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Can you get an ear infection from the wind?


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#1 John Salerno

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Posted 29 May 2011 - 03:34 PM

I've been trying to dispel the myth (in my family) that being out in the cold causes you to catch a cold. Naturally I try the simplest approach and say that a cold is caused by a virus, and unless you actually catch a virus while out in the cold weather, the actual cold itself won't make you sick. Likewise, it is believed that standing under a ceiling fan with your head wet can make you sick. Or going outside with your head wet causes pneumonia, etc. As far as I know and have read, none of this is true. The closest I've come to anything suggesting otherwise is that maybe some viruses are more prevalent during the cold months, which makes them easier to catch. But again, it doesn't really mean the *cold* itself is causing an illness.

Although the thing about a wet head and pneumonia seems even more deep-seated. Is there any truth to that one?

And now to my topic: another thing I can't quite seem to dispel is that if the wind is strong enough and it blows in your ears, you can get an ear infection. Again, I just don't see how this is medically possible. What *does* seem possible is perhaps with enough pressure from the wind, you can get an earache, but that is distinct from an infection (which again must be viral or bacterial, and not just a "wind infection") and most likely temporary.

So is there any truth to the wind causing problems with your ears? Do the answers change for children vs. adults?

Thanks.

Edited by John Salerno, 29 May 2011 - 03:35 PM.

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#2 John Salerno

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 06:24 AM

Anyone?
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#3 Essay

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 07:54 AM

I've been trying to dispel the myth (in my family) that being out in the cold causes you to catch a cold. Naturally I try the simplest approach and say that a cold is caused by a virus, and unless you actually catch a virus while out in the cold weather, the actual cold itself won't make you sick. Likewise, it is believed that standing under a ceiling fan with your head wet can make you sick. Or going outside with your head wet causes pneumonia, etc. As far as I know and have read, none of this is true. The closest I've come to anything suggesting otherwise is that maybe some viruses are more prevalent during the cold months, which makes them easier to catch. But again, it doesn't really mean the *cold* itself is causing an illness.

Although the thing about a wet head and pneumonia seems even more deep-seated. Is there any truth to that one?

And now to my topic: another thing I can't quite seem to dispel is that if the wind is strong enough and it blows in your ears, you can get an ear infection. Again, I just don't see how this is medically possible. What *does* seem possible is perhaps with enough pressure from the wind, you can get an earache, but that is distinct from an infection (which again must be viral or bacterial, and not just a "wind infection") and most likely temporary.

So is there any truth to the wind causing problems with your ears? Do the answers change for children vs. adults?

Thanks.


If there has ever been an ear or sinus infection, there could be a chronic, subclinical or asymptomatic, underlying infection that can be exacerbated or "flare up" in cold, wet, or windy conditions. This could easily be interpreted as a "new" infection resulting from the exposure to adverse conditions. ...I have an ear that must be protected from wind--even cold gentle wind or warm high wind--to prevent pain and fluid buildup that is noticable upon leaving those conditions.

But I agree that it is a myth that those conditions cause a disease. At most, those conditions allow some underlying or impending affliction to manifest itself; or it might have been otherwise unnoticed or healed without the stress of those adverse conditions.
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#4 PhDwannabe

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 02:19 AM

I've been trying to dispel the myth (in my family) that being out in the cold causes you to catch a cold.


An admirable goal. Of course, Fracastoro, van Leewenhoek, and Snow have beaten you to the punch. You might want to begin by informing the family that the matter has been fairly-well settled for a couple of centuries. In my experience, though, an individual who believes that cold is sufficient for the spontaneous generation of an illness is unlikely to be convinced by either a pleasant piece of empirical research, or a plea to basic scientific history. You may just have to lock them in a walk-in fridge.
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#5 John Salerno

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 04:10 AM

If there has ever been an ear or sinus infection, there could be a chronic, subclinical or asymptomatic, underlying infection that can be exacerbated or "flare up" in cold, wet, or windy conditions. This could easily be interpreted as a "new" infection resulting from the exposure to adverse conditions. ...I have an ear that must be protected from wind--even cold gentle wind or warm high wind--to prevent pain and fluid buildup that is noticable upon leaving those conditions.

But I agree that it is a myth that those conditions cause a disease. At most, those conditions allow some underlying or impending affliction to manifest itself; or it might have been otherwise unnoticed or healed without the stress of those adverse conditions.
~


So the wind itself can't cause any *new* problems? What about simply causing an ear ache? I'm just trying to figure out if that's even medically possible.
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#6 John Martin

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 07:17 AM

Its informative post provides a lots of data related totopic also provide more information related to topic.
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#7 zapatos

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 01:19 PM

So the wind itself can't cause any *new* problems? What about simply causing an ear ache? I'm just trying to figure out if that's even medically possible.

