South Africans know how quickly the weather can change, with chilly mornings that swiftly turn into warm afternoons. This fluctuating weather often leads to misconceptions about its impact on our health and the best ways to care for ourselves and our families.

Have you ever questioned if going out without a jacket can actually make you sick, or if loading up on vitamin C during the cooler months is necessary?

Bridget McArdle, D.O., a paediatrician at Henry Ford Health, addresses six winter health myths to help you and your loved ones stay healthy:

Myth #1: You lose most of your body heat through your head.

The truth: Not true.

“You don’t lose any more heat from your head than you do from other parts of your body,” says McArdle. “It’s just that when you go outside during winter, everything else is typically covered except your head, so it feels colder.”

Hair provides a natural insulation layer against the cold, while earmuffs and headbands are great alternatives to keep your ears warm without causing messy hair.

Myth #2: Drinking hot liquids warms you faster than cold liquids.

The truth: Not true.

While sipping a cup of hot tea or coffee on a cold day is a cherished ritual, it might actually cool you down instead of warming you up. “Your body senses the warm liquid and may react by slightly lowering your core temperature,” explains McArdle.

Myth #3: Going outside without a coat will make you sick.

The truth: Not true.

But why do we start to sniffle when we step into the cold? “It’s the viruses, not the cold weather, that make you sick,” McArdle clarifies. “People staying indoors more frequently during winter facilitates the spread of germs.”

Myth #4: Vitamin C prevents colds.

The truth: Not true.

“Taking vitamin C isn’t harmful, but it’s not a guarantee against colds,” McArdle advises. While excessive vitamin C can lead to side effects like nausea and diarrhoea, a balanced diet usually provides sufficient amounts of this vitamin.

Myth #5: Women are colder than men.

The truth: It’s complex.

“Women’s core body temperatures are generally a bit warmer than men’s, but their extremities can feel colder,” says McArdle, which could explain why many women report colder hands and feet.

Myth #6: Fluctuating temperatures make you sick.

The truth: Not true.

The actual culprits behind colds and flu in winter are viruses and bacteria, not the temperature swings. Even unusual warm days during the cooler months aren’t responsible for illnesses, though individuals with conditions like asthma might experience more symptoms during such fluctuations.

Understanding these myths will help everyone make informed health choices, especially as we deal with the unpredictable weather in South Africa.

Source: Henry Ford Health