Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Can cold, wet weather make you sick?

Day after day we have had rain and rain and more rain to the point I believe we may never have to suffer through another drought again. It is frustrating for my little boy whose season-opening T-ball and soccer games have been canceled due to too-soggy playing fields. The five-day forecast has no glimmer of sun, just gray clouds and lightning bolts. I fear this next week of ballgames will be canceled as well.

playing in the rainFor entertainment Saturday my son burned some of his energy by dancing in a heavy downpour of rain. I watched from my in-law’s garage and laughed as he tumbled in the wet grass and spun around in the driveway like a dancer. My mother-in-law peeked out the back door and was mortified. “Come in from out of that rain! You will catch a cold!” she cried. I didn’t enforce that order. My rationale – if standing in streaming water made you sick, we would never take showers. I told my MIL that it simply was not true. She said, yes it was.

The old wives tales of getting soaked in the rain or going outside in cold weather without a coat will make you sick have been circulating for more than 500 years. In fact, the common sickness back then was called a “cold” because it was believed that cold weather was what caused the ailment. We now know that colds and flu are caused by viruses that invade the body and take over our defenses. More than 200 different viruses can cause the common cold.

It’s true that colds and flu are most prevalent in the colder months. Some experts say that it is because we spend more time indoors in close contact with other people. The low humidity of winter also helps viruses flourish, especially in noses, which are more apt to be dry and cracked during the colder months.

Here’s another interesting fact about illnesses. The flu tends to be more rampant when temperatures drop below 41 degrees.

Here’s where my MIL may have one up on me on this old wives tale. A UK study showed that volunteers who submerged their feet in 50-degree water for 20 minutes were more likely to develop cold symptoms over the following week than those whose feet stayed warm and dry. Researchers explain this by saying the body can keep a cold virus in check but when exposed to cold, wet feet, the immune system can weaken causing a full-fledge illness.

Coincidentally, my son has cold today. He started showing symptoms late last week, days before he wallowed in the rain. But I still hold firm to my belief that the rain did not cause his symptoms. As long as there is rain in the forecast and my son is hungry for entertainment (and it is not thundering and lightning outside), then he has my blessing to frolic in the rain and find some joy is this never-ending miserable weather.

Sources: About.com, How-come.net, VideoJug.com
Flickr, markomni

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