Sick, Hot, Cold

Forty-eight hours ago, on Saturday morning, 52º suddenly began to feel very cold to me.  Half an hour later I crawled into bed, wracked with GI distress and general malaise, and except for a few misguided efforts to get vertical, stayed there all weekend. I was prescient enough to bring a bucket with me.  Yesterday J. kindly brought me ginger ale and saltines.  Finally this morning I am back to the living.  It was no fun, but with alternating sweats and chills I found a 50º bedroom with the electric blankie to be a good strategy that allowed for great flexibility in maintaining some level of comfort.

A lot of people ask whether we are worried that having a coldish house will make us sick more often.  There is long-standing debate on this question.  Here’s a bit from the New York Times— from 1903:

“Writers on hygiene have found a congenial theme for more or less intemperate denunciation in the fact that as a community we have accustomed ourselves to house temperatures so excessive as to predispose us to grave evils of one kind or another, especially colds, catarrh, pneumonia, and the like.”  (full text here).

Overall I don’t think we’re any more predisposed to illness.  Possibly less so, especially with regard to respiratory infections, which can more easily take hold when nasal membranes are desiccated from the low humidity of super-heated winter air. As far this stomach bug, I can identify at least four people I might’ve caught it from, and none of them live here– so staying home in the cold house altogether probably would’ve protected me!

5 Responses to “Sick, Hot, Cold”

  1. Janet Says:

    I think cool houses make for healthier people….my kids were hardly ever sick until they moved into warmer houses
    stomach virus is just unavoidable no matter what temp you live in and I hear it is going around now here in New England
    glad it was only the 48 hour grip (as it used to be called)

  2. John Says:

    Very likely food poisoning too. I have a cousin who works for a state health dept (scientist) who swears that most of the time the stomach “flu” (of which there really is no such thing, since it’s actually viral gastroenteritis) is actually food poisoning. There are in fact several viruses that can cause the illness, several of which are food-borne.

  3. Heather Says:

    John: maybe true in general but as one of the four people from whom D. caught this bug, I am virtually certain that this one is viral and being spread from human to human. and it lasts for 48 really bad hours but then lingers for a couple weeks it seems, playing funny games with your tummy. I’m so sorry if i was your vector, D!

  4. Luke Says:

    Three or four winters ago I lived in Cabot, Vermont. When I got my first heating bill I shut off the furnace.

    I didn’t get sick. Now, I was young, and a heavy smoker and had just given up alcohol but was otherwise healthy. I think so long as you put the calories into your body that you need due to the energy required to stay warm.

    In general my apartment was about 40 degrees through the winter.

    Nice blog. I’ll be sure to RSS it.


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