Is It Actually Easier to Catch a Cold or Flu during Winter?

Woman coughing

Does winter or being out in the cold actually make it easier to catch a cold or the flu?

CNN breaks down this commonly repeated theory with Libby Richards, an associate professor of nursing at Purdue University, who notes the saying, "Don't go outside without a coat; you'll catch a cold," is not exactly true.

She explains being cold, or being out in cold weather, is not why someone catches a cold but says cold weather creates conditions where it is easier to get sick. The professor explains viruses, like rhinovirus and influenza, replicate and remain infectious for longer periods of time when it is cold, which is why they can spread more easily during the winter months. But, she notes bundling up and wearing a winter coat won't make a difference.

When it comes to the flu, cold weather alters the outer membrane of the influenza virus, making it rubbery and more solid, which some scientists believe makes transmission easier. She also explains dry air may also cause the influenza virus to be infectious for longer periods of time, and when someone inhales cold air it may adversely affect one's immune response in the respiratory tract.

Additional reasons why more people get sick during the winter include: getting less sunlight (which is linked to vitamin D), getting less exercise, and being inside and having more close contact with others who may be sick.

Are you feeling under the weather? Find out to determine if it's a cold, allergies, or possibly COVID? 

*As always, seek medical attention or speak with your doctor if you are experiencing concerning cold, flu, or COVID-related symptoms or issues. 

Watch: Is it Possible to Get COVID and the Flu at the Same Time?

Watch: How to Avoid Getting COVID and the Flu This Winter

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