What’s the myth?
There is an old philosophy that people believe to be true but in fact is not true at all. Has your mom ever told you not to go out and play in the rain because you’ll catch a cold? Everyone thinks that there is an association between being in the cold rain and catching a cold.
It seems to be accurate because whenever you’re out in the cold rain you end up feeling sick or having symptoms of a cold such a sore throat or stuffy nose. It is interesting in fact that you actually cannot directly get sick from being in the cold rain.
This topic first interested me when a family friend came up to State College for a football game. I met up with them before the game to have breakfast and it had been raining all morning. At the end of breakfast, they asked me if I was going to the game. I told them that I had been sick all week long and I wasn’t sure if I would go to the game because I didn’t want to get sick again after standing in the cold rain for the football game. This friend of mine proceeded to tell me that being in the cold rain would not get me sick. I didn’t believe what he was saying so I did some research to find out the truth. I soon found out that he had been partially right.
Realizing that what I have always thought to be true was actually not completely true I decided to figure out why and how that could be. The reason people associate the two, sickness and rain, is because of the symptoms experienced post being in the rain. It turns out that if someone starts to feel flu-like symptoms, it is because they have already previously been exposed to those symptoms even though they could not feel it yet (Halder). A person can carry a sickness in them and not have symptoms, but when something like cold weather or rain occurs, that person’s body will allow that sickness to develop its symptoms, i.e. causing someone to feel sick (Jake).
Among my research, I found that many people who have wondered about the same topic actually tested it out themselves and said things like “I stood in the freezing rain for hours and I didn’t get sick”. I found a study that tested this theory in a randomized control trial. During this study, professors from Cardiff University’s Common Cold Center brought together 180 volunteers during the flu “season”. The first half of volunteers were instructed to place their feet in a bowl of ice and cold water for 20 minutes. The second 90 participants, the control group, were instructed to place their feet in an empty bowl for 20 minutes. After a couple of days they recorded that almost a third (29%) of the participants who had chilled their feet in ice and cold water had developed a cold and only 9% of the control group had developed cold symptoms (Dumb Scientist). However, it was not recorded weather or not any of the participants had been exposed to or already had the virus but didn’t experience any symptoms.
When first researching this topic I found that being in the cold rain does not make you develop a cold, germs do. The transfer of germs is the reason why we get sick but having those germs in our system already without having symptoms and then being in the cold rain or cold weather will help those symptoms come alive. It is true that we may not have obvious symptoms of a cold but being exposed to coldness will trigger them to happen, but it is very hard to have a true randomized control trial to prove this. In essence it seems unethical to get a bunch of volunteers together and expose them to sickness. It also seems impossible to collect accurate data considering there is no true way to measure if someone has been exposed to a cold already with underlying symptoms and no way to compare them in every person. It is obvious that there is some sort of link between being out in the cold rain and getting sick, but whether or not they are directly related is unknown without considering any confounding variables, which in this case are hard to measure. It is however easy to conclude that this is just another topic of science that is left to be questioned.
“Dumb Scientist – Cold Weather Really Can Make You Sick.” Dumb Science. N.p., 5 Dec. 2008.
Web. 10 Oct. 2016.
Halder, Alaka. “What Is It That Makes You Catch a Cold When You Get Caught in the Rain.”
Quora. N.p., 13 Aug. 2014. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.
Jake. “Does Working Out in the Rain Make You Sick? – Intrepid …” Intrepid Athletics. Intrepid
Athletics, 13 Dec. 2014. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.