Does Cold Weather Cause Colds?

It’s a question that parents have struggled with for years: Does cold weather cause colds? While conventional wisdom preached that cold weather and sniffles go hand-in-hand, there’s no link between chilly temperatures and the onset of a cold.

While your mother may have cautioned you about the cold-season dangers of exposure to winter weather, there’s little evidence to support this folk wisdom. Colds are caused by rhinoviruses, which spread like other pathogens – contact with infected people or bodily fluids – and don’t thrive in cold air.

In fact, exposure to cold weather is actually shown to boost infection-fighting white blood cells. Low temperatures stress kids’ bodies out slightly, causing a natural surge in immune system function. Want healthy kids in the winter? Let them play (bundled up, of course) in the snow!

So why the spike in colds during colder months? It’s largely a behavioral issue. Colorado’s air is dry, and homes that use forced-air heat are typically even worse. Viruses are shown to thrive in dry air. With heating systems pumping that warm, dry air through buildings, the bugs that cause the common cold circulate well.

So what do parents do to stay ahead of cold season? Basic infection-control. Wash hands frequently, especially after returning from trips to public spaces. Teach children to sneeze and cough into their elbow to avoid transmitting germs through the air or on their hands.

Cold weather may not cause colds, but it’s certainly the root of many temperature-related sicknesses. Watch out for frostbite and hypothermia when children play outside. Dress children in layers, with insulating materials like cotton or wool under water-resistant outer layers to protect them against cold-related illnesses.

Northern Colorado can be magnificent in the winter! Let your children enjoy its splendor without any guilt that cold weather causes colds.