Pneumonia, Colds, and Infections

Pneumonia and colds do not come from cold temperature. You get them from infections, usually from bacteria, viri, and fungi. You deal with one by going to a doctor. (They’re not prevented or cured by cold showers, either. Doctors have better information.) You can get brief information about it from the National Institutes of Health, which also has a more detailed page, and from the Mayo Clinic. Colds may be more common in winter because we spend more time close to other people indoors in winter, but cold temperatures probably don’t cause colds or affect human immunities in general, except sometimes in some extreme outdoor athletes, according to Harvard.

The confusion is understandable. Pneumonia is more common in winter, even without winter being the cause. It may be related to colds, since colds also come from infections. A lowered body temperature is a symptom, provided other symptoms of pneumonia are also present, because the infection may cause the body temperature to go down. If you have pneumonia or a cold, dressing even warmer is important to saving your health and maybe, with pneumonia, your life. But a cold environment does not cause a cold or pneumonia.

It’s also understandable because it’s easy to explain to a very young child that “you’ll get a cold from being cold” and use that line to get them to keep their coat closed. And some of what we’re taught as children we keep into adulthood and repeat to the next generation of children, since most of us are not doctors and don’t realize there’s a mistake.

That’s roughly the general consensus in the medical field. But new research is bringing the traditional association back into the spotlight for reconsideration. An earlier thought was that people hanging out together indoors meant germs traveled more between people. The rhinovirus causes common colds and contributes to asthma and it reproduces faster in cold temperatures, which exist in the opening of your nose, where you inhale cold air. They reproduce faster because the body’s immune response is not as robust when it’s cold outside the nose. But the testing was based mainly on mice, and not even whole living mice but mouse cells in a lab, and the testing was not in humans, so it’s likely more work needs to be done before most physicians will agree with it. If this is a concern, one would have to keep their nose warm and breathe only warm air, quite a difficult proposition except by not going out at all. My favorite treatment for a cold is nothing and to just live my life ignoring the pesky little thing. What some people say is that if you take good care of a cold you’ll be cured in seven days but if you neglect it you’ll have it for a week. This research is interesting but it likely doesn’t make much difference to going out.

An infection can give you the shivers just like hypothermia can, but it’s different and you can tell them apart.

Allergic reactions to cold temperature per se are rare, but some people do have them. The condition is called cold urticaria. Like any allergy, it can be deadly. You may feel faint, get hives, have a hard time breathing, or get itchy. “[I]t may be associated with an infection, insect bite, or blood cancer.” and it may be inherited from your family.

Cold temperature can give you hypothermia. Hypothermia can kill you. Sometimes, it can kill in 15 minutes and probably faster.

Dress warmly.

Red crabapples on branches and covered with ice.

Pneumonia and colds do not come from cold temperatures. They come from infections by germs. The confusion is understandable but wrong.

Websites of Interest

These websites have some interesting content, although I disagree with some of it:


Hiking organizations:

General retailers of outdoor products:

General information: