Can Cold Weather Make You Sick?

Winter is always accompanied by increasing cases of cold and flu, but does the cold weather really make you sick?

“The cold weather adds factors that may increase your risk of getting sick,” explained George Darah, DO, a family medicine doctor with ProMedica Physicians. “For instance, cold and flu viruses spread easier in dry weather. Also, the dryness of the winter season causes the linings of nasal passages to be drier and more vulnerable to infection.”

But can you actually catch a cold from the cold? Dr. Darah said no.

“Cold weather doesn’t cause sickness, it only makes it easier to spread,” he explained.

And our winter weather habits can make things worse.

“During the holiday season, people are more likely to not maintain a proper diet and exercise routine,” said Dr. Darah. “They are also rushed, stressed and don’t get enough sleep. All of these things lower the immune system, which makes it easier to get sick. People staying indoors more often because of the weather and holiday parties only adds to a person’s likeliness of getting sick.”

To prevent catching the cold or flu, Dr. Darah recommended the following tips:

  • Maintain a proper diet
  • Keep up with exercise
  • Get plenty of sleep 
  • Stay hydrated with plenty of water
  • Cover your face when you’re in the cold to keep nasal passages from getting dry
  • Properly wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as needed
  • Avoid touching your mouth and eyes
  • Limit your interactions with those who are sick
  • Get your flu shot to prevent the flu or lessen its effects

Those with medical conditions may also be more effected by the cold. And those with arthritis or sinus conditions may feel the change in barometric pressure. Taking your medication as directed and avoiding the cold weather if possible may help.

Those without medical conditions should still bundle up like Mom taught you.

“With exposure to cold weather there is still a risk for frostbite, so dress accordingly,” said Dr. Darah.

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