Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Going Outside with Wet Hair Causes Colds

All growing up I heard claims that going outside into the cold with wet hair would get you a cold. I knew that once I got a shower, I couldn’t go outside for some time in fear of catching a cold. Now that I’m a little older I stopped following these rules because I don’t get sick too often and I figure I’ll take my chances. However, many people still believe and follow this myth including my girlfriend. When she gets out of the shower she makes me close any windows in my room in fear of letting any cold air in. She is still in belief that having a wet head and being in cold air will cause her to get sick.

It seems that the scientific world has proven all of our moms wrong once again. Wet hair does not cause colds. The common cold is caused by an infection, not cold weather. Germs cause infections and germs are spread from person to person through sneezing, coughing, etc. “In 1958, a paper in the American Journal of Hygiene (Volume 68) reported that more than 400 volunteers were exposed to viruses that cause colds. Some were exposed to very cold temperatures while wearing heavy coats, some to 60 degree temperatures while wearing underwear, and some to a very warm 80 degrees. All had the same rate of infection” (Mirkin). Some viruses survive better in the cold causing a greater abundance of viruses during the winter months. However, the only way to catch a cold is through direct contact. Due to people’s habit of spending most of the winter inside, there is more contact between people causing the virus to spread easier. Whether you have wet hair or not, your susceptibility to the common cold is equal (U.S. Department of Health And Human Services) and solely relies on your contact with the virus.

All in all, our immune systems can handle the cold weather just as well as they can in warm weather. If extremely cold conditions occur you will start to shake and tire your body, weakening your immune system. Simply walking outside into the cold with wet hair will have no effect on your immune system’s ability to fight off viruses. This myth that has survived for many years has probably been caused by correlation and causation. Although people have gotten sick after going outside in the cold with wet hair, people have also gotten sick from going outside in the cold without wet hair. People will look for reasons for their sicknesses other then the facts; they came in contact with a virus. They will also take more notice to getting sick when it supports their hypothesis and ignore the cases where it does not. Although the wet hair and common cold are independent of each other, it is human nature to try to relate them. I try to explain this to my girlfriend but she still likes to believe that she will get sick if her hair is wet in the cold so I let her believe what she wants to believe. I, however, will go outside with wet hair whenever I please.

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