My wife gets ear aches from cold wind all the time. If it is below about 40 (F) and windy she must have her ears covered or she'll get a temporary ear ache. Since both infections and wind (for some people) can cause pain, I imagine it wasn't too big a leap for some to assume that the wind was causing infections.
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#8 John Salerno

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 02:06 PM

My wife gets ear aches from cold wind all the time. If it is below about 40 (F) and windy she must have her ears covered or she'll get a temporary ear ache. Since both infections and wind (for some people) can cause pain, I imagine it wasn't too big a leap for some to assume that the wind was causing infections.


With cold wind that's understandable, since it can even make your skin numb or hurt. But I had in mind just the wind itself, not the temperature. So let's say a windy day at 80-90 degrees F. That's what I'm thinking about, so that the cold is not a factor, just the actual wind itself.
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#9 blunderbuss

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Posted 17 June 2011 - 12:35 AM

The short and technically correct answer is quite simple.
No you cannot get an ear infection from the wind itself, because air doesn't cause infection.

But like all things catching a chill may actually "cause" a cold...albeit indirectly.

It doesn't take an ace sleuth to notice that colds (viral URIs) are much more prevalent during the winter. That's why your mother (and my mother) thinks you get a cold from being cold. Interestingly, not all of this phenomenon is explained by simply being indoors and closer together.

Many common cold viruses replicate best at lower temperature such as 30C (86F) and poorly at 38C+ (100.4F+). Cold weather cools the mucous membranes to about this or less. Not only do the viruses replicate better, but your nasal cilia, mucous production, and white cells function more poorly at these temperatures. Many of us are frequently exposed to viral URIs but have "subclinical" infection meaning asymptomatic infection. The above factors can transform a subclinical infection to a clinical one.

Indeed, experiments have been done which show a drop in body temperature (catching a chill) may indeed lead to a cold. (Ive attached two recent references at the end).

Wind can lead to a chill and therefore lead to a viral URI. As viral URIs are the most frequent cause of bacterial ear infections (from inflammation and blockage of the Eustachian tube) it is therefore possible to get an ear infection from the wind (again indirectly). There are also some wind bourne fungi such as Cocci in California and the southwest or Histo in the ohio river valley which can sometimes cause URI type symptoms.

So the long answer is yeah, you can get an ear infection from the wind...

As far as ear aches are concerned; cold temperatures can cause pain from cold sensing neurons as well as painful spasms of smooth muscles in the mucosa/ear brought by the cold. Ear aches from cold weather and *cold* wind are common. Ear aches from viral mediated ear inflammation are common as well, which is why we're trying to use less antibiotics just because someone has an ear ache and a common cold, and reserving it for more severe symptoms.

I'd be at a loss explaining an ear ache from, say, the trade winds.

Hope that helped.

http://www.ncbi.nlm....pubmed/17705968

There is a constant increase in hospitalizations and mortality during winter months; cardiovascular diseases as well as respiratory infections are responsible for a large proportion of this added morbidity and mortality. Exposure to cold has often been associated with increased incidence and severity of respiratory tract infections. The data available suggest that exposure to cold, either through exposure to low environmental temperatures or during induced hypothermia, increases the risk of developing upper and lower respiratory tract infections and dying from them; in addition, the longer the duration of exposure the higher the risk of infection. Although not all studies agree, most of the available evidence from laboratory and clinical studies suggests that inhaled cold air, cooling of the body surface and cold stress induced by lowering the core body temperature cause pathophysiological responses such as vasoconstriction in the respiratory tract mucosa and suppression of immune responses, which are responsible for increased susceptibility to infections. The general public and public health authorities should therefore keep this in mind and take appropriate measures to prevent increases in morbidity and mortality during winter due to respiratory infections.


http://www.ncbi.nlm....pubmed/16286463

BACKGROUND:
There is a common folklore that chilling of the body surface causes the development of common cold symptoms, but previous clinical research has failed to demonstrate any effect of cold exposure on susceptibility to infection with common cold viruses.
OBJECTIVE:
This study will test the hypothesis that acute cooling of the feet causes the onset of common cold symptoms.
METHODS:
180 healthy subjects were randomized to receive either a foot chill or control procedure. All subjects were asked to score common cold symptoms, before and immediately after the procedures, and twice a day for 4/5 days.
RESULTS:
13/90 subjects who were chilled reported they were suffering from a cold in the 4/5 days after the procedure compared to 5/90 control subjects (P=0.047). There was no evidence that chilling caused any acute change in symptom scores (P=0.62). Mean total symptom score for days 1-4 following chilling was 5.16 (+/-5.63 s.d. n=87) compared to a score of 2.89 (+/-3.39 s.d. n=88) in the control group (P=0.013). The subjects who reported that they developed a cold (n=18) reported that they suffered from significantly more colds each year (P=0.007) compared to those subjects who did not develop a cold (n=162).
CONCLUSION:
Acute chilling of the feet causes the onset of common cold symptoms in around 10% of subjects who are chilled. Further studies are needed to determine the relationship of symptom generation to any respiratory infection.


