Now that it’s winter more and more people seem to be catching colds and flu. Is it just coincidence or does continued exposure to cold weather make you sick? We look at some common myths and break down why people actually get sick in winter.
As a child, you might have grown up with your parents saying something along the lines of: “don’t stay out in the cold too long, you’ll get sick.” The truth is that cold weather alone does not make anyone ill. In fact, training in the cold has been shown to boost one’s health.
According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, regular cold-weather training could cut your risk of contracting flu by 20-30%. However, if you have conditions such as asthma or heart problems, you must consult with your doctor before heading out to exercise in the cold.
Why do more people get sick in winter?
- Some viruses may survive and reproduce easier in cold, dry air.
- We tend to spend more time indoors in enclosed environments. Viruses spread more easily in closed quarters.
Due to these two factors, there is an uptick in winter infections, but the truth is that colds and flu and can be caught any time of the year.
Real risks of cold temperatures on health
Frostbite is most common on exposed skin, such as your cheeks, nose and ears. It can also occur on hands and feet. Early warning signs include numbness, loss of feeling or a stinging sensation. Immediately get out of the cold and slowly warm up the area. Call your doctor if numbness persists.
When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Thus exercising in cold, rainy weather increases the risk of hypothermia. Senior citizens and young children are the greatest risk. Symptoms include intense shivering, slurred speech, dizziness or loss of coordination and fatigue. Seek emergency help immediately if hypothermia is suspected.