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Public Health/Can you get sick from being cold or wet?


QUESTION: I was wondering would you please tell me: is it a fact that people will get sick if they walk in a light shower or rain?

(P.S would you please try to give your answer in a easy way that I can understand)

ANSWER: What's in the rain that would get them sick?

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QUESTION: I thought it would be because of the wetness and coldness

Neither cold nor being wet cause disease.  Wet can lower body temperature to the point where health may be compromised and being submerged (in a swimming pool) can do this even if the temperature is 90 F (32 C).  When core temperature drops much below 35 C physiological processes don't work as well and the rick of organ failure increases.  (Genuine "core" is determined by inserting a thermometer into the liver -- so isn't done on someone who's alive.  So "core" temperature is most-reliably estimated from oral or rectal temperature.

The idea that either a change in weather or cold causes diseases is a common myth.  It's based on two things.  One is an increase in mucus production caused by cold.  The other is due to actual illness but the illness isn't caused by either the cold or the humidity.  

When the temperature drops down to, say 65 F (or lower) our bodies increase production of an  Immunoglobulin called Immunoglobulin M (IgM). This is evidenced by a runny nose, post-nasal drip or both.  Perhaps there's an explanation for this now -- there didn't used to be one.

The other is less obvious and pertains to seasonal weather change.  When the path taken by the jet stream changes the new path can bring things with it that weren't in it during previous months.  There's a generally change in the path as we revolve around the sun because the earth's tilt changes, as we do.  A reasonable example of what changes is the "annual" flu virus.  Viruses mutate slightly and the new version of a given virus may not be susceptible to the Immunoglobulins our body produced last year.  (This is why we get "sick" even though we had the flu the year before).  

Hope this helps!

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John Crout


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