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A Weather Illness Myth

Cold and flu don't just come from the great outdoors

SUNDAY, Oct. 26, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- When it comes to taking the blame for causing colds or flu, experts say weather simply gets a bad rap.

Despite what your grandmother may have told you, cold weather does not cause colds, and in fact, that goodbye kiss and pinch on the cheek that she gave you may have placed you at much greater risk for catching something than not bundling up./p>

That's because cold and flu are spread either by directly touching respiratory secretions on another person, such as in handshaking, kissing or, in Grandma's case, cheek-pinching. They are also spread through indirect contact with secretions in the environment, such as being sneezed on by the person next to you on the subway.

Colds and flu are especially common in the winter not because of the cold itself, say experts with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, but because people spend more time indoors where viruses have a greater opportunity to jump from person to person.

Children are especially vulnerable because they haven't built up resistances, which is why they can typically suffer from six to eight colds per year. Adults over 60, meanwhile, have the fewest colds -- about one a year -- because their natural immunities are well-established.

One aspect of winter that does play a role in some colds is the relatively dry air. Dry conditions can increase the chance of infection because viruses can thrive when humidity levels are low, according to the NIAID. Furthermore, since nasal passages are drier, they may be more susceptible to infection.

Since germs are transmitted through direct contact, handwashing is key to preventing both colds and the flu. Regularly cleaning environmental surfaces with virus-killing disinfectants can also make a difference, experts say. You can further increase your defense against the flu by getting a flu vaccine shot.

More information

Read all about how the flu and colds are spread and what you can do to prevent them in this helpful article from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on colds and the flu.

SOURCES: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; U.S. Food and Drug Administration; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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