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#10 John Salerno

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Posted 17 June 2011 - 01:08 AM

Thanks very much! Any comment on the question about pneumonia? I know that it's a virus (or bacteria?) too, and thus can't be directly caused by having wet hair in cold weather, but is there any connection at all? Is it the same answer as you gave for other colds, i.e. wet hair (or skin) causes you to be chilled in cold weather, and thus increases the chances of catching pneumonia?

Edited by John Salerno, 17 June 2011 - 01:08 AM.

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#11 blunderbuss

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Posted 26 June 2011 - 07:23 AM

Thanks very much! Any comment on the question about pneumonia? I know that it's a virus (or bacteria?) too, and thus can't be directly caused by having wet hair in cold weather, but is there any connection at all? Is it the same answer as you gave for other colds, i.e. wet hair (or skin) causes you to be chilled in cold weather, and thus increases the chances of catching pneumonia?

So yes. Same as before.

So pneumonia can come about from a variety of ways. It is frequently a bacterial superinfection after a virus (just like the ear infection example only this time in the lung.) For instance, influenza (the virus that causes the real "flu") had a major pandemic in 1918 killing millions worldwide. There's evidence suggesting after the flu damaged the delicate respiratory tissue necessary to keep bacteria at bay, it was bacterial infection that truly killed the majority of people.
http://jid.oxfordjou.../198/7/962.full

Some people get pneumonia because their immune system is functioning poorly.

And some (most?) people get pneumonia for no discernible reason whatsoever other than living in society and sharing in the milieu of organisms.

So in theory, if it's possible to get a cold from being cold, then, in turn, it would be possible to get a pneumonia. Note though, the previously mentioned articles don't mention anything about their test subjects ending up with deadly pneumonia just from being exposed to cold, so even if it were possible, it is none-the-less unlikely.
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#12 Athena

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Posted 28 June 2011 - 01:59 AM

So the wind itself can't cause any *new* problems? What about simply causing an ear ache? I'm just trying to figure out if that's even medically possible.


Take a walk on the Oregon coast, on a cold windy day, and see it it makes your ears hurt. I know for sure, it can make my ears hurt, and covering them stops the pain. Some people react to eating something very cold and others don't. I think we should be more open to individual differences.

I stopped walking with an elderly neighbor in cold, damp and windy weather, because she is apt to get to sick if she walks in bad weather. I didn't believe her when she said it would happen, and when I did, I googled it, and sure enough, some people are more apt to get sick. I think it could have something to do with having thin tissue, easier for the virus penetrate. In the cold weather, the virus gets sticky. If you are young and have strong tissue you are better protected by your skin, than an older person with thin tissue and a poor immune system.
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#13 Chris_Rob

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Posted 9 July 2011 - 07:34 PM

What I would imagine happening is the cold weather/wind causing the body's immune system to be somewhat weakened, therefore predisposing your body to catching a virus.
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#14 UniformHealth

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 07:03 AM

Some of you guys are right on the money, to say that the cold makes you sick is in the technical sense wrong. That said many forms and Heath websites say cold does not make you sick. Which is right In order for you to get sick for the cold it self you need to be allegeic to Temperature differences( or be able to generate a strong enough placebo effect to make you allergic)or freeze slowly and to the point were ice crystal began to from and destroy your cells for the inside.

That said being cold does increase your change of having symptoms of a immune response do to a standing infection/ airborne one that
was not properly delta with. Likely do to the bodies demand to shift more focuse to increase body temp/ drying out of the lungs and throat. Every have harsh cold air pump into your lungs well running, you can almost feel yourself getting sick.

Here are some studies to back me up, share your counter argument let try and keep data upto date though.

Side notes: Though I got a couple old ones here, something important to not in the sure fire fact that when animals are pack together bactira have a field day ad that a deficiency in immune essiatial. vitmain D and the indoor nature of the winter is surely playing a role and large one at that.

I feel suppression of the immune system is a poor way of looking at colds effect on the body, I would like to say that it is malfunctioning , but it has million of year of elvloution ( or god) backing up what it does and I'm sure it has a underline reason thought it may not be necessary in this Incredable part of the Human race.


http://www.ncbi.nlm....1982757/related

http://www.ncbi.nlm....1982757/related

http://www.ncbi.nlm....1982757/related

http://www.ncbi.nlm....1982757/related

http://www.ncbi.nlm....7052132/related

http://www.ncbi.nlm....0444630/related

Using my iPhone sorry about the errors
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