Can You Catch a Cold By Going Outside with Wet Hair?
November 17, 2021
At some point, someone has probably warned you of the dangers of venturing outside with wet hair in the winter.
While this advice has been around for decades, is there any truth behind it?
What the Research Shows
It makes sense: Your hair is wet, which can make you cold. Couple that with being outside in chilly temps temperatures and it stands to reason you will feel colder. But does feeling cold mean you’re more susceptible to viruses and bacteria?
Scientists in England found that being chilled does not increase the possibility of catching a cold. If the cold virus is already in your body, however, being chilled can cause the onset of symptoms, the researchers found.
In fact, colds are caused by viruses, most commonly by rhinoviruses, says UH primary care physician Brittany Behm, DO.
You catch a cold when you breathe in airborne droplets that are coughed or sneezed into the air by someone who is sick, Dr. Behm says. Colds also can be spread when a sick person touches you or a surface (like a doorknob) that you then touch and then touch your eyes or inside your mouth or eyes.
These viruses cause inflammation of the membranes that line the nose and throat, resulting in symptoms such as a stuffy or runny nose, a scratchy, tickly or sore throat, sneezing or a cough, she says.
“I see a lot of colds in my practice, starting in the early fall and throughout winter,” Dr. Behm says. “Colds are a leading reason for visits to the doctor’s office. They also are the No. 1 reason for absences from school and work.”
Effective Ways To Avoid a Cold
The best way to avoid catching a cold is to wash your hands often and stay away from people who have colds, Dr. Behm says. She advises washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating or after contact with other people.
Dr. Behm also recommends exercise as a way to avoid getting sick. “Regular exercise of 150 minutes of moderate activity per week or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise per week keeps our immune system strong to help fight off viruses,” she says.
Getting good sleep and keeping stress levels low also can help to stave off illnesses such as colds. “The average adult needs at least seven to nine hours of sleep per night to keep our immune system strong,” she says. “In addition, chronically high levels of stress hormones called cortisol weaken our immune system, making us more susceptible to viruses.”
And finally, if you smoke, stop; and if you don’t smoke, don’t start.
“While many of the health recommendations we receive from family and friends have proven benefits, many more are just myths,” Dr. Behm says. “If you have questions about any health recommendations, talk with your doctor.”
At University Hospitals, we believe having a primary care provider is essential to your health and well-being. Our primary care physicians and nurse practitioners provide comprehensive, compassionate and continuous primary care for patients of all ages. We are committed to building a healthy relationship with you and your family to detect and minimize long-term health issues, or just help you get over that illness that's going around. Need a primary care provider? Find one here.