Can Going Outside With Wet Hair Make You Sick?

Can Going Outside With Wet Hair Make You Sick?

Your mom probably warned you against going outside with wet hair because it would make you sick. Is this just superstition, or can going outside with wet hair actually make you ill? Illnesses like the common cold or flu tend to increase during the winter, but the reality is that there is no connection between wet hair and your chances of getting sick. And for the record, cold weather itself doesn’t make you sick either. 

Going Outside With Wet Hair In The Cold

“Go outside with wet hair and you’ll catch a cold!” Almost every child heard that growing up, but apologies to all mothers and grandmothers because they were incorrect saying that. Quite simply, it just isn’t true. You cannot get sick from simply going outside with wet hair because that is not a cause for catching a cold. Health experts state that a microorganism, such as a virus or pathogen, has to be involved to cause infection. Is there at least some logic to that old warning from moms, though?

According to experts, colder air temperatures are better environments for viruses to travel through the air. This is especially true for the rhinovirus, which is the most common cause of the common cold. Some research suggests that lack of sun exposure and low vitamin D levels during the winter also play a role in a weaker immune system, or at least a diminished ability for the immune system to respond to infection. 

If Wet Hair Isn’t The Cause, What Makes You Sick?

Wet hair makes you uncomfortable in colder weather, but it doesn’t increase the risk of you contracting a virus. Germs that cause infections spread through the air or via bodily fluids like blood, mucus, or water droplets that you expel during coughs or sneezes. You can also catch an infection if you touch a hard surface that has viral droplets on it, and then you touch your mouth, eyes, nose, or small wound. That’s why coming in close contact with a sick person dramatically increases your risk of infection. Germs enter the body through your mouth, nose, and if you touch your face after touching an infected surface; they don’t enter the body through your hair. If you happen to fall ill after going outside with wet hair, you probably contracted a virus. Being in the cold air just made the symptoms more noticeable. 

Why Do People Still Believe This Old Myth?

As stated previously, cold temperatures are better environments for viruses like the rhinovirus to travel through the air and linger in the nose and mouth. During colder weather, people tend to gather indoors, where ventilation and air circulation is not as great. The lack of natural ventilation coupled with close contact and central heating creates a breeding ground for germs. The reason for this is because standing in close proximity to others can expose you to water droplets that they expel through sneezing or coughing. Additionally, artificial heat can dry out mucus in the nasal passageways. Why does that matter? Dried mucus lessens the ability to trap germs and fight illness

Tips For Going Outside If You’re Already Sick

If you want to brave the cold outdoor weather and you are already sick, there are things you can do to prevent symptoms from worsening. Below, you’ll find a few quick tips to keep you healthy in the cold: 

  • Cover your nose and mouth: This is not in regards to sneezing and coughing, although you should cover your nose and mouth in those instances. Wear a scarf or mask to keep warm and protect you and others from spreading or catching more germs. 
  • Bundle up: Whether your hair is dry or wet, dress for the weather to help trap body heat and keep symptoms from getting worse. Wear multiple layers and consider investing in a down jacket or cold-weather running apparel. 
  • Dry your hair or wear it up: If you are already sick, dry your hair before going outside because that will help you stay warm. If you are pressed for time, however, tie your hair up into a beanie or winter hat and that will help with your sniffles.



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