Colds result from viruses, not rain. However, being wet and cold for prolonged periods may lower your immune system, making you more likely to experience an illness like a cold.
Growing up, you may have heard that if you played outside in the rain, you’d be sure to catch a cold. You may wonder how truthful this witty wisdom is when making your own decisions as an adult. Do you need to avoid getting wet in the rain?
Truthfully, you may actually have a greater chance of getting sick after spending a prolonged time in the rain. It’s just more complex than the old saying would make it seem.
Being cold from prolonged exposure to rain outside may lower the effectiveness of your immune system, making you more likely to contract a cold virus, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get a cold.
Learn more about the common cold.
Colds happen due to viruses and not rain. But a 2022 study showed that being cold — lowering your body temperature — can negatively affect a person’s immune system, making them more likely to contract cold viruses.
So, while rain can’t actually give you a cold, being cold because you’re outside wet for a long time may weaken your immune system and make you more likely to develop a cold if you come in contact with certain viruses.
More than 200 viruses cause colds. These contagious viruses can pass through the air and close physical contact. Colds can also spread when a person touches their mouth, eyes, or nose with their hands after coming in contact with cold germs.
Some ways to lower the chance of a cold include:
- washing your hands frequently
- refraining from sharing food, beverages, and household items with people who might seem unwell
- avoiding unnecessary touching of the eyes and mouth
- eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly
- getting enough sleep
If you catch a cold, some home remedies to try include:
- getting extra rest
- drinking lots of fluid
- using a humidifier
- gargling with salt water
- performing a saline rinse to clear your nasal passages
Over-the-counter cold and flu medications are also available that may help. For example, decongestant sprays may help with a stuffy nose. Additionally, ibuprofen can help with pains and fevers, should they appear.
Follow the manufacturer’s directions and talk with your healthcare professional if you have any questions or concerns about using these medications.
Most colds clear up in 1–2 weeks, and many people can treat their own cold at home without needing to contact a doctor.
There’s a lot of overlap in symptoms between the cold, flu, and COVID-19. Cold symptoms may be less severe than those associated with the flu or COVID-19, though, and colds don’t typically include a fever.
While COVID symptoms may include losing your sense of taste or smell, often the symptoms are nearly identical to the flu, and testing is a great way to tell the difference. Learn more about the differences in these conditions.
Notify your doctor if your symptoms linger longer than a few weeks or suddenly worsen. Also, get medical help if you have difficulty breathing or develop a high fever.
If you have a long-term medical condition or a weakened immune system, you may need to notify your doctor when you initially show cold symptoms.
Being out in the rain doesn’t mean you’ll contract one of the viruses that cause a cold. But if you’re wet and cold for a prolonged period, it may negatively affect your immune system, making you more likely to get a cold.
If you do catch a cold, there’s no reason to be overly alarmed in most cases. Notify your doctor if symptoms become severe, linger for longer than a few weeks, or you have other health concerns.