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Can The Cold Actually Make You Sick Or Is That A Lie?

Let's settle this once and for all.

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But can the cold actually make you sick?

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BuzzFeed life reached out to an expert, Dr. Margarita Rohr, internist at NYU Langone Medical Center, to find out.

Just a quick note: we're talking about colds, flus, and viruses here, not hypothermia — a cold-related illness where prolonged exposure to the cold causes the body temperature to get dangerously low.

The answer is no — viruses and germs get you sick, but not the cold weather.

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"In order to get sick, you need to be exposed to the virus which causes the common cold or flu — which comes from another person," says Rohr. You can get sick from direct contact with an infected person, or indirect contact with them (like inhaling germs in the air or touching infected surfaces then your mouth or eyes).

So you're more likely to get a cold from sipping someone's drink than you are going out to the bar without your winter jacket.

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But it totally seems believable because fall and winter are also flu season.

The reason why the myth prevails, according to Rohr, is because you're most likely to contract the common cold (rhinovirus), the flu, and other bugs in the fall and winter when cooler temperatures make it easier for viruses to survive and spread. But they still need to be transmitted between two people.

"I think the myth really comes from earlier generations who had a fear of catching polio, which could come from contaminated water outside," says Rohr. That's probably why grandma always nags you to wear fifty scarves.

And cold temperatures can worsen the effects of asthma and chest congestion by constricting the airways.

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"If you're an asthmatic or smoker and you have lung issues, exposure to cold air can cause constriction of airways and make symptoms worse," says Rohr. Similarly, if you have a cold and experience a lot of chest congestion from mucus, constricted airways will make it more difficult to breath deeply and worsen your coughing temporarily. But low temperatures won't actually cause a cough or congestion itself, Rohr says.

The truth is, you're more likely to get sick if you are cooped up inside around a bunch of other people.

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"When it's cold, it means you spend much more time indoors in enclosed spaces with people who could be sick and contagious," says Rohr. The lack of circulation inside makes it easier for a virus to transmit through the air. It also means a whole lot of contaminated surfaces like door knobs, sinks, keyboards, etc. — so it's easy to get a virus from any family members, roommates, and coworkers you share a space with.

And the fresh cold air — in moderation — is pretty good for you.

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Being cooped up all winter isn't great for your immune system. It's actually much better for you to go outside and do some light activity in the fresh air. "If you're too sick to go outside, I suggest you open windows so you can ventilate the indoors and get rid of some of the germs and viruses in the air," says Rohr.

This still doesn't mean you shouldn't dress properly when it's freezing outside.

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Just because the cold doesn't make you sick, you should still dress appropriately for the weather to avoid hypothermia and making any cold symptoms worse, especially if your body is working to get over a virus or flu.

If really you don't want to catch a cold, your best bet is to practice proper hygiene and stay away from sick people.

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Rohr suggests that you wash your hands often (especially before eating), avoid touching your face, sanitize doorknobs and light switches if you don't live alone, and give your sick friends support and love from afar.

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