Separate fact from fiction when it comes to cold-weather wellness.
Due to cold and flu season, chilly weather and holiday stress, it seems like we worry more about our health during the winter than at any other time of year. But do we really need to stress about our well-being this season? We spoke to the experts about the biggest winter health myths and found out the truth.
MYTH #1: YOU CAN CATCH A COLD BY BEING OUT IN THE ELEMENTS TOO LONG.
You've probably heard the old warning that going outside in chilly weather, and staying there too long, can make you "catch" a cold. Not true, says D.J. Verret, MD, an otolaryngologist in Dallas. "Going outside—with or without a wet head—is one of the best things you can do to prevent catching a cold. Actually being cold has nothing to do with your risk of catching a cold. Colds are caused by viruses or bacteria which are more often spread in the winter because of close contact from everyone being indoors." That's right, spending time outdoors can make you less susceptible to those nasty germs.
MYTH #2: MORE PEOPLE ARE DEPRESSED DURING THE WINTER MONTHS THAN AT ANY OTHER TIME OF THE YEAR.
Grey, dreary skies. Holiday stress. Bitter-cold weather. It seems natural to assume that depression spikes in the winter months. And yet, health experts say that's just a myth. "Contrary to popular belief, major depression is not more rampant during the winter months than at any other time of the year," says John Sharp, MD, a professor at Harvard University and author of the new book The Emotional Calendar. But what about the wintertime sadness you may be feeling? "This is a significant, temporary, stress-related condition, but it is not a recognized medical ailment or diagnosis." Some people may also experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which has symptoms similar to depression, such as insomnia, irritability and difficulty concentrating, but only occurs during the winter months. If you suffer from these symptoms or just have less energy in general during this time of year, consider trying light therapy, suggests Dr. Sharp, who explains that an inexpensive 10,000-lux light box (which can fit on your desk) used 20 minutes or so a day may give you a boost—even if you haven't been diagnosed with SAD by a medical professional. Click here to learn more about light therapy and search for a light box.