[FACT OR FAKE #42] Can The Cold Weather Actually Make You Fall Sick?

Will you really catch a cold if it’s cold outside? The correlation between cold and sickness does stick out, but perhaps for reasons you wouldn't expect.

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You've probably heard your parents tell you a hundred times never to leave the house without a hat, scarf and gloves during the winter, but do cold temperatures actually make us sick?

Not dressing warmly enough is often blamed as the cause of catching a cold.
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It's a common perception that when the weather gets colder, we tend to get sick more. This is why we bundle up in warm clothes before facing the elements: We want to protect ourselves against frigid weather because we don't want to catch colds.

So, how much of this belief that being physically cold triggers the onset of common cold symptoms is FACT and how much is FAKE?

According to studies, colds and the flu are caused by viruses, and if you stay indoors all winter, you have a higher risk of catching a cold

So, if you surround yourself indoors with people who are already sick, it's more likely that pathogens of the virus will spread to you.
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It's not necessarily the cold itself that gets you sick; it's all the different aspects of winter weather as a whole (dryness, lack of sunlight, etc.) that combine to make the perfect storm of prime cold conditions. However, that doesn't mean a drop temperature doesn't contribute at all.

FACT: Cold weather does not cause colds

Strictly speaking, this is bogus. Viruses cause colds, and those viruses typically belong to a class of infectious agents known as rhinoviruses.
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According to Segal-Maurer, it isn't actually the cold weather that causes the common cold, it's what we do when it gets cold out. "When the weather turns cold," she says, "we all run indoors, where air is recycled and we're often in close quarters with other people and viruses. We all sneeze on top of each other."
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"Dry and cold conditions are probably more high-risk situations for viruses because of dry mucosa," adds Segal-Maurer. The mucosa, she says, is what lines your trachea, the back of your throat and your sinuses. Viruses invade the mucosa and start growing, causing your cold.

The common cold isn't just one type of virus: When you say "I've got a cold," that could mean you have one of many bugs

"There are a variety of different cold viruses," says Currie, "... so it makes sense that there is no one therapy to treat a cold."

The strength of our own immune system also plays a big part in how susceptible we are to colds, and how severe they might be. "The extremes are the young babies, the older adults, those with underlying medical conditions," explains Segal-Maurer.

Artists' concept of the rhinovirus which causes the common cold

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"But even those who take low-dose steroids -- those people don't make as many antibodies, and the cells that are supposed to fight infection are not as well equipped to do that. So when they do get a cold, it's more severe. We're all susceptible, but what may be a 24-hour cold for me may be a week (of illness] for somebody else."

Check out this science video that very simply explains the causes behind getting cold:

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