5 Cold Weather Health Myths Debunked

January 08, 2014
by Michael Barber
5 Cold Weather Health Myths Debunked

When it comes to getting sick, we've all heard the adages about cold weather causing colds and flus. Here are some of the most common myths about weather-related illnesses that have been debunked.

Being out in Cold Weather Makes You Sick

It's largely believed that cold weather lowers your immune system causing you to more likely to get sick. The opposite is true, actually. Cold air makes it harder for germs to grow. So why are colds and flus more common in the winter? What's likely happening is that cold weather drives many indoors, causing you to be in tighter proximity and increasing your chances of catching germs from others.

Related: How to Catch Your Flight Without Catching a Cold

You Shouldn't Exercise in Cold Weather

Many believe running in the cold air is bad for your lungs. However, the opposite has been shown to be true. Instead, runners often have better times (maybe the cold air is a motivation to get it done quickly) and burn more calories because their body tries to keep them warm. Cold air is invigorating and heightens your senses. It's also been found that running in cold air increases the production of endorphins which makes you happy.

Related: 6 Tips for Running in the Winter

There Are No Allergies in the Winter

While pollen allergies take a break during the winter, other allergies get worse. These include mold, dust, and pets. If you have a pet that you're mildly allergic to, you might find that it increases in the winter as you keep your pet inside because of the extreme temperatures.

Mold thrives in humid areas, such as bathrooms or basements and, with your house shut up for the winter, these spores can collect in the air. Dust mites are microscopic bugs that can cause allergy symptoms through their droppings and remains. Symptoms for winter allergies can include itchy eyes and nose, sneezing, runny nose, and watery eyes.

Related: 5 Summertime Allergies to Watch Out For

Most of Your Heat Escapes Through Your Head

Everyone has heard the myth that you need to keep your head covered in winter because you lose most of your heat through your head. This is based on a study done in the 1950s by the Army. The problem with how the study was conducted was that the soldiers in the study were wearing gear on the rest of their bodies to protect against cold weather, so the head was the only place for heat to escape. Really, heat is lost the same over your whole body if it's exposed.

Related: Fire Safety Is So Hot Right Now

You Don't Need Sunscreen if It's Cold

Though it's colder in the winter, the Earth's surface is closer to the sun than in summer (though it's tilted on its axis away from the sun). This means that the suns rays are actually more harmful in the winter. Add to that white snow and clear ice that can reflect sun (up to 80 percent of the rays that hit it) and you're getting double exposure. This is why it's important to wear sunscreen on sunny or partly cloudy days when you plan to spend time outside (longer than 15 minutes). 

So run outside, wear warm clothes, and wear sunscreen to stay healthy this winter.