Can I catch Covid-19 if I get too cold?

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
To get sick, though, you still must be exposed to a germ
To get sick, though, you still must be exposed to a germ

Parent24 is republishing Curious Kids, a series for children, with permission under a Creative Commons license.

Will I get sick if I go out in the cold without a jacket? – Ben P., age 4, South Orange, New Jersey

The answer to this question is: “It depends.”

Cold weather does not get you sick. Feeling chilly because you’re not bundled up does not get you sick.

But being cold – like when you’re outside in wintry weather wearing just a thin shirt – can actually weaken your body and make it easier for you to get sick. Researchers have shown that cold temperatures weaken your immune system and thus your ability to fight off infections. In fact, the longer time you spend in the cold, the higher your risk of actually getting sick.

To get sick, though, you still must be exposed to a germ. So it’s key to avoid coming into contact with germs as well. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done.

Microscopic bacteria and viruses are all around, ready to invade your body’s cells and make you sick. Kateryna Kon/

There are over 200 viruses that can cause a cold. These viruses are all around us. In the wintertime, people often stay indoors and are closer together in general, which encourages the spread of viruses.

One called rhinovirus is responsible for around a third of the cases of runny noses and congestion, but can also cause more serious lung diseases. There’s another group of germs, called human coronaviruses, that can make you sick. The new virus named 2019-nCoV is one of these.

The cold, dry weather does play a role in winter sniffles, because it can strengthen these virus invaders. For example, viruses survive longer and multiply faster in the cooler regions of your nasal passages.

Cooler temperatures also tend to weaken your body’s antiviral immune responses. In fact, a fever helps your body warm up and invigorates your immune system cells to fight infection.

An uncovered sneeze blasts germs into the air for other people to breathe in. CDC/Brian Judd, CC BY

Viruses live in the environment all around you. They’re on surfaces such as doorknobs. They’re in the air after someone sneezes. The most common way to expose yourself to these germs is by inhaling virus-filled air or touching your eyes or nose with dirty hands.

The best way to avoid catching a cold is to wash your hands as often as possible, avoid anyone who is clearly sick and keep your immune system strong. Tips for boosting your body’s immune power include eating a well-balanced diet, having a healthy sleep routine, balancing stress with enjoyable activities and keeping warm to minimize susceptibility to infection. Don’t forget vaccines are available to help keep you from getting sick with certain viruses, including influenza.

If you do catch a cold, it is best to rest, drink plenty of water and contact your doctor for any worsening symptoms. And if you go outside in the cold, be sure to bundle up and try to stay warm.

Hello, curious kids! Do you have a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to Please tell us your name, age and the city where you live.

And since curiosity has no age limit – adults, let us know what you’re wondering, too. We won’t be able to answer every question, but we will do our best.The Conversation

Carolyn Kaloostian, Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine, University of Southern California

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Share your stories and questions with us via email at chatback @ Anonymous contributions are welcome.

Don't miss a story!

For a weekly wrap of our latest parenting news and advice, sign up to our Friday Parent24 newsletter.

Follow us, and chat, on Facebook and Twitter

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
Voting Booth
A Section 89 panel headed by former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo found President Cyril Ramaphosa has an impeachable case to answer on the Phala Phala scandal.
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Ramaphosa should do the honourable thing and immediately resign.
24% - 743 votes
Ramaphosa should follow due process and submit himself to an impeachment hearing.
31% - 943 votes
Ramaphosa should fight the findings in court and keep his job at all costs
44% - 1350 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

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