Ask a Top Doc: Can the Change in Weather Make You Sick?

Top Doctor Michael Cirgilano shares whether or not it’s okay to blame your springtime sniffles on the change in weather

If you’ve blamed a recent cold on the warming weather, you’re not alone. In the last few weeks, as the snow has melted and Philly has started to shed winter coats for lighter jackets, there has been quite a few sniffles and coughs coming from those around me. “It’s the change in weather,” my intern with a suddenly stuffy nose told me one day, waving away my concern. “I always get sick around this time.” Of course, I’ve heard the same explanation numerous times from other people before, but … is it true? I called Dr. Michael Cirgliano, one of our 2009 Top Doctors, to find out if this statement was, in fact, fact or just another piece of passed-around fiction.

“The warm temperature itself doesn’t cause you to get sick,” says Dr. Cirgliano. “You need to come in contact with a virus in order to catch a cold. For each one degree increase in temperature, there is a two percent decline in deaths from both influenza and pneumonia.” Why the drop? "As the temperature warms up, people are getting out of the house more, so your chances of picking something up actually decreases." Your nose, one of the major gateways that viruses use to enter the body, is also better at battling invaders during warmer months. Freezing temps cause a drop in circulation in your nose so there are less white blood cells battling infection, which means you have a greater chance of coming down with something during the winter months if you do come into contact with a bug.

But even though it’s no longer Cold Season, keep washing your hands, sneeze into your elbow, and try to limit the amount of hands you shake as you rediscover how wonderful Philly is when it’s warm enough to walk everywhere. "If you’re out jogging, run into a friend and lean in to kiss them and give them a hug because their jogging outfit is so cute, sure, you can pick something up," says Dr. Cirigliano. “If don’t want to have any fun, don’t kiss anybody and stay alone. Then you’ll be super-depressed, but healthy. I’d rather take my chances.”