The idea that cold weather can make a person sick is one of the great health myths.
Yet the cold may play a role in how people get sick and help explain why cold and flu season is associated with the winter months. If you would like to learn more about preventive flu vaccinations, or if you are suffering from cold or flu symptoms that last longer than a week and do not seem to respond to over-the-counter medications, it’s advisable to consult with your primary care doctor.
Cold Does Not Equal Colds
Numerous studies into the transmission of influenza and other viruses that cause flu-like symptoms have found that people who are cold are no more likely to get sick than those who are not; research has further indicated that colds and flus are no more likely to spread in cold weather.
In fact, you may face a greater risk of catching a cold if you tend to stay indoors where it’s warm. Winter often means closed windows, recirculated air and lots of people gathering inside. Pathogens spread more easily in these conditions.
Other Myths about the Cold and Flus
Other notable medical myths about cold weather and the flu include:
- You lose a majority of body heat through your head (heat loss can occur through any uncovered body area)
- Flu viruses only prey on weakened immune systems (even the healthiest people can fall victim to a flu or cold)
- Vitamin C and zinc can weaken or prevent the flu (while studies into each have shown certain health benefits, there is no evidence that Vitamin C or zinc taken prior to or during the flu keeps the virus at bay or reduces its effects)
- Dry, cold air leads to colds (dry nasal passages do not leave you more vulnerable to the viruses that cause colds or the flu)
- You can get the flu from a flu shot (the flu shot will not make you sick, although some people—particularly the elderly and those with existing medical conditions—may develop flu-like symptoms for a day or so after the vaccination)
- You feed a cold and starve a fever—or the other way around (what you eat while you’re sick makes no difference in the severity of duration of your cold or flu, although you should drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration)
A cliché that happens to be true when it comes to colds and the flu is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In cold and flu season, it’s especially important to regularly wash your hands, and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Also, cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze and limit contact with those who are sick. If you feel sick yourself, you can help limit the spread by staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever dissipates.
If you live in the Littleton, Colorado, area and you’re suffering from the flu or flu-like symptoms accompanied by a high fever, please contact Dr. Andy Fine online or call 303-703-8583. Dr. Fine is a board-certified internal medicine specialist and primary care physician.