Teach Me

Help! My Kid Insists on Wearing Shorts in the Winter.

“You’ll catch a death of cold going outside with wet hair/dressed like that!”

You’ve may have heard your mother or grandmother say this to you when you were a kid. In fact, you may have even caught yourself saying it to your child, so the truth may sting just a little. No, the truth is going outside in the cold with wet hair or summer shorts will not increase your risk of becoming ill. Sorry, mom!

“This is simply an old wives’ tale that’s been disproven,” said Carlyn Coates, a physician assistant with Banner Urgent Care. “While you may think those teenagers are crazy to wear shorts and go out with wet hair, they’re no more likely to get sick than you are sitting inside all bundled up.”

However, that shouldn’t mean you or those teenagers neglect wearing a jacket or long pants.

Coates advised checking the weather report each morning, so you aren’t at risk for hypothermia and extreme temperature frostbite.

So, is cold weather responsible at all for colds or sickness? Coates said it is, although indirectly.

“The reason that the incidence of flu and colds in the winter is higher is not because of the cold and wet weather,” she said. “It’s because these conditions drive us into more enclosed spaces, often crowded together, where it’s easier for viruses and bacteria to spread person-to-person.”

The drier air and lower humidity allow airborne cold-causing viruses to travel farther and stay viable longer. Low humidity also dries out nasal membranes. These membranes need moisture to effectively prevent the viruses from taking root on the membranes, multiplying and causing infection. Coates offered these five tips to maintain good hygiene during the winter months to reduce your risk of “catching a death of a cold.”

Cold Weather Hygiene Tips

  1. Use proper handwashing and hand sanitizer
  2. Cover your sneezes and coughs with your elbow (a.k.a. the vampire sneeze/cough)
  3. Get your flu shot
  4. Maintain healthy eating and regular exercise
  5. Don’t touch your face (it can increase your risk for respiratory infections)

If you think you may be getting sick, schedule an appointment with a Banner Health medical professional. To find a location near you, visit bannerhealth.com.

Children's Health Wellness Cold and Flu