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Cold and Flu

Winter Weather and Infections

12/18/2008

Question:

What is the connection between cold weather and the increased incidence of infection? Will I decrease my chances of getting a cold or other disease if I go outside with a winter hat on? Also, is there any basis for a connection between wet hair and pneumonia?

Answer:

The principal reason for the increase in the number of infections in winter weather is the fact that people tend to remain indoors in cold weather and thus are in closer contact to one another. This proximity allows the spread of many viruses that cause respiratory infections. In addition, influenza is much more common in winter because the virus first attacks in the Far East in their summer and then spreads westward and reaches the US by winter. Although it is preferable that one should stay warm, there is little hard evidence to suggest that not wearing a hat or that exposure of wet hair to inclement weather increases the risk of infection or more specifically, pneumonia.

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Response by:

George S Deepe, Jr, MD George S Deepe, Jr, MD
Professor of Clinical Medicine
Director of Infectious Diseases
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati