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Does Cold Weather Cause Illness?

Posted December 2020 by Biodermis
You’ve probably heard before that you shouldn’t stay out too long in the cold because you can catch a cold. From what we hear during our childhood, many of us believe that cold weather is cause for illness. This, however, is a misconception. Cold weather itself isn’t directly responsible for causing people to get sick. It is true that colds and viruses are seasonal, with increased risk during the fall and winter. This is important to understand because it allows us to take precautions during these months. The science still isn’t entirely clear why viruses are seasonal, but there are some pretty good theories to explain it.

Continue reading to learn more about why people tend to get sick during the cold months.

Cold weather and illness


More time spent indoors

One theory that seems plausible for why viral infections are more common in the cold months is that people are spending more time indoors. This makes sense because if one person is sick, they can easily infect others in the household. The risk goes up even more during the holidays when family and friends are congregating indoors in large groups. During winter months, the windows and doors in homes are likely closed so that everyone is breathing in the same recycled air.

Viruses like cold, dry climates

Another theory for why people get sick during the cold months is that the virus can survive and spread more easily in cold, dry climates. In one study, guinea pigs were observed to get infected and spread viruses better at low temperatures and humidity levels. However, this conclusion is only true in places that experience winter. In places where the climate is warm and humid year round, viruses are still able to spread just as easily. There is still no scientific consensus for why viruses can act so differently in distinct environments. However, if you live in places that have a winter, you can be sure that viruses will spread.

Our immune systems

Another theory for why we get sick during the winter is that our bodies get less vitamin D and melatonin from the Sun. Vitamin D and melatonin strengthen our immune system by enhancing cellular immunity to foreign invaders. The Sun sets earlier during the winter months and people prefer staying indoors to avoid the frigid weather. But if our bodies aren’t getting enough direct sunlight, then our cells cannot produce enough immune-boosting agents. If you aren’t getting enough vitamin D during the winter, you can include vitamins and supplements into your diet.

How to avoid getting sick

There are a number of things you can do to protect yourself and others from getting sick. The following list is recommended by the CDC.

1. Wash your hands frequently, especially after using the restroom, leaving a public place, coughing or sneezing, and touching animals.
2. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
3. Avoid close contact with people you suspect are sick.
4. If you are ill and must leave the house, wear a mask to prevent spread of the illness.
5. Cover your coughs and sneezes. Immediately wash your hands after.
6. Clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces.
7. Monitor your own health by checking for symptoms, such as a fever, cough, or shortness of breath.


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