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Cold Weather Myths

Winter may be the season to be jolly, but for many people, it’s also the season for getting sick. Is it really because of the weather, or is there another explanation? Bill Stamps talked with local physicians to get the answer.



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If you’re mother ever told you to put on a coat before going outside or you’ll catch a cold. It turns out your mother was wrong. If she ever told you to put on a raincoat or you’ll get wet and catch a cold, she was wrong about that too.

“That is not true. Colds are usually caused by viruses that are spread in the air, by coughing or sneezing or coming in contact with someone’s hands who has coughed and sneezed. It has nothing to do with the cold.”

Karen Hill is a pediatrician with a private practice in Houston. She says the cold and flu have nothing to do with weather; although, it may seem like people get sick more during the winter months.

“There is some trend for people getting viruses and colds in the winter months, so it may be associated with having the symptoms during with winter like you don’t see flu typically during the summer. I’m not going to say that you never see it in the summer, but it’s more common in the winter months.”

For moms worried about their children or babies being exposed to the cold, doctors say age is not important. Evelyn Henry is health director for the Houston Independent School District. She says there’s no reason for kids not to play outside during the winter.

“We think they need to run and play and those things are important in preventing colds and being in good health. Of course hand washing. They need to be outside, but they need to be bundled up and protected “

Having the right clothes on is what’s most important, says Henry. But even being underdressed won’t necessarily make you sick.

“There’s no research that shows that being outside in short sleeves in 50 degrees would make one more prone to getting a cold.”

So how did our grandmothers get all this misinformation? One source could be an 18th century book written by William Buchanon, which told readers wet feet and clothes made them sick. Doctors also believe more people actually do catch the cold when it is cold, because people tend to stay indoors and close the windows. This allows the virus to flourish and transfer from one person to another.

So while going out in the rain without an umbrella or going out in the cold without a coat may not be the smartest thing to do, medically speaking, there’s nothing to worry about whether it’s a child or adult. This is Dr. Hill.

“I do have to chuckle. I’ve been in Houston for 18 years, but I came from Ohio and when people get upset and want to bring their dogs in because it gets cold, I think about how many times we went out in the snow as a kid and my dog lived outside and it gets much colder there than it does here. So the biggest thing is use common sense. There’s no reason they can’t go out, just make sure they’re adequately dressed.”

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