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The weather and your health: What’s the connection?

“Close that window. You’ll catch a cold!” Most of us grew up hearing advice like this. But can you really catch a cold from cold weather? Can achy joints predict a storm?

Some people have pretty fixed ideas about how weather affects them, although scientists haven’t always reached the same conclusions. Some notions don’t stand up. Others make sense.

Here are three common beliefs about the weather and your health and the truth behind them.

You’re more likely to catch a cold when you’re out in the cold. The common cold has nothing to do with cold weather. Viral infections cause colds, so you’d have to make contact with a sick person to catch a cold. However, viruses that cause colds tend to be more active during the winter, so it may seem as if you catch more colds when it’s cold out.

If you have arthritis, you’ll do better in a warm climate. Some people swear they ache less and move more easily in hot climates. Others say humidity triggers their joint pain. Recent studies show that a drop in barometric pressure causes the most discomfort for people with arthritis—which could explain why you feel discomfort in your joints when a big storm’s coming. Changes in pressure also seem to trigger headaches and migraines in some, along with more serious maladies.

You’re more likely to have a heart attack when the outdoor temperature is cold. People often blame the cold or snow for winter heart attacks. But scientists have found that many heart attacks occur soon after dramatic drops in air pressure that accompany storms. A greater variation in atmospheric pressure during the winter than in other seasons may be why the winter months are hardest on the heart.

Strange but true

Some people are allergic to cold weather, suffering from cold-induced hives, a condition called urticaria. Frosty temperatures trigger a release of chemicals called histamines in the skin of these cold-sensitive people, triggering redness, itching, hives and swelling.