Old wives tales are sometimes based in the truth, but not exactly true. Your Mama told you to stay out of the cold or you would get sick. She also told you going from hot to cold would give you a cold. Your Mama would never lie to you. Therefore it must be true. News flash. Your Mama was wrong. Before you go leaving me nasty comments in your mother’s defense, please note that I did not say your mother was a liar. Likely her Mama told her to stay out of the cold to stay healthy. She recommended not going from hot to cold to avoid getting sick. So did her mother’s mother. Probably a long line of Mamas are responsible for this myth. Thus, the title of “Old Wives Tale”. So what is true about the old wives tale, “Being cold or going from hot to cold will make you sick”?
In pioneer days, many people became sick or even died from overexposure to the elements. This was due to their lifestyle, which involved a lot of outdoor chores that had to be done. There was also a lack of modern conveniences, such as heated vehicles, electric lighting and such. They could literally die going from house to barn in a bad winter storm. Homes were spread far apart and shelter was not always readily available. Did they get sick from the cold? Actually, no. Overexposure to the elements is not an illness. It can, however, bring an illness on, if you have already been exposed to it.
If You Are Already Sick
Colds and flus are caused by viruses and bacteria. If you have already been infected with a virus or bacteria, being cold for long periods of time might weaken your immune system and allow the nasties to make you sick faster. This might make the old wives tale seem accurate and your mother feel vindicated but it simply isn’t true. Regardless of whether you went in the cold, you would have gotten sick from the virus or bacteria. The cold didn’t make you sick, it was the exposure to the illness.
You Are Indoors During Cold Season
Most often, it isn’t the cold that makes you sick, it’s the fact that you are indoors for most of the winter. Why? Germs and viruses spread faster behind closed doors. Modern construction leaves no crack unsealed. There is simply no circulation to clear the air. How can this be prevented? Take the time to air the house out periodically in winter months. Go outdoors a bit too. It won’t hurt you. It may actually be good for you.
Going From Hot to Cold
Using a twisted sense of logic, this one might be considered true. If you are already sick, rapid and repetitive temperature changes can cause you to become sicker. Your body is not used to undergoing extreme change. Your immune system may be weakened. You may become sicker. But unless you intend to alternate the polar bear plunge with hot steamy showers repeatedly for an hour or play outside in below zero temps with wet hair, you should be safe from getting sick by simply going from hot to cold. Sorry, Mama. This old wives tale is officially debunked.