Whether your Friday night plans involve sipping romantic cocktails with bae, having a fun-filled game night with the family or kicking back with your BFFs, there’s one thing we can all agree on: There’s nothing worse than bailing on the festivities because of a sudden cold. Luckily for us, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have found a way to prevent the common cold virus, and it just happens to be free. That’s right, according to a study published in Psychology Science, hugging your loved ones might just be the key to staying healthy this winter.
In this late 2014 study, lead researcher Sheldon Cohen and his team put their sweet hypothesis to the test by surveying 404 healthy adults to determine their perceived level of social support at home including frequency of hugs. Then, the participants were exposed to a common cold virus and were placed in quarantine so that the scientists could determine if the virus caused each participant to get sick and, if so, the severity of their symptoms. After analyzing the results of their test, Cohen and his team concluded that people who are hugged more frequently are less susceptible to infections associated with being stressed, including the common cold. Although not every participant with a high level of social support could completely avoid the cold virus, the severity of the symptoms of high social support participants were much lower than those with low social support.
“[The research] suggests that being hugged by a trusted person may act as an effective means of conveying support, and that increasing the frequency of hugs might be an effective means of reducing the deleterious effects of stress,” says Cohen. Some experts in the field point to oxytocin as the stress-reducing backbone being hugging. The hormone, which is primarily produced in the hypothalamus, is largely known to promote attachment in relationships and can have a wide variety of health benefits, from increased immune functioning to higher pain tolerance.
Although practical measures like washing your hands and covering your mouth when you cough are still great tools to avoid a February cold, it’s awesome to know that there’s tangible value to showing someone you care when they’re feeling sick — and gives us all the fodder we need to ditch the “Eww! Cooties!” excuse for good.
What are your tips for avoiding cold season? Tweet us @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty and Kevork Djansezian/Getty)