Myth or Fact: Do Scarves Help Prevent Colds?

Published on January 27, 2015

cold woman

Myth or Fact: Do Scarves Help Prevent Colds?

A new Yale University-led study suggests that the key to prevent colds may be to cover your nose! Using say, a scarf, to keep your nose warm, could help reduce the breeding ground for the most common cold, the rhinovirus. This is due to the rhinovirus being able to replicate more easily in the cooler environment of the nasal cavity than in the warmer environment of the lungs.

Unlike former studies, this research investigated the relationship between temperature and immune response, rather than a focus on how body temperature influences the virus. The Yale researchers examined cells taken from the airways of mice, comparing the immune response at core body temperature, or 37 degrees Celsius, and at a cooler 33 degrees Celsius.

“We found that the innate immune response to the rhinovirus is impaired at the lower body temperature compared to the core body temperature,” said Akiko Iwasaki, the study’s senior author and Yale professor of immunobiology. “In general, the lower the temperature, it seems the lower the innate immune response to viruses,” noted Iwasaki.

So could wearing a scarf in fact help prevent you from getting a cold? Dr. Terry Jodrie, emergency physician at Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center, says that at best, the data is mixed. His advice? “Get plenty of rest, don’t smoke, sneeze into your elbow, and wash your hands often.” Your nose, eyes and mouth are the most likely places for germs to enter your body. “Keeping your hands away from your face is a good practice,” Dr. Jodrie says.

For more cold tips including signs and symptoms, when to call your doctor, and recommended remedies, visit our Health Library.

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