Catch Your Death of Cold


(permanent link) added: 2010-03-04 16:37:22 sponsor: ParadiscaCorbasi (last reply: 2010-03-04 18:38:56)

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The Cold is a very mild disease caused by a number of different virii that largely have nothing in common other than most of the symptoms they cause. It has been around as long as anyone can remember, but has yet to be stamped out mainly because it isn't dangerous enough to justify the very strict quarantine procedures necessary to do so, especially when there are much worse diseases running around.

But that's not a trope, any more than tuberculosis, lupus or cancer, in and of themselves. The trope comes from how fiction treats the disease.

Y'see, in Olden Days, long before the advent of germ theory or any understanding of how virii work, people noticed that the cold was most virulent in the winter and concluded that it must be exposure to the elements themselves that caused it. This, along with one of the symptoms being persistent chills, is how the disease got its name. A reasonable, if ultimately incorrect, guess. In truth, because the cold can only be caught from other people, you're far less likely to catch it if you go wandering through the wilderness on a cold night, although prolonged exposure may well weaken your immune system against an infection already acquired. You'd do far better to worry about the much more severe consequences of real exposure, such as hypothermia and frostbite.

But despite the fact that the actual cause of the cold has been fairly common knowledge for about a hundred years now, this fact has not seemed to permeate the public consciousness very far. Mothers still caution their children to button up when going outside lest they catch the cold, and any character in fiction, especially animation, will instantly begin to sneeze and cough after being chilled or, especially, frozen. These symptoms may go away once they've been warmed up again.

That's the trope, long since discredited but still very much alive. The idea, nigh-universal it seems, that mere exposure to low temperatures can cause symptoms equivalent to that of a cold.


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