MedicalMythMonday: Can Cold Weather Get You Sick?

MedicalMythMonday investigates common myths about the human body and determines if they are true or false. Today, we answer the question: Does cold weather cause you to become sick?

Answer: False, but cold weather can increase your chances of contracting the viruses that lead to the common cold and influenza.

Although the common cold is caused by many viruses, the most common is the rhinovirus while the flu is caused by the influenza virus. Both viruses can spread through:

  • Person-to-person contact
  • Inhaling small droplets made by coughing or sneezing that spread in the air

A cold and the flu are caused by viruses but the cold environment around you can influence how likely you are to get sick. The winter can lead to:

  • Dry weather. Dry air allows the flu virus to survive and transmit itself while becoming more active and resilient.
  • Close encounters with those who are infected due to being indoors.
  • Reduced vitamin D levels due to lack of sunlight exposure. Lower vitamin D levels can lead to a decrease in your immune response.
  • Increased spread of rhinovirus. Rhinovirus spreads faster in cooler temperatures.


  • Take vitamin D supplements
  • Wear a mask to reduce the spread of aerosol droplets
  • Wash your hands often, especially before eating
  • Sneeze or cough into a clean tissue or into your elbow. Avoid coughing/sneezing into your hands directly.
  • Stay hydrated
  • Do not share food, drinks, or utensils with someone who exhibits symptoms of illness