Each year, millions of adults and children in the United States get sick with the common cold, especially during the fall and winter.
Many people believe that it’s possible to catch a cold from inclement weather, like being out in frigid or rainy weather without a coat on. Others think you can cure a cold by “sweating it out,” while some people claim gargling salt water can fix a sore throat.
But are any of these common cold beliefs true? VERIFY asked health experts to weigh in.
Can cold or rainy weather make you sick?
No, cold or rainy weather cannot make you sick.
WHAT WE FOUND
Colds are minor infections of the nose and throat that are typically spread through airborne droplets that are coughed or sneezed into the air by a sick person. They can also spread when a sick person touches another person or a surface, like a doorknob.
People are more likely to catch a cold during early fall to late winter due to a variety of factors, including schools being in session, staying indoors more often while in close proximity to other people and low humidity. But Johns Hopkins Medicine explains on its website that cold weather on its own does not cause a cold.
“Contrary to popular belief, cold weather or being chilled doesn't cause a cold,” Johns Hopkins says.
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“It’s a myth that going out in cold weather will make you sick. You can go out with a wet head and without a jacket — these things have nothing to do with catching a cold,” Virtua Health says on its website.
People can reduce the risk of catching a cold by washing their hands often with soap and water, avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, and staying away from people who are sick.
Can you cure a cold by “sweating it out?”
No, you can’t cure a cold by “sweating it out.”
WHAT WE FOUND
Cold symptoms typically appear around two to three days after the virus has entered a person’s system. Most colds last from several days to several weeks.
When a person is fighting off a virus like the common cold, their body temperature may increase slightly, causing them to sweat. But too much sweating can cause dehydration, which could make it harder for a person with a cold to get better, according to Panagis Galiatsatos, M.D., an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
“Sweating out is an energy-efficient manner to dealing with an elevated body temperature. That's it. If it relieves symptoms, sure — nothing wrong with feeling a little bit better during a time where you feel bad,” Galiatsatos told VERIFY. “My bigger concern is you're pushing yourself more to dehydration because that sweat is not the virus. It's just literally your hydration.”
Galiatsatos says staying hydrated is one of the best ways a person can fight off just about any infection, including the common cold.
To stay hydrated while fighting a cold, health experts recommend drinking warm liquids, like tea or warm water with lemon or broth, which prevent dehydration and ease congestion.
Does gargling salt water cure a sore throat?
No, gargling salt water doesn’t cure a sore throat, but it may help relieve the pain.
WHAT WE FOUND
A sore throat is usually caused by an infection like the common cold, the flu or strep throat. Sore throats caused by viral infections typically last about five to seven days, and eventually go away on their own.
Gargling salt water isn’t a cure for a sore throat — only time can do that. But gargling the mixture can help soothe sore throat pain, kill bacteria in the back of the throat and help loosen mucus, according to Penn Medicine.
To create the mixture, the Mayo Clinic suggests mixing eight ounces of warm water with a half-teaspoon of salt before gargling it.
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Cole Beeler, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical medicine at Indiana University, says people have historically gargled salt water to relieve sore throat symptoms.
“Most of these are passed down from generation, to generation, to generation, and it's just kind of what people have done for symptom relief,” Beeler told VERIFY.
If a fever, chills, difficulty swallowing, or the inability to drink fluids accompany your sore throat, Penn Medicine says you should schedule an appointment with your doctor or healthcare provider because these could be a sign of a more serious illness.
Do you have a cold myth you want the VERIFY team to fact-check? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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