Here are some of the reasons why more people get sick at this time of year.
If you seem to get a cold every fall or the flu during winter, you may think that the change in seasons is the reason. Changing conditions could play a part in why you get sick, but weather changes alone may not be fully to blame. After all, people who live in areas where the weather doesn't get too cold still have to deal with cold and flu season just like everyone else.
Here are some reasons you may be more likely to feel sick at this time of the year (and in the upcoming months):
- Allergies: If you're sniffling and sneezing, you may actually have allergies rather than a cold. Allergies happen when your body decides something harmless (like ragweed pollen) is a danger to your health. Sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes are how your body reacts. Allergies tend to get worse in the fall or spring when there is more pollen and mold spores in the air.
- Weather: When you're outside on a chilly day, you may have noticed that your nose feels cold. Your nose gets colder inside, too, which makes it harder for your body to fight viruses and easier for the viruses to grow in number, according to a Yale University study. If it's windy, this can also dry out your nose, which makes it easier for viruses to get into your body. Some viruses also live longer in cold weather, such as the flu virus.
- Time spent indoors: People tend to spend more time indoors during the fall and winter. This makes it easier for germs to spread, either because you're breathing in germs from others or touching surfaces that have germs on them that can then enter your body if you touch your face. Even if you don't live in a colder climate, you're still likely to spend more time indoors as summer fun gives way to school, work and other routine activities.
- Less vitamin D: Spending time in the sun helps your body make vitamin D, a vitamin that helps your immune system work better. If you don't spend as much time outdoors during fall and winter, your skin isn't as exposed to the sun as it is during the summer months and this may cause your vitamin D level to drop.
Prior to 2020, most people only had to protect themselves from colds and flu, but now you also have to take precautions to avoid the COVID-19 virus. Luckily, you can lower your risk of getting sick this fall and winter from any of these contagious viruses if you:
- Wear a mask, especially when you're indoors
- Wash your hands often
- Don't touch your eyes, mouth or nose
- Stay away from people who are coughing and sneezing
- Take vitamin D supplements if your levels are low
- Wear a scarf around your nose and mouth when it's cold outside
- Keep your body healthier by following healthy lifestyle habits, such as not drinking too much alcohol, not smoking, staying away from junk food, lowering stress and getting enough sleep
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Date Last Reviewed: August 16, 2021
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD