“Don’t go out in the rain…you might catch pneumonia.” Thanks to our parents and grandparents, that all-too-familiar phrase rings through our minds each time we step out into cold, rainy weather. But just as you’re about to parrot back that same exact reminder to your kids as they walk out into the rain, you pause for a second and wonder, “Can you really catch pneumonia from getting wet? Was this just another old wives’ tale? How exactly do you “catch” pneumonia?”
Pneumonia from Getting Wet – Where Does That Come From?
Facts About Pneumonia
Despite what your parents and grandparents said, a person can’t actually “catch” pneumonia from getting wet. What people catch is a bacteria or virus that can cause pneumonia. Pneumonia refers to an infection of the lungs caused by these organisms. This infection causes fluid and mucus to block the alveoli, making it difficult for oxygen to travel through your lungs. This will make it harder to breathe, especially if both of your lungs are infected.
Where Does the Old Wives’ Tale Come From ?
Remember, pneumonia is caused by a bacteria or virus. But you don’t necessarily get the bacteria or viruses from getting wet either. What happens is that your immune system can be weakened when you’re dealing with physical stresses such as hypothermia and hyperthermia. Just think, when you get wet, your body temperature drops, which can impact your immune system. When your immune system isn’t working like it should, you become more susceptible to bacteria and viruses that are all around us.
Even everyday stress can weaken your immune system and make you more prone to illnesses in general. And because little kids have immune systems that aren’t fully developed and elderly folks have weaker immune systems, they’re more vulnerable to getting sick, including pneumonia. So although you can’t catch pneumonia directly from getting wet, you probably understand what your parents were trying to say now.
When to See a Doctor for Pneumonia
If you have shortness of breath, chest pain, or confusion, you should seek emergency care as soon as possible.