Becoming chilled may lead to catching a common cold a few days later, according to Family Practice (2005;22:608–13). The participants in the study were 180 healthy men and women. They were assigned to either a group that was deliberately chilled or to a control group. The chilled group placed their bare feet in a bowl containing about two gallons of 50°F (10°C) water for 20 minutes. People in the control group placed their feet, with shoes and socks on, in an empty bowl for 20 minutes. The participants were asked if they were suffering from any symptoms of the common cold before and immediately after the procedure. For five days following the procedure, they recorded any cold symptoms in a diary.
Before and immediately following the procedure, there were no differences between the groups with respect to cold symptoms. However, over the next five days, significantly more people in the chilled group suffered from an episode of the cold than did people in the control group (14.4% versus 5.6%). Those people who developed a cold during the study period had also suffered from more frequent cold episodes during the previous year than those who didn’t catch a cold.
The results of this study support the common folklore that becoming chilled can cause a cold. It appears that some people are more likely than others to catch a cold, and that exposure to cold conditions can increase the chance of these people developing a cold.
The common cold is caused by a viral infection that spreads through person-to-person contact or by touching something that an infected person has handled. Episodes generally last less than one week, and may be accompanied by sneezing, coughing, mild fever, sore throat, muscle aches, and fatigue. Antibiotics cannot be used to treat the cold because they are not effective against viruses. Getting lots of rest, drinking more fluids, and supplementing with vitamin C, zinc lozenges, and echinacea may shorten the duration and severity of the cold.
Rick comments: My kids and their friends were playing outside going from hot tub to lying in the snow drifts as “dares.” Interestingly, both kids were not feeling well a day later. I think there is a difference between a brisk bit of fresh air and getting chilled to the bone. And it is not directly dependent on outside temp. Some days, it just feels more chilly. Wearing a hat can make a huge difference, of course. I also remember that when I was quite ill, my coach recommended wearing an undershirt. I never had before, but I noticed an increase in energy and less of a “drained” feeling as soon as I started.