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Debunking Old Wives' Tales: Triggers for Colds and Ear Infections

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Debunking Old Wives' Tales: Triggers for Colds and Ear Infections

Jan 08, 2024

Is your child’s teething causing their ear infections? Will they catch a cold if you let them go outside with wet hair? What about if you leave a window open while they’re sleeping? Pediatrician Cindy Gellner, MD, set the record straight on three of the more common old wives’ tales about colds and ear infections.

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    We hear it all the time, old wives' tales about triggers for colds and ear infections. We'll tackle the top three today on The Scope.

    Fact: Teething Does Not Cause Ear Infections

    Some parents think teething causes ear infections. Nope. Teething causes gum swelling, babies to drool and chew on things and eventually, a tooth to appear. But teething just happens to occur around the same time that babies and toddlers are more prone to ear infections. The two aren't connected.

    Fact: Wet Hair Does Not Cause a Cold or Ear Infection

    Another very popular old wives' tale is that if you go outside with wet hair if it's cold or windy, you'll get a cold or an ear infection. The only thing your child will get if they go outside with wet hair is a cold head.

    Colds are caused by viruses and ear infections are caused by bacteria. Colds are more common when it's fall and winter when the temperatures dip and it gets blustery, and ear infections are a common complication of colds. Research has discovered that there is some truth to the myth that being out in the cold actually makes a person more susceptible to viruses. When the nasal tissue drops just 9 degrees, the immune response can drop by almost half, explaining why we are more prone to catching certain viruses during wintertime. But your child's hair moisture status is not a factor.

    Fact: Sleeping With the Window Open Will Not Cause a Cold

    Lastly, sleeping with the window open or the fan on causes a cold. Again, colds are caused by viruses, not the air circulation of your bedroom. Your body may get cold, but you won't get sick.


    updated: January 8, 2024
    originally published: September 5, 2016