GREENSBORO, N.C. — True or false? You can catch a cold by not dressing warmly enough. The short answer: is false. Consumer Reports puts the myth to bed once and for all, but explains why it still might be a good idea to listen to your mom and add on the layers when it’s chilly outside.
How many times have you heard this: “Put a jacket on or you’ll catch a cold!” The truth is you cannot catch a cold by exposure to the elements. Being cold won’t make you sick. Viruses will—by causing respiratory tract infections.
In fact, there are more than 200 viruses that can cause a cold. And any one of them can be more likely to spread in winter as people spend more time indoors. They do this by increasing exposure to germs transmitted through air or contact with infected surfaces and eventually making it into your nose, mouth, or eyes.
Mucus in the nose also plays an important part. It helps trap bacteria we breathe in before they can cause an infection. But low humidity in heated environments can cause the lining in our noses to get dry, making it easier for germs to invade the body.
The easy remedy: Consider using a humidifier to moisten the air. Babymoov, Honeywell, and Levoit models earn top marks in Consumer Reports tests and cost between $55 and $100.
And what about our immune systems? Turns out there may be an indirect link between cold weather and catching a cold because our immune systems function best when our body temperature is well-regulated.
The fix? Bundling up, after all! It can help ensure proper temperature balance for peak immunity.
Consumer Reports says frequent handwashing, avoiding contact with sick people, and wearing a mask can help prevent colds. And while there is still no cure, if you do catch one, rest, drink plenty of fluids, and ask your doctor about any over-the-counter remedies to bring relief.