Cold Weather Myths: Being out in the cold can make you sick

Published: Jan. 29, 2023 at 10:50 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 30, 2023 at 12:28 AM EST
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(WHSV) - A popular myth is that being out in the cold without a jacket or having wet hair out in the cold can make you sick.

It’s not that simple though. Michael Cavender from the Carilion Clinic - Fort Defiance said that’s not entirely true.

“It’s still the virus or the bacteria that you get exposed to that causes illness. So we do talk about potential impacts on the immune system, and depressing the immune system making you more susceptible to the viral illness,” said Cavender.

Cavender said the cold can stress out your body but cannot cause illness by itself.

“Just simply being cold or going outside itself is not going to get you sick. That’s why you can have these people do things like the polar bear plunges where they jump into freezing cold temperatures of water in the winter and they still aren’t by and large coming out with pneumonia and viral illnesses,” Cavender said.

Essentially, if you have been in the cold and come back inside where germs are thriving, your body’s defense mechanism is weaker.

Cavender said the cold works like other stressors as any sustained physical or emotional stress weakens your immunity.