LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – It’s that old wives tale we always hear when the weather turns, “You’ll catch your death of cold!”

In other words, if you go outside when it's cold or wet, you'll get sick. So, is it true or false? 11Alive set out to verify it.


Does cold, wet weather make you sick?


When cold weather sets in, it's common sense to bundle up tight and cover those ears, hands and arms. But, is it really true you have a greater susceptibility to catching a cold when it's cold, say 40 degrees versus 80 degrees outside?

11Alive's news partners KTHV in Little Rock spoke to a University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences doctor, along with several studies as their sources.

"There's a bit of controversy in the scientific literature about that issue," said Dr. Robert Hopkins, physician of internal medicine at UAMS.

"There are a number of studies that show that when the weather is cold and dry, the air is dry, that we may get more respiratory infections, including colds and even influenza, than when the weather is warmer or there's higher humidity," Hopkins continued.

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Hopkins said while the cold weather doesn’t make you sick and germs do, research suggests that cold weather does create a condition that helps those germs survive. He pointed to a study after study to verify.

Publications include Smithsonian Magazine, Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal among other medical studies that all come to the same conclusion. That conclusion is cold temperatures and low relative humidity are favorable to the spread of the flu. And rhinoviruses, which are the most common cause of colds.

But what is the science behind your immune system dropping when it is so cold?

According to Hopkins, "There are multiple different barriers our body puts up to infections. One is that we have linings in our moist parts of our body – our nose and our mouth. When it gets cold and dry the cells shrink, you may open up the gaps a little bit more between the cells, and you may be able to get more of these viruses through those barriers."

So, since it is flu season, wash your hands, Hopkins said.

"If you've got a cough or sneeze, as my daughter would say, 'Dab!' And get your flu shot,” he added.


So, after going to the experts, we can conclude that you are more likely to get a cold when it gets cold.


Dr. Robert Hopkins, physician of internal medicine at UAMS

Smithsonian Magazine

Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal

Influenza virus transmission is dependent on relative humidity and temperature


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