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Medical myths: Being cold or wet makes you ill

Medical myths: Being cold or wet makes you ill

Know your medical facts from myths? There are a lot of old wives' tales out there. But where do they come from and what is the truth? This week, will being cold make you ill?

What's the truth?

"You'll catch your death of cold." This is such a common phrase to say to people who aren't wearing enough clothes, or are about to go out in the rain, that it surprises many doctors—let alone members of the general public—to learn it isn't actually true. While your mother might swear by it, there's no evidence to back it up.

Over the years scientists have done various experiments to test the theory. In one of them, the researchers exposed people to the cold virus and then made some of the volunteers cold to see if more of them became unwell. There was no difference in illness rates between those who'd been kept warm and those who hadn't.


Where did the myth come from?

Can you get a cold from being cold?

It's true that there's an 80 per cent increase in the risk of contracting a cold during the winter months—and given that you're more likely to be cold or wet at that time of year, the idea that this is the cause seems to make sense.

The increase, however, is thought to be down to the fact that we tend to stay indoors more and open our windows less, greatly raising the chance of coming into contact with the cold virus.


So there's nothing to worry about?

While a cold isn't nice, you can rest assured that skinny-dipping in a frozen pond wasn't responsible—whatever your mum might say.