Fact or myth: Do changing temperatures make you sick?

Houstonians can expect yet another rollercoaster of a ride as far as temperatures are concerned this week.

You can't help but wonder how these drastic weather changes affect your health.

DETAILS: Temperatures in Central US take a roller coaster ride this week

A doctor has answers about the most common health myths when it comes to the weather.

Do cold temperatures make you sick?

"It is not going to make us get a cold!" says Dr. Shane Magee, an Internal Medicine specialist with Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. "You still have to have the germ, the bacteria, or the virus."

According to Dr. Magee some viruses just thrive in colder temperatures. 

"So we think that that's why we see them more in the winter, but it does not make us get sick. We still have to be exposed to it rather to get sick."


Do extreme temperature changes affect us?

Dr. Magee admits extremely cold weather can impair immune systems, but that involves frigid temperatures that last a while, and we just don't experience that in the Houston area often.

"It does play a role with how our bodies react to a lot of different things," says Dr. Magee. "It can affect asthma. People in cold weather that have asthma can exacerbate it – they become short of breath. Ice can cause slips and falls, like we had a year ago," during the deep freeze that took over Texas.

The Internal Medicine specialist gets a lot of questions about joint pain and infections relative to cold weather, but he says a lot of it has to do with our mentality and our psychology.

The miserable weather reminds us of our ailments and pains because it just adds to our overall discomfort.

"When we are cold, we often move slower. And that takes longer to warm up and stretch," says Dr. Magee. "So that can make it seem like we're having worsening arthritis, when it may not be the case."


Should you workout when it's cold outside?

Another popular myth is that you should not workout when it's cold outside.

"There are so many advantages to being active that any disadvantages there are – I can't think of any – are all outweighed by advantages that you have from being active," states Dr. Magee. "Certainly wear a jacket, wear a scarf. I don't think it gets cold enough in Houston to worry about frostbite, but these are the things you worry about for cold weather. Beyond that, just snuggle up in a jacket and go running or go jogging or biking or take your kids for a walk."

So a cold weather-induced illness is not an excuse to not get out the door for some exercise.


Do you need sunscreen in the winter?

Finally, a lot of people put away the sunscreen when fun in the summertime sun ends, but that could just be the wrong way of thinking when it comes to protecting your skin.

So do we only get sunburned in the summer sun but not winter?

"That is a myth. It may be less severe, less likely," says Dr. Magee. "You have to be out there longer in the winter to get sunburned, but you can still get sunburned. You can still get exposed to these damaging UV rays that cause skin aging and skin cancer.

In Houston, we have an epidemic of skin cancer almost, so it is still important, especially if you're going to be out there for a length, to put on sunscreen. Although, to be fair, you need to be out there for a little bit longer to get that sunburn than you would in the summer."

In conclusion, it's a good idea to protect your skin, even on the cold days.

And these temperature changes are not to blame for our aches and pains or ills.

Dr. Magee also recommends warm showers, versus hot ones, and lotion to help prevent dry skin in the wintertime.