later date — because the winter chill is bad enough without a case of the sniffles.

Topics: news , biology , health , science 2 , weather