Cold exposure and immune function

Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 1998 Sep;76(9):828-36. doi: 10.1139/cjpp-76-9-828.


The influence of cold exposure on immune function is reviewed. Data obtained mainly on small mammals suggest that the acute effect of severe chilling is a suppression of several cellular and humoral components of the immune response, including a decrease of lymphocyte proliferation, a down-regulation of the immune cascade, a reduction of natural killer (NK) cell count, cytolytic activity, activation of complement, and the induction of heat shock proteins. However, adaptation to a given cold stimulus appears to develop over the course of 2-3 weeks. Further work is needed to examine interactions between cold exposure and exercise, and to determine whether the disturbances of immune response are sufficient to impair immunosurveillance in human subjects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Eicosanoids / metabolism
  • Hormones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunity*
  • Infections / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Urticaria / etiology


  • Cytokines
  • Eicosanoids
  • Hormones