Is it just a myth or can cold weather cause a cough?

The cold air is sometimes responsible for the common cold, but could it cause a cough too?
The cold air is sometimes responsible for the common cold, but could it cause a cough too?

Cold air, wind and water have long been believed to lie behind catching a cold.

A previous Health24 article cites a 2017 study arguing that cold weather can actually cause a cold, proving there is some truth to this "old wives tale". The reason is that viruses replicate faster and more efficiently in colder conditions.

Winter might be coming to a close, but the cold and flu season isn’t over just yet. And with the cold weather often comes a mild, hacking cough that can become more severe. But how can simply being outside in the cold and breathing in the crisp air lead to a cough?

Dr Graeme Thompson told ABC Health & Wellbeing that cold air can exacerbate an existing cough – especially if you have a respiratory infection such as pneumonia or bronchitis. It is, however, unlikely that it can cause it. Chances of this happening are more likely if you live in regions where temperatures drop really low, such as Canada and Siberia.

Coughing at night

If you’re already battling with a cough, it may worsen at night. This is because we normally expel mucus from our airways through coughing, but when we’re asleep, we aren’t coughing, explains this Health24 article. This allows mucus to build up. There are ways to loosen the mucus trapped in your airways though, which includes being physically active and moving around.

Check out our list of the five distinct types of cough that can be either acute or chronic. If your cough persists for more than three weeks, it's best to see your doctor as it may be a sign of something more serious. 

Image: iStock

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.