The temperature outside may be dropping rapidly but that doesn’t mean venturing outdoors will cause you to catch a cold. Isabel Valdez, a physician assistant and instructor of general internal medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said a virus like the common cold spreads through what we breathe in – not because of the weather. 

“Because it’s cold outside a lot of people tend to stay indoors in close proximity with other people, and we can breathe in any germs that they might have; these germs are airborne and easily get into our sinuses and lungs when we breathe them in,” Valdez said.  

While the weather changing does not necessarily make you sick, Valdez adds it can worsen medical conditions people already have. People who suffer from chronic breathing conditions like asthma or COPD are more at risk for getting sick, she said. These patients can lessen their risks of getting sick by taking their medications as recommended by their doctors.

Some other weather-related myths about catching the common cold that are also not true, according to Valdez:

  • Going outside with wet hair.
  • Going outside barefoot.
  • Forgetting to cover your neck when the temperature drops.

Prevention

The best way to prevent catching a cold whether you are inside or outdoors is through proper hygiene and rest:  

  • Wash your hands frequently, especially after you cough or blow your nose.
  • Use a tissue to blow your nose or cover a cough. Make sure to toss the tissue after one use – do not keep reusing it.
  • Cover your mouth with your elbow or hand when you cough.
  • Get plenty of sleep to help prevent and treat the virus. Studies have shown that getting an adequate amount of sleep lessens your chances of getting sick, Valdez said.

Treatments

If you happen to get sick there are a few over-the-counter and at-home remedies Valdez recommends:

  • Drink plenty of fluids and stay hydrated by drinking water or eating soup and broth. Avoid fluids that can dehydrate you such as caffeinated soda drinks, coffee or alcohol.
  • Use over-the-counter Zinc lozenges or syrup to help reduce the length of a virus or cold as soon as you start having symptoms
  • Drink hot herbal tea or gargle salt water to ease a sore throat.
  • Make sure to rest by avoiding strenuous exercise or activities so your energy goes into fighting the illness.

When to see a doctor:

  • A high fever that lasts more than one or two days.
  • A cough that lasts more than two weeks.
  • A sore throat that makes it difficult to swallow or eat.