Everyone’s heard their mom tell them to put a coat on so they don’t “catch a cold” out in the cool air. And, in truth, it does seem like people get sick more readily in the winter months. However, you may be wondering if cold weather alone has what it takes to make you sick, or if there is more at play here.
Infectious diseases, like the flu and the common cold, aren’t caused by environmental factors. At least, not directly. Something like hypothermia or a heat stroke would be a medical condition brought about directly because of the weather around you. Catching a cold or the flu, however, requires you to be exposed to an infection vector.
In simpler terms, you have to catch the cold or the flu from someone who is carrying the bacteria or virus responsible for such diseases. In short, no, weather can’t make you “sick,” per se. That doesn’t mean that the winter months aren’t harder to stay healthy during, though.
The virus that causes influenza is more stable in cold, dry air. Warm, moist air is anathema to the virus, so the hotter summer months are more likely to render the virus harmless before it comes into contact with humans. As such, when the weather is cold and dry, the flu virus is much more likely to cause infection.
While the virus is more stable in winter, that isn’t the only reason it’s more prevalent when it’s cold out. The main reason flu season occurs when it’s cold outside is because people huddle up together indoors during the colder months. The more people you have in close proximity to one another, the more chances they have to pass illnesses to one another.
Ironically, this means that being out in the cold weather make you less likely to get sick. By going into common areas, you expose yourself to numerous infection vectors, or people who are already carrying the disease.
So, remember, in the cold months you need to diligently wash your hands before eating or touching your face, and you should always get your flu shot. Stay safe out there!