Cold Weather Doesn't Cause Colds

Cold Weather Does Not Cause Colds
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It is no secret that most parents blame winter air as the cause for colds and the flu. After all, our parents told us to “bundle up or you will catch a cold,” and their parents probably told them the same thing. However, while the viruses that cause flu and colds are more common in the winter months, the circulated air in closed environments (homes, schools, childcare centers) are the main cause of your child getting sick. All of the bacteria, dirt, dander and other germs simply get recycled through the air vents over and over. The more time you spend inside, the more you are exposed. Nothing is more refreshing than that first deep breath of cold, winter air before starting fun outdoor play. 

Having a properly sealed home is one of the first steps toward an efficient home. Unfortunately, sealing off the home is also a great way to trap allergens, along with cold and flu viruses inside the home. From cleaning products to air fresheners, carpeting to tobacco smoke, these chemicals can negatively affect our indoor air quality, aggravate our bodies and impact our health. 

Open Windows 

Although it is cold outside, it is still a good idea to let in fresh air. In fact, you may only need about 5 minutes of open window and door time to allow fresh air to circulate throughout the home. This may also help to add humidity to the home. 

Benefits of Outdoor Play 

Aside from just breathing fresh air, winter outdoor play helps to actually strengthen the immune system. Being outside more often allows your child to develop a stronger autoimmune system and a resistance to allergies. Studies have shown that children in rural areas or those who are active outside have the best overall health. 

Playing outside allows your child an escape from indoor germs and bacteria. This will not only be good for the healthy bunch, but the sick kids actually benefit from the fresh air as well. Just make sure they are properly bundled up and moving around to capture and generate warmth. 

Outdoor play allows your child to engage in physical exercise. Just because it is cold outside does not mean your child has lost their energy or desire to play. You must remember your child is still growing during these months and prolonged sessions of  inactivity are not conducive to their muscular development. An occasional video game is fine in the worst weather, but if it is a sunny winter day there are a lot of physical activities kids can do outdoors which also stimulates the imagination. Building snow forts with tunnels and a home base utilizes problem solving and imaginative skills they would not be using while sitting on the couch. 

Sun exposure, whether winter or summer, is an important source of vitamin D, especially for children, since very few foods contain it naturally and the ones that do are unappealing to children. The amount of sunlight children are exposed to and the amount of vitamin D they absorb can have a large impact on their mood. 

Safety Tips for Outdoor Play During Winter 

1. Set time limits and have children come inside periodically to warm up. 
2. Dress children in multiple loose layers so they stay dry and warm, and never let them play in extreme cold. 
3. Rule of thumb: dress children in one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same conditions. 
4. Check surroundings beforehand to see if there are any icy or slippery patches that could be a fall hazard. 

Just remember that cold weather does not cause illness, germs do! Frequent hand washing and teaching children to cough and sneeze into the bend of their elbow (not their hands) may help reduce the spread of these germs. Keeping children indoors in heated, stale and contaminated air will do little to keep them well, so allow them to enjoy some winter outdoor fun. 


American Academy of Pediatrics. (2014). Winter Safety Tips. 

Reeves, David, “5 Benefits of Outdoor Winter Play,” October 30, 2013. 

Four Crucial Ways Playing Outdoors in Winter Benefits Children, (2014). 

Reagan, Anne, “Indoor Air Quality Important During Colder Months,” (2014). 

(January 2016)