Can having wet hair outside get you sick?

"Don't go outside with wet hair; you'll catch a cold." You've probably heard that numerous times from your parents or grandparents. As much as you may have heeded that wisdom in the past, have you ever wondered if there was any truth behind it? Let's take a closer look at the science to find out if your parents were right all along!

Temperature, wet hair and the common cold

Whether it's the depths of winter or a chilly spring morning, walking around with wet hair may seem merely inconsequential. While it may leave you feeling chilly, it's important to note that the common cold is caused by a virus, not a sudden drop in body temperature. Dr. Pritish Tosh, a physician with the Mayo Clinic, explained this view in an article for the Huffington Post.

"In order to get an infection, you need to be exposed to an infectious agent," Tosh told the news source. "That's what you need to get infected. Going out with wet hair is not going to directly cause an infection. I think more so it just makes people uncomfortable."

However, a recent study published by Yale University in 2015 found that a slight chill can increase the speed in which rhinoviruses (a common cold pathogen) multiply in lab mice, so while it is not a direct cause of contracting the cold, outside conditions like temperatures, wet hair or not wearing sufficient clothing could create the conditions for a common cold to overcome an immune system's defenses.

The Verdict: Wet hair does not make you sick directly! However, it's best to dry your hair year-round before leaving the house to avoid creating optimal conditions for cold and flu viruses to spread. Ultimately, the best defense against a common cold is preventing the spread of germs by using hand sanitizer frequently, covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing and actively washing your hands after spending time in public. But, drying your hair before leaving the house couldn't hurt either!

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