Fun Facts: Are You More Likely to Get Sick If You Go Outside With Wet Hair?

Pharmacy TimesJanuary 2024
Volume 90
Issue 1

Are You More Likely to Get Sick If You Go Outside With Wet Hair?

A: No, although wet hair can create feelings of coldness that can induce the onset of cold symptoms in a person already infected with a virus. When it gets cold outside, common folk wisdom suggests not going outside with wet hair. Passed down from generation to generation, this colloquialism—although its intentions are good—might not hold as much merit as was previously thought. According to the experts, going outside with wet hair does not make a person sick.1

Young woman with hand touching her wet hair- Image credit: fotoduetsm |

Image credit: fotoduetsm |

According to Matthew Goldman, MD, family medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic in Parkland, Florida, having wet hair is not the sole cause of a cold; a microorganism such as a virus must be the driving force behind the illness.2
But the issue is not black and white. Wet hair can make a person feel colder, which can lead to the onset of infection-related symptoms in patients who are already infected with a cold virus, according to researchers.3
Ron Eccles, PhD, DSc, former director of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, randomly assigned a cohort of study participants who were exposed to someone with a cold virus (but who did not exhibit symptoms prior to the study) into 2 groups. One group submerged their bare feet in cold water for 20 minutes, and the other group submerged their feet covered by socks into an empty bowl.4

In the first days following the experiment, individuals in both groups reported some cold symptoms. But at 5 days post experiment, twice the number of participants in the cold-water group exhibited cold symptoms compared with the dry foot group. More studies are needed to support these findings, but the results suggest that exposure to cold temperatures can influence the onset of a cold in an infected individual.4
There are other theories as to why colder weather makes it easier to catch a cold. Goldman suggests that colder air temperature can make it easier for viruses to travel through the air, which can increase one’s susceptibility to catching a cold.2

There are even more theories that link cold weather to susceptibility of catching a cold. For instance, the cold weather can cause blood vessels in the nose and throat to constrict. These vessels transport infection-fighting white blood cells, and constricting them may reduce the number of cells that can be delivered to fight a virus.4

Lack of sunlight in the winter months may also be a culprit, with reduced vitamin D bioavailability. Because vitamin D is linked with immune health, some experts theorize that less vitamin D can w eaken the immune system.2
Interestingly, the likelihood of catching rhinovirus, which is the most common virus associated with cold weather, is higher indoors while tucked away from the chilly weather outside, according to Goldman. In addition, some science supports the rationale that having wet hair in a warmer environment can increase risk of getting sick.2
“If your hair is recurrently wet and warm, such as from sweat in a warmer climate, and it comes into contact with a microorganism, then it is more likely for infection to occur,” Goldman explained.2
Brittany Behm, DO, a primary care physician with University Hospitals Bainbridge Primary Care in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, suggests exercising to reduce the risk of getting sick. Behm also suggests washing your hands often for at least 20 seconds, particularly before eating or meeting others.3
Sleep can play an important role in avoiding illness as well. Behm said the average adult should sleep between 7 and 9 hours a night.
Other ways to support the immune system include refraining from smoking and maintaining healthy levels of stress.3
Other recommendations for protecting oneself against cold include being diligent about disinfecting surfaces, sneezing or coughing into a tissue, and practicing social distancing from infected individuals, according to Mayo Clinic Health System.1


  1. Dargel C. Can wet hair make you sick? Mayo Clinic Health System. September 20, 2022. Accessed November 6, 2023.
  2. Can wet hair actually make you sick? Cleveland Clinic. September 15, 2021. Accessed November 6, 2023.
  3. Can you catch a cold by going outside with wet hair? University Hospitals. November 16, 2021. Accessed November 6, 2023.
  4. Hammond C. Will wet hair give you a cold? BBC. March 5, 2012. Accessed November 6, 2023.

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