Good to Know: Cold Weather Won't Make You Sick This Winter, But This Might


(Image credit: @taylor_hill)

This time of year, carols of coughing and sneezing get more airplay than "White Christmas" and that one little song by Mariah Carey. Beautifully harmonized, may we add, by that soul-sucking sound of mucus-drenched sniffles and hacked-up phlegm. (Did we just make you lose your appetite for sugar cookies? Our sincerest apologies.) The point: While wintertime invites a deluge of merriment accented by all things cozy and comforting, it also brings tidings of sickness and all-around cruddiness—an annoying and ill-timed combination to say the least. (I'll never forget the one year I was so sick over Thanksgiving I couldn't eat anything. I still feel cheated.)

But what exactly is it that makes wintertime the prime time for catching whatever it is circling your (or your loved ones') office? Many just as soon correlate the bone-dry, chilly temperatures with the cold-and-flu season, but as it turns out, colder temperatures, independently speaking, have absolutely nothing to do with the tickle in your throat. Thrown? We were too until we asked Mia Finkelston, a board-certified family physician who treats patients via LiveHealth Online, to decode the prevalence of wintertime sickness. Does cold weather actually make you sick? We investigate what you need to know below. Keep scrolling.

So Why Is Everyone Sick Right Now?

As we said, cold temperatures alone don't precipitate sickness, but what we collectively do as a human race in reaction to shiver-inducing temperatures does. For instance, while we're all for winter sporting, we tend to huddle indoors and share close quarters far more often this time of year than we do in the summertime. Thus, we're far more likely to be exposed to other people's germs. (Because yes, germs are what make you sick, folks.)

"If you are sick, stay home from work and away from public places," Finkelston advises. "Also, if you are well, avoid sick people! You're not being rude; you're being cautious. You may also be using more public transportation this time of year to travel for the holidays, and airplanes, buses, and trains are often covered with other peoples' germs."

That said, unlike us, certain viruses love the cold and actually thrive in cooler temperatures. Therefore, we quickly become more susceptible to strains of sickness we wouldn't be exposed to sans frigid environment.

"It is important to remember that germs are what cause sickness, not cold weather. However,

rhinoviruses, which cause common colds and influenza viruses (which cause the flu), tend to thrive in colder temperatures," explains Finkelston. For this reason, we might be more likely to get sick in the wintertime, and there is some additional evidence, she tells us, correlating colder temperatures with weakened immune systems, which, you guessed it, increases our chances of catching germs.

Tips to Beat Wintertime Sickness

Sometimes getting sick is inevitable and even being on your best, most vigilant behavior results in a solid three-day quarantine of bed, hot tea, pho, and Friends. But according to Finkelston (and as your mom probably extolled over and over again when you were younger), certain habits will bolster your immune system and lessen that aforementioned likelihood of a tea-cushioned Friends binge (not that that necessarily sounds bad though).

"As is the case in preventing most diseases, focus on your core health habits to make winter a 'well' season," Finkelston says. Keep scrolling for the doc-approved tips and practices she suggests for keeping wintertime sickness at bay this season.

1. Prioritize Sleep

2. Don't Neglect Your Workouts

3. Load Up on Healthy and Vibrant Foods

4. Gargle Every Day

5. Flood Yourself With Antioxidants and Immune Boosters

6. Try Vitamin D


This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions.

Beauty Director

Erin has been writing a mix of beauty and wellness content for Who What Wear for over four years. Prior to that, she spent two and half years writing for Byrdie. She now calls Santa Monica home but grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and studied writing, rhetoric, and communication at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. She studied abroad in Galway, Ireland, and spent a summer in L.A. interning with the Byrdie and Who What Wear family. After graduating from UW, she spent one year in San Francisco, where she worked as a writer for Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen before moving down to L.A. to begin her career as a beauty editor. She considers her day-to-day beauty aesthetic very low-maintenance and relies on staples like clear brow serum (from Kimiko!), Lawless's Lip Plumping Mask in Cherry Vanilla, and an eyelash curler. For special occasions or days when she's taking more meetings or has an event, she'll wear anything and everything from Charlotte Tilbury (the foundations are game-changing), some shimmer on her lids (Stila and Róen do it best), and a few coats of the best mascara-type product on earth, Surratt's Noir Lash Tint.