Once and for all: Being cold is not, by itself, going to make you get a cold. Colds strike when viruses make their way into your mouth, nose, or eyes, usually after you’ve been in close proximity to someone who’s infected. The misconception about catching a cold from going jacketless may stem from the fact that colds do tend to circulate during chilly seasons, in part because people spend more time indoors and in close quarters (making it easier for illnesses to spread) than they do during warmer months.
That said, cold weather can dry out the lining of your nose, leaving you more vulnerable to an infection. Some research also suggests that prolonged exposure to the cold may suppress the immune system. So should you still bundle up this season? Yes. But it’s more important to maintain smart hygiene habits (keeping your distance from sick folks, washing your hands regularly, disinfecting surfaces that get touched by lots of people) in order to avoid germs as much as possible and remove those you do come into contact with. Get plenty of rest and keep nerves at bay; becoming rundown by stress or lack of sleep can weaken your immune system and make you susceptible to illness.
Health’s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.