Updated 29 August 2019

Is it just a myth or can cold weather cause a cough?

Cold weather is commonly associated with the common cold, but could it also be the reason behind your mysterious cough?

Cold air, wind and water have long been believed to lie behind catching a cold.

A previous Health24 article cites a 2017 study arguing that cold weather can actually cause a cold, proving there is some truth to this "old wives tale". The reason is that viruses replicate faster and more efficiently in colder conditions.

Winter might be coming to a close, but the cold and flu season isn’t over just yet. And with the cold weather often comes a mild, hacking cough that can become more severe. But how can simply being outside in the cold and breathing in the crisp air lead to a cough?

Dr Graeme Thompson told ABC Health & Wellbeing that cold air can exacerbate an existing cough – especially if you have a respiratory infection such as pneumonia or bronchitis. It is, however, unlikely that it can cause it. Chances of this happening are more likely if you live in regions where temperatures drop really low, such as Canada and Siberia.

Coughing at night

If you’re already battling with a cough, it may worsen at night. This is because we normally expel mucus from our airways through coughing, but when we’re asleep, we aren’t coughing, explains this Health24 article. This allows mucus to build up. There are ways to loosen the mucus trapped in your airways though, which includes being physically active and moving around.

Check out our list of the five distinct types of cough that can be either acute or chronic. If your cough persists for more than three weeks, it's best to see your doctor as it may be a sign of something more serious. 

Image: iStock


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Cough Expert

Professor Keertan Dheda has received several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others. Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute.

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