Each year, millions of adults and children in the United States get sick with the common cold, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC says the average child typically gets between six to 10 colds a year, while the average adult catches around two to four colds annually.
The idea that you can catch a cold from inclement weather is a popular old wives’ tale, and some people online have wondered if it’s true. VERIFY viewer David recently sent us a text asking if a person can get sick just from being out in cold or rainy weather.
Can cold or rainy weather make you sick?
- American Lung Association
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Johns Hopkins Medicine
- Mayo Clinic
- Virtua Health
- Neha Vyas, M.D., family medicine physician at Cleveland Clinic
No, cold or rainy weather cannot make you sick.
WHAT WE FOUND
Colds are minor infections of the nose and throat caused by more than 200 different viruses. The most common of those is rhinovirus, which accounts for 10 to 40 percent of colds, according to the American Lung Association.
Johns Hopkins Medicine says colds are often spread through airborne droplets that are coughed or sneezed into the air by a sick person. Colds can also be spread when a sick person touches another person or a surface, like a doorknob.
People are more likely to catch a cold during early fall to late winter due to a variety of factors, including schools being in session, staying indoors more often while in close proximity to other people, and low humidity, but Johns Hopkins explains on its website that cold weather does not cause a cold.
“Contrary to popular belief, cold weather or being chilled doesn't cause a cold,” Johns Hopkins said.
The Mayo Clinic and Virtua Health, a healthcare system based in southern New Jersey, agree with Johns Hopkins. They both call this old wives’ tale a myth.
“It’s a myth that going out in cold weather will make you sick. You can go out with a wet head and without a jacket — these things have nothing to do with catching a cold,” Virtua Health wrote on its website. “Only coming into direct contact with the cold virus can get you sick, and this only happens if you infect yourself with someone else’s secretions. This often occurs when you touch them or something they’ve touched and then touch your eyes, nose, or face before you wash your hands.”
Neha Vyas, M.D., a family physician at Cleveland Clinic, also told VERIFY there is no direct evidence to show that being outside in the cold or in the rain is going to get a person sick.
The CDC shares tips on its website on ways to help reduce the risk of catching a cold:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. Wash them for 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Viruses that cause colds can live on your hands, and regular hand washing can help protect you from getting sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Viruses that cause colds can enter your body this way and make you sick.
- Stay away from people who are sick. Sick people can spread viruses that cause the common cold through close contact with others.
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