Many of us might remember our mothers and grandmothers telling us: “Don’t go out with wet hair or you’ll catch a cold!” It turns out, even Kate Moss believes the old wives’ tale.
The supermodel, 49, revealed some of the rules she put in place while raising her daughter Lila Moss in a new cover interview with British Vogue. Some of the rules included having good manners, like “always say please and thank you” and no phones at the dinner table.
But Kate also made it a point to tell her daughter “never go out with wet hair or you’ll catch a cold”. It is not known when this piece of folklore became common advice among non-medical circles - especially mums - but some think it emerged because people are more likely to fall ill during the colder months.
Another common old wives’ tale is that you shouldn’t go to bed with wet hair either, or you’ll catch a cold. While it’s good practice not to go to bed with wet hair anyway, the question over whether it will give you a cold has been debunked by science.
Debunking the myths
It has been scientifically proven that you cannot catch a cold by going out or going to bed with wet hair. Many studies have been conducted over the years, including by the Common Cold Research Unit, which analysed volunteers after World War II.
It found that volunteers who were told to wander around in wet socks and bathing suits in cold environments after a bath were not more likely to catch a cold than volunteers who were kept warm.
Dr Nikita Patel, associate medical director at Vitality and practicing GP, tells Yahoo UK: “Many believe that going out with wet hair, staying out in the cold and even having the flu vaccine can all be ways we can catch a cold, but this simply isn’t the case.”
Why do we seem to get sick more often during colder seasons?
“Viruses that cause colds are actually in the air and can be hard to avoid, but there are measures we can take to help prevent us from catching one. We don’t know exactly why colds peak in the winter months, but one theory is that the cold weather drives us indoors where we have closer contact with others and are more likely to pass colds on to each other,” Dr Patel explains.
During chillier months, our immune systems may also take a beating, leaving us more vulnerable to disease. Dr Alia Fahmy, senior partner at GP surgery Concierge Medical, says: “Being exposed to cold temperatures may weaken the immune system, making it easier for viruses to take hold.
“Your body's response to the cold is to conserve heat by narrowing blood vessels and reducing blood flow to the skin. This could impact immune system activity, making you potentially more susceptible to infections.”
She adds: “As the winter months approach, we are all more susceptible to Colds, flus and other respiratory illnesses including COVID.”
How do we avoid catching a cold?
So you won’t have to fret about going out with wet hair - although you might feel chillier and rather uncomfortable if you do! But Dr Patel and Dr Fahmy both say there are other, more effective practices that will help you avoid catching a cold this winter.
Avoid close contact or sharing towels with someone who has a cold
“Many cold viruses are also passed on by touch, so washing your hands frequently helps to reduce the transmission of colds and ultimately, catching one,” says Dr Patel.
Wash your hands
Dr Fahmy says: “Without a doubt, practising good hand-washing hygiene is the best way to stop the spread of all viruses. Make sure you wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing or sneezing, using the bathroom, and before eating. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers if soap and water are not available.”
Get your flu vaccine
Getting the flu vaccine won’t give you a cold, Dr Patel reassures. “If you get a flu vaccine, you’ll be given a dead or inactivated form of the influenza virus and while it may give you a slight temperature or sore arm, it won’t give you a cold.”
Drink plenty of water and eat well
You may also have heard of the popular phrase: “Feed a cold, starve a fever.” Dr Patel stresses the importance of keeping your body’s energy levels up by eating well and drinking plenty of water in order to fight off the virus, even if you don’t have an appetite.
Don’t touch your face
“Cold and flu viruses can enter your body through your eyes, nose, and mouth. Avoid touching your face, especially with unwashed hands,” Dr Fahmy advises.
“A small study showed that those who exercised five or more days a week had less severe cold symptoms and recovered more quickly,” Dr Patel says. “So, the best advice: get some fresh air, wash your hands regularly, eat well, drink plenty of water and keep active if you can. And if you’re eligible, think about booking in your flu vaccine.”
Watch: In The Know Finds: Stay healthy and clean with these products to help you transition from winter to spring!
Read more about cold and flu remedies:
Why do I keep getting colds – and how can I prevent them? (Yahoo Life UK, 8-min read)
The 5 Best Ways To Stop A Cold Before It Happens (HuffPost Life, 5-min read)
A Doctor Demonstrated His Favorite Home Remedies to Treat a Sore Throat Fast (Men's Health, 1-min read)