“Dress warmly, or you’ll catch a cold!” It’s a common admonishment you may have heard many times over the course of your childhood. But does dressing warmly really prevent you from catching a cold?
Ask any doctor or scientist, and they will give you a firm NO.
The common cold is a viral infection that affects the nose and upper respiratory tract. That means that it is not caused by cold weather, but rather through viruses and bacterial infections caught from other people. The idea that being cold will make you catch a cold is simply a myth.
In reality, the reason why people tend to come down with colds more in cool weather is that they tend to spend more time indoors and in close proximity during that time. This makes it easier for the virus to spread from person to person and results in higher rates of infection.
Another factor is that the air inside buildings tends to be drier. This makes it a breeding ground for cold viruses, which prefer low humidity conditions. The aridity of the air also dries up nasal passages, which can invite infections.
It’s a proven fact that just dressing warmly will not prevent colds. However, you can reduce your chances of catching a cold just by developing good sanitation habits. The easiest precaution is to wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and water. It’s also advisable to sneeze and cough into tissues, being sure to again wash your hands afterward.
Within your households, practice cleanliness by frequently disinfecting high-traffic areas like kitchens and bathroom countertops. Try to avoid sharing drinking glasses and silverware with other family members, especially when someone is feeling unwell. In that case, try to avoid contact with that person and designate a special set of dishes just for them. Common sense goes a long way.
So next time someone tells you that old adage, kindly inform them of the real facts about how colds spread. But why not throw on an overcoat anyway? Although dressing warmly certainly won’t ward off colds, that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea to keep warm in chillier weather. Prolonged exposure to the cold might cause lowered resistance to some infections in the long-term. Not wearing enough can also put you at risk of hypothermia, skin irritation, or even frostbite. While it may not prevent you from catching a cold, putting on layers before venturing outside is simply good practice for comfort.
If you do happen to catch a cold after all, remain calm. The common cold is rarely a serious threat and will usually run its course without complication. Get plenty of bed rest and drink lots of liquids, and you should expect the cold to clear up within a week. You may also want to use pain relievers, decongestant nasal sprays, or cough syrups to alleviate symptoms.
If your cold persists, it may be time to see a doctor. Seek medical attention if you have a fever higher than 101.3°F or experience symptoms like trouble breathing, persistent sore throat, headaches, or sinus pain.