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The Myths and Truths About Colds

Think you picked up that cold because you walked outside with wet hair? Think again.

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The Myths and Truths About Colds

Achoo! Cold and flu season is officially here. There are a whopping one billion colds in the United States each year (so basically, plan on getting more than one).

But what causes colds and helps you get over a bad case of the sniffles is surrounded by myths and misinformation.

Get the truth about what makes you sick—and how to fight off the common cold

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Myth or Truth: You can catch a cold by walking outside with wet hair.

Myth. Sorry, Mom, but dashing out of the house with a wet head doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to catch a cold. “It’s a great old wives’ tale,” says Beth Ricanati, M.D., YouBeauty Wellness Advisor and medical director of the Lifestyle 180 program at the Cleveland Clinic.

So how do you pick one up? “You get sick by acquiring one of over 200 viruses, usually into your upper respiratory tract, when your immune system is not capable of managing the virus,” explains James Nicolai, M.D., YouBeauty Integrative Health Expert and the medical director of the Andrew Weil, M.D. Integrative Wellness Program at Miraval Arizona Resort and Spa in Tucson.

MORE: How to Talk to Your Doctor About Any Issue

A cold virus spreads through tiny air droplets that are released when a sick person sneezes, coughs or blows their nose or when you’ve touched your eyes, nose or mouth after touching an object, like a doorknob, contaminated with a cold virus.

Myth or truth: Drastically changing weather brings on a cold.

Myth. Similar to the false belief that walking outside with wet hair can make you sick, temperature fluctuations (such as the weather going from 70 degrees to 50 and back to 70 in the span of a week) doesn’t bring on a cold. Catching the cold virus is what triggers the sniffling and sneezing.

But there is truth to the belief that you catch colds more often in the winter. That’s because when the temperature drops, people tend to stay indoors (with the windows shut and the heat blasting). Being in such close quarters with the same air circulating makes it easier to pass the cold virus back and forth.

COLUMN: Beat Cold and Flu Season

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