Cold exposure: human immune responses and intracellular cytokine expression

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002 Dec;34(12):2013-20. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200212000-00023.


It is commonly believed that exposure to cold environmental temperatures depresses immune function and increases the risk for infection. This review paper will 1) present an overview of human physiological responses to cold exposure, 2) present the human studies examining the effects of cold exposure on immune responses, and 3) summarize recent experiments from our laboratories examining the effects of exercise and fatigue on immune responses during subsequent cold exposure. Based on the review of the literature, there is no support for the concept that cold exposure depresses immune function.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cold Temperature* / adverse effects
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Environmental Exposure* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular / physiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / immunology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / metabolism
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / physiopathology


  • Cytokines