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Did bare wet feet make me sick?

December 31, 2014

Earlier in December, Orange County was blessed with a wonderful, much-needed deluge (can’t wait till the wildflowers that have sprouted in response begin to bloom!); one cloud-burst left my back yard flooded for a few minutes, so of course I had to get out there and puddle-jump.

backyard puddle

Days later, I came down with a very bad case of upper respiratory flu, from which I am still recovering.

Of course “post hoc, ergo propter hoc” immediately comes to mind at times like this.

Don’t parents everywhere warn kids not to go outside and get their feet wet, or “they’ll catch their death of cold”?

Here’s what I found on the Cardiff University (UK) “Common Cold Centre” web site:

Can a chill cause a cold?

Folklore indicates that chilling such as getting your feet wet in winter and going out with wet hair may cause a common cold but until recently there has been no scientific research to support this idea. Recent research has demonstrated that chilling may cause the onset of common cold symptoms5. A study at the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff UK in 2005 took 90 students and chilled their feet in cold water for 20 minutes and showed that the chilled group had twice as many colds over the next 5 days as a control group of 90 students whose feet were not chilled. The authors propose that when colds are circulating in the community some persons carry the virus without symptoms and that chilling the feet causes a constriction of blood vessels in the nose and this inhibits the immune response and defences in the nose and allows the virus to replicate and cause cold symptoms. The chilled person believes they have caught a cold but in fact the virus was already present in the nose but not causing symptoms.

Hmmm . . . interesting . . .  is this what happened to me?

All I know is I’ve been too sick to run for two weeks . . . which has served to make me grateful for the many days that I have been healthy enough to get out on the trails–in 2014, and throughout my running life. The gift of running is something that is to easy to take for granted when things are going well, and I hope this illness helps me to remain aware of what a privilege it is to be able to move smoothly (and shoelessly!) through Orange County’s sage-scented hills.

Here’s looking forward to better health, and more barefoot trail miles, in 2015 . . .

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Chris Fielding permalink
    December 31, 2014 11:14 am

    Hi – Over here in the Uk there has been so much ilness over the past couple of months. Exactly the symptoms you describe plus one or two others. Our school attendance was decimated and we had so many staff sick (something we have never really seen before). Folk have been off sick and then got sick again a couple of weeks later. It has been as bad as I can recall. I seem to avoided everything and have been fine through the carnage. I am on a 10 week barefoot runstreak and have run barefoot everyday even though it has got cold, wet and frozen. I was wondering whether my cold, wet feet have prevented me getting sick. Go figure!

    • December 31, 2014 1:53 pm

      Hi Chris–Thanks for the note; I’m glad you’ve been able to avoid the winter bugs making their rounds. I had been feeling super healthy, and was attributing it to barefooting also, and then . . . this.

      Oh well.

      I’ve been following your running streak on FB . . . Congrats! Keep it up; it’s inspiring, and that’s one of the things I appreciate most about your work in the barefoot community–your eagerness to inspire us all to keep going 🙂

      Cheers for 2015!

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