Can wet hair make you fall sick?

You will catch a cold if you sleep or go out with wet hair! Is this a myth or fact? Let us tell you if wet hair can make you sick.
A woman with wet hair
Know if wet hair can make you sick. Image courtesy: Freepik
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 23 May 2024, 10:30 am IST
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How many times have you been reprimanded to avoid stepping out of the house with wet hair? We’re even told that sleeping with wet hair is  big no, simply because we may catch a cold or end up with pneumonia! But is it a fact or a myth? Are there any health hazards of wet hair? Read on to know if going out or sleeping with wet hair can make you sick or not.

Can going outside with wet hair lead to pneumonia?

While going outside with wet hair does not directly cause pneumonia, it might weaken the immune system, making one more susceptible to respiratory infections such as colds, says pulmonologist and critical care expert Dr Apoorv Krishna.

Pneumonia is primarily caused by pathogens like bacteria, viruses, or fungi infecting the lungs. Similarly, catching a cold is more about exposure to viruses transmitted through respiratory droplets rather than wet hair alone. Wet hair, especially in cold weather, might lower body temperature, potentially increasing the risk of infections, but the direct association with pneumonia is minimal.

A woman suffering from cold
Catching a cold is not directly linked with wet hair. Image courtesy: Freepik

There is hardly any concrete study or research on getting sick after going out or sleeping with wet hair, but according to the UK’s National Health Service, a cold is caused by a virus.

There are cold viruses, primarily rhinoviruses, and coronaviruses or respiratory syncytial viruses that spread through respiratory droplets or contaminated surfaces. Pneumonia can stem from various pathogens, including bacteria (such as Streptococcus pneumoniae), viruses like influenza or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and occasionally fungi. Both pneumonia and colds tend to thrive in conditions of weakened immunity or exposure to infectious agents.

Why should you avoid sleeping with wet hair?

You should not sleep with wet hair due to the following reasons:

1. It may cause hair breakage

Sleeping with wet hair could cause severe hair breakage because wet hair is more fragile and prone to damage. It can happen especially when hair gets tossed and turned on a pillow during sleep.

2. It may disrupt sleep

Wet hair, especially during cold months or an air-conditioned room, can make you feel cold because it lowers your body temperature. This can potentially leading to discomfort and disrupted sleep, says the expert.

3. It may weaken immune system

Wet hair may weaken your immune system, as exposure to cold and damp conditions can stress the body. Once that happens, body may invite unwanted infections.

4. It may promote bacteria growth

Moist environments are perfect breeding grounds for bacteria, and sleeping with wet hair creates such an environment on your pillow. This increases the risk of bacterial growth.

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Woman with wet hair
Sleeping with wet hair may cause dandruff. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

5. It may cause dandruff

Wet hair may cause dandruff because the moisture on the scalp creates a favourable environment for the overgrowth of yeast-like fungi. It can contribute to dandruff formation, says Dr Krishna.

Wet hair may not be directly linked to pneumonia or cold. But try not to sleep with wet hair, as it may cause other problems like dandruff. If you washed your hair in the evening, make sure to dry it thoroughly before going to sleep to minimise potential risks. You don’t have to use a heat styling product. Just use a towel or hair wrap to absorb moisture. Also, maintain a warm and dry sleeping environment to prevent further cooling of the body and reduce the risk of infections.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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