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When Is Common Cold Season?

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Updated June 15, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: When Is Common Cold Season?
Answer:

You can get a cold year-round, but most people consider the winter months to be common cold season. We are more likely to get colds when the weather is cold and we spend more time indoors sharing germs with other people. The viruses that cause colds also spread more easily in colder, drier air. Generally, this means cold season starts sometime around September and ends sometime around April in the United States.

However, this doesn't mean the cold weather itself makes us sick. Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can cause very serious illnesses like hypothermia, but there is no strong evidence to show that the cold itself can give you a cold. Only exposure to a virus that causes the common cold can do that.

There are several reasons why colds are more common during cold season.

  • People spend more time indoors and closer to each other during the winter.
  • Children are in school and sharing germs with many more children than they do during the summer.
  • The viruses that cause the common cold spread more easily in cold, dry air.
  • Our nasal passages are drier during the winter (due to drier air), allowing cold viruses to take hold and make us sick better than they can during the spring and summer months.

However, just because colds are more common when the weather is cold, doesn't mean colds are caused by cold weather. It's the viruses that make us sick, not the temperature outside.

How to Avoid Colds During Cold Season

Wash Your Hands
Do you know how to wash your hands? Are you sure you're doing it right? Such a simple act is an incredibly important part of keeping yourself and those around you healthy. We touch our faces thousands of times a day and we touch things in our environments even more often. Washing those germs off your hands is essential to keeping them out of your body.

Cover Your Cough
If you are sick and coughing, use your elbow to cover your mouth when you cough. When you cough into your hands, you just spread the germs onto everything you touch and then to anyone else who might touch those things after you. Changing how you cover your cough really isn't that difficult and it makes a big difference in the spread of germs.

Tips for Staying Healthy at Work
Most of us spend a majority of our day at work and more than likely that means being exposed to other people. Because of the demands of our busy lives, a lot of those people don't feel like they have time to take sick days when they aren't feeling well, so instead they come to the office and spread their germs to everyone else. While you may not be able to ban sick people from your office, there are steps you can take to reduce your chances of catching whatever illness they have.

Tips for Staying Healthy When You Travel
Dry, recycled airplane air, infrequent access to soap and water and exposure to lots of strangers (and their germs) can all make getting sick when you are traveling a good possibility. See what you can do to minimize your risk of getting sick when you are traveling.

Staying Healthy When a Family Member is Sick
Perhaps even more difficult than staying healthy at work or when you are traveling is avoiding the germs in your own home when a family member has a cold or other viral infection. Considering the amount of times you will touch the same objects in your home, it may not be possible to avoid the germs, but there are things you can do to try.

Should You Call In Sick?
If you are one of those people who has more work to do than hours in the day, you have probably struggled with the decision about whether or not you should stay home from work when you are sick. If you are having trouble deciding what the best choice would be, read this article. It will help you decide based on the many factors you need to consider.

Do You Have a Cold?

Since cold symptoms are so similar to the symptoms of many other illnesses, sometimes it can be difficult to figure out what is making you sick. If you aren't sure, these quizzes can help you determine what might be causing your symptoms.

Sources:

Common Cold. Patient and Visitor Information. The Ohio State University Wexler Medical Center. 28 May 12.

Common Cold Cause. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases 20 May 11. National Institutes of Health. US Department of Health and Human Services. 28 May 12.

  1. About.com
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  4. Common Cold
  5. FAQ About the Cold
  6. When is the Common Cold Season?

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