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  • Rachel Crawford

Does going out with wet hair give you a cold?

Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) explained

Most of us grew up hearing the advice (often from older relatives) that going out with wet hair will give us a cold. Specialists may well have poo-pooed this advice for the past few decades, but new research shows that all kinds of stressors, including becoming freezing cold walking the dog in winter with wet hair, can alter or trigger the immune system/nervous system loop, making it much more likely that we do get a cold. So, granny was probably right after all.


Many of us can look back and identify an upcoming stressful event: giving a presentation at work/approaching exam season at school, and thinking “brilliant, on top of everything else I’ve got a cold’


Some may recall desperately trying to get things finished up at work before flying off on holiday and feeling a little frazzled whilst packing, then spending the first few days of your sunny holiday feeling distinctly under the weather.

If you know someone with a chronic condition such as the skin complaint psoriasis, sufferers often notice their symptoms getting worse when they have a cold. This is known as an anamnestic response: essentially, if our immune system is already busy with one complaint, then symptoms of that complaint will fire up very quickly when we contract a second complaint. So, cold sufferers could notice worsening psoriasis symptoms, or that their IBS/fibromyalgia intensifies significantly as they battle the misery of whatever ‘lurgy’ is doing the rounds. In other research it’s been observed that chemotherapy is more effective in those able to spend time relaxing.


These things happen because our emotions and immune system work together in a sort of feedback loop, the subject of a relatively new but extremely important discipline of medicine known as psychoneuroimmunology. It’s a bit of a mouthful, but breaks down as:

Psycho = mind and brain

Neuro = nervous system

Immunology = the immune system

Much of the of the existing research about the impact of stress on the immune system focuses on the release of cytokines in response to both physical and psychological stress.

A cytokine is a small protein that’s released by cells, particularly those in your immune system. There are many types of cytokines, but the ones that are generally stimulated by stress are called pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Under normal circumstances, your body releases pro-inflammatory cytokines in response to an infection or injury to help destroy germs or repair tissue. When you’re physically or emotionally stressed, your body also releases certain hormones, including adrenaline. These hormones play a part in directing the body to produce pro-inflammatory cytokines which are implicated in chronic inflammation and allergy.


It pays to manage our stressful responses then, for so many reasons. Stress is part of our modern way of life, and for most of us cannot be avoided completely. But if you’re finding yourself feeling frequently overwhelmed by anxiety, fear, shame, regret, jealousy, lack of confidence or other negative emotions, it’s worth considering a few sessions of Solution Focused Hypnotherapy to learn how to tackle those habitual, unhelpful thought processes,. Doing so can transform the way you feel about yourself, about others and about the world you live in.

Contact Rachel by phone, text or WhatsApp on 07876 642230 / email rachel@sagehypnotherapy.co.uk or rachelcrawfordd80@gmail.com

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