5 cold weather health myths debunked

Preventive Care

by Cherese Wiley, MD

Jan 26, 2017

Temperatures have been dropping again in North Texas, which could mean a rise in weather-related health problems. The best way to avoid illness is to get educated. Here’s the truth behind five common cold-weather health misconceptions:

Myth: The cold air can make you sick.

Even though it’s called a “cold,” cooler temperatures do not make you sick.

Colds are caused by viruses, most commonly the rhinovirus. During winter months, people spend more time inside and in close contact with each other, especially during the holidays. This means that the flu, coughs, and colds are more easily spread. Cold weather also makes nasal passages dry, which can affect the nose’s ability to filter infections. The best ways to protect yourself are to get a flu shot and wash your hands frequently.

Myth: You should feed a cold and starve a fever.

Actually, you should feed both. Your body needs the energy to fight off illness. Proper nutrition, and even more importantly, proper hydration are key to getting well again.

Myth: Allergies disappear during the winter months.

It depends on what triggers your allergies.

While outdoor allergies usually improve, indoor triggers like pet dander, mold and mildew, and dust can actually be worse during the winter. The best way to treat indoor allergies is to avoid your triggers. If you’re not sure what they are, your doctor can test you.

Myth: Cold weather doesn’t increase your heart attack risk.

Actually, cold weather can affect your heart, especially if you have heart disease. It can cause blood vessels to constrict, which can raise blood pressure. Cold weather also causes your heart to work harder to keep your body warm.

Make sure to wear plenty of layers to keep warm, and if you have heart disease, don’t overexert yourself.

Myth: The flu shot gives you the flu.

It’s not possible to get the flu from the flu shot. Vaccines in flu shots use killed viruses so that they’re inactive and noninfectious. Some people develop mild body aches, fatigue, muscle pain and a low fever, but it’s rare and it’s not due to flu. The most common side effect is a sore arm.

About the Author

Cherese Wiley, MD, is an internal medicine physician on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.

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