Can the cold alone make you sick? Doctor explains more on old wives tale

ByElyse Smith KTRK logo
Tuesday, October 31, 2023
Can cold weather make you sick? Here's what we found
Is there a correlation between cold weather and being sick? A Houston doctor says we might see more people sick during the colder months, but it's hard to make a connection.

HOUSTON, Texas -- You've probably heard it before from your family or friends, to be careful in the cold so you don't get sick. But is that true? Can cold temperatures alone actually make you sick?

Tuesday afternoon, ABC13 Meteorologist Elyse Smith spoke to Dr. Ashley Okotie-Eboh, a family physician with Memorial Hermann Family Medicine at Greater Heights Convenient Care Center, to de-bunk this old wives tale. It turns out the cold itself can't make you sick, but there's more to the story.

Dr. Okotie-Eboh described how, during the winter months, with the lack of sunlight and cold temperatures, we spend more time indoors. This means we're not getting as much vitamin D from the sun and are around others who could spread infections. Those are just two factors that could impact your immune system and make you more prone to getting a common cold.

"A common one is called rhinovirus," Dr. Okotie-Eboh said. "We think about it because rhinos have a very big horn on their nose. It loves the temperature inside the nose because the nose is a little bit colder than your central body temperature. And that might be a reason why we see more cold infections during the colder months. But it's hard to make a direct correlation."

And it turns out that the speed at which it cools down outside could increase your chance of getting sick.

Dr. Okotie-Eboh referenced a study where patients stepped out into a very cold, air-conditioned environment that was just five degrees lower than the surrounding environment.

"And when they did that, they noticed that their symptoms came on a lot faster than when they were introduced gradually to that environment," Dr. Okotie-Eboh said.

So, the speed at which temperatures drop can have an impact on if you're more prone to catching a cold.

To that point, Houston recently experienced over a 40-degree temperature drop from Sunday to Monday, so it's a time like this when we might need to take a little extra care to prevent us from getting sick.

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