Hibernating? Cold Weather Won’t Hurt You

It isn’t necessary to stay indoors to stay healthy during cold weather. In fact, there’s no definite link between icy air and getting sick–even when you haven’t bundled up enough.

Rather, since we tend to stay indoors during cold weather, that means more disease-causing microbes are inside, too. Coming into contact with more of these germs might increase the risk of getting sick.

Some evidence suggests that certain cold and flu viruses can flourish in low indoor humidity. A bigger predictor for cold and flu season, though, may be how many people you’re exposed to. For instance, large increases in cold and flu cases happen during back-to-school time in September. The weather isn’t necessarily cold then (especially in the metropolitan New York area). But gathering more people together in one place—classrooms, for example–means more exposure to the germs they all carry. Disease spikes tend to drop around the December holidays when people flock to winter breaks but pick up again shortly after for the same reason.

Don’t Give Cold Weather the Cold Shoulder

Researchers have yet to discover exactly how outbreaks of colds and the flu happen. In the meantime, reduce your risk all year round by washing your hands regularly with soap and water, especially before and after mealtime and using a restroom.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that cold and flu viruses can live from two to eight hours on everyday surfaces like a kitchen counter, a computer keyboard, a doorknob, a phone—you name it. You may not think the doorknob or faucet handle you touched 15 minutes earlier is where you pick up germs, but that’s how it tends to happen.

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