Long, frigid winter could impact your health

CREATED Feb 27, 2014

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MILWAUKEE - Does it seem like everyone you know is sick right now?  The ridiculously long, brutally cold winter could be at least partly to blame. 

"The cold itself doesn't have an impact on your immune system," said Dr. Paul Hartlaub with Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group.  

But the cold does keep us inside with all the germs and viruses that are going around this time of year.  

"Those circulate more in the winter because people are just basically in closer quarters with each other and so they're more susceptible to passing it around."

There are other factors that could theoretically affect your immune system, like lack of vitamin D.

 "Vitamin D does affect the functioning of our immune system, and in the winter months when there's generally less sunshine, the vitamin D in our bodies is not activated as well," explained Dr. Hartlaub.

Even our mood can have an impact on our immune system.

"As this cold winter, with the polar vortex, has been going on and on, I certainly have seen a lot of people who are discouraged and who have sort of a reactive, mild depression.  That could theoretically affect our immune system and make us more susceptible to viruses."

So what can we do to stay healthy?  Practice good hand washing and cough etiquette.  And take a vacation to someplace warm and sunny if you can.