Does Cold Weather Impact Tonsils?

Young woman suffering from cold and sore tonsils drinking tea to lesson symptoms.

It’s no secret that winter is the favorite season of many individuals. And we understand, the snow is pretty, chilly temps can sometimes be pleasantly invigorating, and we all love building snow snowmen. But there are some downsides. It never fails, after lots of time spent enjoying the great winter weather, your body reacts. You begin to cough a little more often; your nose runs constantly; and you develop some fun winter throat problems. A severe cold can frequently be the result.

So, can your tonsils be impacted by the weather? Your tonsils are a large part of your body’s immune system, so perhaps these winter symptoms can be tracked back to a problem there. Because if you can reinforce your tonsils (and your immune system), perhaps winter would be a little more enjoyable after all!

Your overall health can be impacted by cold weather

So let’s get this off the table: cold weather doesn’t make you ill. You won’t get a cold because you’ve been chilly, that’s not how bacteria and viruses work, necessarily. Cold weather can, however, bring about major issues with your respiratory system and weaken your body’s defenses. But it’s the virus that makes you sick, not the cold itself.

Air is one of the biggest culprits. Cold temperatures usually mean very dry air. If you tend to get a soar throat only during cold months, it may be because the dry air is drying out the mucus lining in your throat. This dry air also decreases the amount of germ-fighting mucus present inside your nose (yes, that mucus is good for something).

Here are a few other reasons why your health might be impacted by cold weather:

  • During the winter months, when it’s cloudy and cold, we tend to spend more time indoors. So your absorption of sunlight will be less and you will be getting less vitamin D. As vitamin D is crucial to an effective working immune system, your principal defenses against germs may not be operating at their best.
  • You could have slightly lower body temperature. When you’re in the cold, your body may not be capable of generating heat as fast as it loses it. If your body goes below 95 degrees fahrenheit it can result in hypothermia and if you’re losing heat too quickly over time, this condition can occur. But even before you go into hypothermia, your body might not be able to fight off disease quite as well, because it is busy keeping itself warm.
  • You’ll be inside more often. And being indoors a lot, with other people, and lack of airflow, can be a health concern. You could be more subject to germs moving from person to person and consequently, you might be more likely to get ill.

How are your tonsils affected by cold weather?

Your tonsils are an important part of your immune system. They’re two big clusters of lymph cells in the back of your throat. They can help filter out 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 pretty much your respiratory tract’s gatekeeper.

How cold weather impacts your tonsils

Cold weather does have an impact on your tonsils, even if it isn’t the cold weather itself that causes illness. It works like this:

  • If you get ill more often, your tonsils are going to be combating infections more frequently.
  • Inflammation is a normal immune response and that means the risk of inflamed tonsils increases.
  • A two or three day (plus) soar throat can be the result.

This infection of your tonsils is called tonsillitis. Tonsillitis in the winter isn’t fun, but if your tonsillitis doesn’t clear up by itself, lasting infections can result in even more issues:

  • Airways that are obstructed by inflamed tonsils. This can make it hard to breathe.
  • Infectious pus pockets.

This will lower the whole body’s immunity over time. An important part of your immune system are your lymph cells including your tonsils. So you may be more vulnerable to infections if your tonsils aren’t functioning at full capacity (or recover more slowly when you do get ill).

The symptoms of tonsillitis typically feel very close to what you’d expect from a cold or a flu. That’s why diagnosing tonsillitis can be a bit challenging.

combating cold weather tonsillitis

Your tonsils aren’t necessarily doing a lousy job, but they occasionally need a little help. You can supply that help with the right accessories.

You can manage your winter throat problems by utilizing these techniques:

  • Take vitamin D supplements: If you haven’t seen the sun in a few days (a few months?), take some vitamin D supplements in the form of a pill. Or invest in a sunlamp. Or maybe a couple of vacations to a sunnier destination.
  • Make sure you get outdoors: You need to get vitamin D whether it’s cold or not. So don some warm winter clothes and get outdoors for some winter fun.
  • Gargle with salt water: For many reasons that have to do with the physics of liquids and such, gargling with salt water can help you soothe your sore throat and flush out some of the surface level germs surrounding your tonsils.
  • Drink tea: It’s packed with nutrients for you! Warm tea can increase your body temperature and replenish your mucus membranes, but after 2 pm you should stick with a tea that is caffeine free such as herbal tea.
  • Using a humidifier will keep the air in your home from getting too dry, particularly during cold months. If the air isn’t so dry, that protective mucus will be abundant enough to assist your immune system keep you healthy.
  • Dress warm: If you let your body temperature get too low for too long it can be a real problem. Your immune system will have a more difficult time fighting sickness if can’t keep warm. So, maybe put on a sweater or sit by the fireplace or something!

Your tonsils might have to be removed if they won’t stay healthy

If you have a soar throat from cold air, how long should you expect it to continue? Typically, as long as you’re exposed to cold, dry air. Your sore throat should improve quickly when you move into a warmer more humid environment. But if you have an infection like tonsillitis, it will take more than warm moist air.

Within a few days, tonsillitis should fade on its own. But occasionally, this kind of infection can become chronic, or repeat frequently. A tonsillectomy may become necessary in these circumstances. While it isn’t quite as common as it once was (we know much more about tonsils now), tonsillectomy is still sometimes the best way to provide relief to patients.

We will be able to help you figure out whether a tonsillectomy is appropriate for you, or whether there are other viable treatments to try first.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

Questions? Talk To Us.