It’s no secret that winter is the favorite season of many people. And it’s not surprising, it’s a beautiful season with lots of fun things to do. But there are some drawbacks. It never fails, after lots of time spent enjoying the wonderful winter weather, your body reacts. You start coughing a little more frequently; your nose is running incessantly; and you develop some fun winter throat problems. A bad cold can often be the outcome.
So… Can weather affect your tonsils? Your tonsils are a large part of your body’s immune system, so perhaps these winter symptoms can be traced back to a problem there. Because if you can reinforce your tonsils (and your immune system), perhaps winter would be a bit more enjoyable after all!
Your overall health can be affected by cold weather
So let’s get this out of the way: cold weather doesn’t make you ill. Viruses and bacteria get you sick and you don’t catch those from going out into the cold. Cold weather can, however, cause major problems with your respiratory system and weaken your body’s defenses. But it’s not the cold, but viruses that ultimately make you get sick.
Air is one of the biggest culprits. The air is typically really dry when it’s cold. Dry air can aggravate your throat (as the humidity drops, the mucus lining your throat dries up, if you get a sore throat only when it’s cold out, this may be the reason why). The available germ-fighting mucus is reduced by the dry air as well.
Here are a few other reasons why your health may be impacted by cold weather:
- Your body temperature might drop just a wee bit. In cold temperatures, you can lose heat faster than you produce it. Over time, this can lead to hypothermia (this is a serious condition when your body temperature goes below 95 degrees fahrenheit). When your body has to put a lot of its energy reserves into staying warm, it will have less available for the immune system to fight illness.
- You’ll be indoors more often. And this means you’ll be inside with others, often with little to no airflow. You could be more exposed to germs passing from person to person and consequently, you may be more likely to get sick.
- During the winter season, when it’s cloudy and cold, we normally spend more time inside. So your absorption of sunlight will be less and you will be getting less vitamin D. An efficiently working immune system requires vitamin D, and when it doesn’t get enough, it won’t be functioning at peak energy.
How does cold weather impact your tonsils?
Your tonsils are an essential part of your immune system. They’re two large bundles of lymph cells at the back of your throat. Their principal purpose is to filter germs (that’s a good thing for your respiratory system because you will breathe fewer germs directly into your lungs.). They even produce antibodies. They’re basically your respiratory tract’s gatekeeper.
So how are your tonsils impacted by cold weather?
Although it’s not the cold weather itself that causes you to get sick, it does have an impact on your tonsils. It works like this:
- The more frequently you get sick, the harder your tonsils have to work.
- This means there’s an increased chance that your tonsils can become swollen and inflamed (inflammation is a normal immune response).
- A two or three day (plus) soar throat can be the outcome.
Tonsillitis is the medical name for this tonsil infection. Tonsillitis in the winter isn’t fun, but if your tonsillitis doesn’t resolve by itself, lasting infections can cause even more problems:
- Airways that are obstructed by inflamed tonsils. Breathing can be tough because of this.
- Pockets of pus that develop behind your tonsils.
Over time, this can decrease immunity through your whole body. An important part of your immune system are your lymph cells including your tonsils. So when your tonsils aren’t functioning at 100%, you might become more vulnerable to some types of infections (or recover from illness more slowly).
The symptoms of tonsillitis typically feel very close to what you’d expect from a cold or a flu. This can make diagnoses a little tricky.
Fighting cold weather tonsillitis
Your tonsils aren’t necessarily doing a bad job, but they occasionally need a bit of help. With the right accessories, you can do just that.
Here are some tactics that may help with your winter throat issues:
- Take vitamin D supplements: Take vitamin D supplements if you’re not getting out into the sun very much. Or invest in a sunlamp. Or maybe a couple of vacations to a sunnier place.
- Make sure you get outside: It may be colder outside than inside, but that sun-generated Vitamin D is essential to a properly functioning immune system. So put on your coat and go for a hike!
- Using a humidifier will keep the air in your home from drying out too much, particularly during cold months. Mucus helps the immune system safeguard your body from infection, and when the air has more moisture your immune system will have more of it to work with.
- Drink tea: Tea has nutrients in it that are good for your overall health. We don’t suggest drinking caffeinated tea after 2 pm, but having some nice warm herbal tea can help bring your body temperature up and refresh all of your mucus makers.
- Gargle with salt water: For lots of reasons that are related to the physics of liquids and such, gargling with salty water can help you relieve your sore throat and flush out some of the surface level germs surrounding your tonsils.
- Dress warm: Don’t allow your body temperature to get too cold for too long. Your immune system will have a more difficult time fighting illness if can’t stay warm. So, maybe put on a sweatshirt or sit by the fireplace or something!
If you can’t keep your tonsils healthy, you might need to remove them
How long does a sore throat from cold air stick around? Usually, as long as you’re in the cold, dry air. Your sore throat should clear up quickly when you go into a warmer more humid environment. But if you’re experiencing an infection such as tonsillitis, it will take more than warm moist air.
Typically, tonsillitis will go away on its own within a few days. But this type of infection can, in some situations, become chronic. In these cases, a tonsillectomy may be necessary. While it isn’t quite as common as it once was (we understand much more about tonsils now), tonsillectomy is still sometimes the best way to give relief to patients.
Whether a tonsillectomy is the right choice for your circumstance, or whether there’s a different solution is something that we can help you figure out.