Healthspan staff October 18, 2018

A common myth heard over the years whether it’s been from mothers, grandmothers or friends: you will catch a cold if you leave the house with wet hair. But how much truth is there to this old wives’ tale? 

Though you won’t necessarily get sick from leaving the house in winter with wet hair, this isn’t to say it’s a smart move. Wet hair is extremely fragile, especially in winter when the weather is cold and harsh.

It’s not a coincidence that cold and flu season are aligned with the weather turning colder, but the drop in temperature is not to blame. When the cold sets in, you’re much more likely to spend more time indoors – putting you in closer proximity with other people which raises your risk of catching the cold virus, and consequently of passing it on to others.

Of course, the cold weather is a factor – rhinovirus (the cause of the common cold) replicates better at cooler temperatures, so it spreads easily during winter. One study shows dry air – or humidity - could be a trigger for the flu (influenza); allowing the flu to survive and transmit itself. Humidity was rife in 55-60% of the outbreaks analysed in the study.1

But while the cold weather and dry air are triggers; so is age, lack of sleep, stress and smoking.

Illness triggers

Age

Kids under six years old don’t have a fully-matured immune system. A child won’t have immunity to a cold if they’ve never had one before.2

Lack of sleep

Sleeping less than normal can negatively affect your immune system which increases your chance of catching a cold. Most adults need about seven to eight hours of good quality sleep a night and a lack of it can affect your overall health; making you prone to serious medical conditions such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.3

Stress

Stress wreaks havoc on the mind and body. It’s associated with greater risk of depression, heart disease and infectious diseases. One study suggests stress affects how the stress hormone cortisol works (it’s function is to regulate inflammation in your body). When you’re under stress, cortisol may be less effective at tempering your body’s inflammatory response to colds, causing you to develop symptoms.4

Smoking

Smoking disrupts your immune system and the chemicals can irritate your throat lining, which can make cold symptoms worse.

Best way to avoid colds

The best way to avoid becoming ill during cold and flu season is to make sure you keep your hygiene to a high standard:

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap regularly
  • Don’t share towels or household items with someone who has a cold
  • Stay fit and healthy

While wet hair may not give you a cold; you’ll probably feel more comfortable wrapped up in warm clothes – if it’s winter - with dry hair! 5 To avoid damage and breakage learn how to protect your hair  against the elements.


References
1 National Institutes of Health (NIH). (2015). Dry Air May Spur Flu Outbreaks.
2 NHS (2018). Why lack of sleep is bad for your health.
3 Rea, S. (2012). Press Release: How Stress Influences Disease: Carnegie Mellon Study Reveals Inflammation as the Culprit - News Carnegie Mellon University.
4 NHS (2017). Common cold.

 

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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