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Catch Your Death of Cold

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So please call me, baby
Wherever you are
It's too cold to be out walking in the streets
We do crazy things when we're wounded
Everyone's a bit insane
I don't want you catching your death of cold
Out walking in the rain
Tom Waits, "Please Call Me, Baby", The Heart of Saturday Night

The Common Cold is a very mild diseasenote  caused by a number of different viruses that largely have nothing in common other than most of the symptoms they cause. It has been around as long as anyone can remember, but has yet to be stamped out due to the sheer number of "cold" viruses and their different properties. Almost as durable as the disease itself is the myth that it's directly caused by exposure to cold temperatures, and that's what this trope is about.

The origins of the disease's name dates back to ancient times. Long before the advent of germ theory or any understanding of how the body works, it was believed that one's health was dependent on keeping the body's "humours" - blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile - in balance. The patient exposed to cold temperatures was thought to have taken in a "lump" of cold which would increase the amount of phlegm, so any disease that caused a patient to produce phlegm was said to be caused by "catching cold". In addition, people in pre-industrial times were more likely to embark on travel in the late fall because that's when the year's harvest was sold. Those that went to market (quite possibly through cold, wet conditions) would bring back whatever infections they had been exposed to. Since these infections usually spread through the community in the early winter when the temperature was coincidentally dropping, the common cold gained an additional association with cold weather.

In truth, because the cold can only be caught from other people, you're far less likely to catch it if you go wandering through the wilderness on a cold night, although prolonged exposure may well weaken your immune system against an infection already acquired. You'd do far better to worry about the much more severe consequences of real exposure, such as hypothermia and frostbite.

Despite the fact that the actual cause of the cold has been fairly common knowledge for about a hundred years now, this fact has not seemed to permeate the public consciousness very far. (In English-speaking communities, this confusion may just be caused by its being called a 'cold'.) Mothers still caution their children to button up when going outside lest they catch cold, and any character in fiction, especially animation, will instantly begin to sneeze and cough after being chilled or, especially, frozen. It helps that a lot of symptoms associated with a cold can also occur simply by being in a cold environment; these symptoms may go away once the person experiencing them has been warmed up again, which is sometimes Truth in Television, as some people Freeze Sneeze when it's cold, but often these symptoms are treated like a cold.

There's some legitimacy to this claim, to wit: having a rapid change in temperature (such as a home with a roaring fire to the freezing midwinter outdoors) can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to showing symptoms of the common cold. So, going outside while properly protected from the cold really is good advice for avoiding virus-related unpleasantness, and other cold-related unpleasantness. Cold air can also irritate the respiratory tract enough to cause a temporary increase in mucus production, but in that case it's more like having a very mild asthma attack than an actual infection.

The trope, although a Discredited Trope at this point, is still used faithfully in fiction and media — exposure to cold means you are going to 'catch' a cold or something worse. Once one has caught cold, if it's a Gross-Out Show, expect rivers of green mucus, horrible shots of runny noses and hankies and tissues dripping with said mucus.

A common occurrence is when a character takes care to remove their wet clothes if they get soaked in order to prevent sickness, often leading to awkward situations such as Take Off Your Clothes request being misinterpreted or leading to Undressing the Unconscious situation if the character with wet clothes has blacked out. If no other clothes are available they will likely be Hanging Our Clothes to Dry. In a desperate situation they may resort to Intimate Healing.

The variations of this trope are rarely combined with Redemption in the Rain, Snow Means Cold, or Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Death.

See also: Freeze Sneeze. When the cold really is fatal, see Snow Means Death. When cartoon characters catch a cold from the cold, they're liable to be shown recovering with a Foot Bath Treatment and/or an Illness Blanket.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the first movie to Cardcaptor Sakura, Sakura falls into a (shallow) well and gets completely soaked, then sneezes.
  • In A Cruel God Reigns, Jeremy immediately catches a cold after he attempts to throw himself in the lake during a freezing rain but is pulled out by Ian. The trope is lampshaded by Lindon, who says he's more worried about Jeremy catching a cold than he is about water in his lungs or the possibility of an irregular heartbeat. To be fair though, Lindon states that Jeremy is probably also sleep deprived, and that the exposure to the cold may have just been the final blow to his immune system.
  • In a Filler episode of Fairy Tail, Lucy catches a cold after being buried in snow while other guild members battle a wyvern.
  • In Free! Haru catches a cold from swimming in the newly restored Iwatobi High swimming pool too early in the season.
  • In Hidamari Sketch, when Yoshinoya-sensei (and a number of students) is out sick, the principal advices the other students to take care of themselves, specifically warning them not to go out with wet hair on a cold day just because "you think it looks cool" (implying that that's how Yoshinoya-sensei got sick).
  • In Jewelpet (2009), Dian has a cold that lasts for several episodes after his release from his frozen seal.
  • Kiki's Delivery Service: Kiki ends up sick in bed after getting caught in a storm doing a delivery.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • In the anime episode "The Ice Cave!", Team Rocket doused Ash and his friends with cold water inside the title icy cave, causing Brock to come down with symptoms similar to influenza.
    • In the XY episode "Battling At Full Volume!" a similar thing happened, as Ash got a bad cold after being doused in cold water.
  • In Futari wa Pretty Cure Splash★Star, Saki catches a cold after diving into cold water to rescue Flappy and Choppy.
  • Kirito sneezes once when caught out in the rain in Snow White with the Red Hair and develops a cold that night. In this case he did not actually get sick from the cold itself and everyone else who was in the rain is fine.

    Comic Books 
  • In Asterix: In "Asterix in Switzerland", Obelix says he's caught a cold from "that wretched lake".
  • DuckTales: As Scrooge wanders around Duckburg while trying to figure out what happened so that no one wants to be anywhere around himnote , he gets caught out in some weather and begins sneezing. He hates this, most notably because cold medicine is so expensive. Later, the cold turns into a fever.

    Comic Strips 
  • In a Calvin and Hobbes strip, Calvin deliberately catches a cold (to escape schoolwork) by opening the window and putting his head outside. In another strip, his mom refuses to allow him to play in the rain because he might catch pneumonia, although this is somewhat more justified as pneumonia can be contracted from spores or molds.
  • Peanuts: Exaggerated in one strip, where Schroeder claims to have caught a cold from having a chilling sensation listening to music.

    Eastern Animation 
  • The Haunted House: The Secret of the Ghost Ball: in episode 10 Ian gives Gauen his umbrella after seeing her leave hers over a cat caught in the rain, saying she'll catch a cold if she stays in the rain without one, and telling her the cold doesn't bother him when she protests. Later he's chilled, but never actually gets sick, although it's unclear if it's realism in play or him being immune to the trope because he's a vampire.
  • KikoRiki: in "The Chill", Wally bathes in icy water and eats icicles in hopes of Getting Sick Deliberately. It doesn't work on him, but gets Krash and Chiko (who were trying to stop him) to catch cold.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: When Bolt comes down with a bad cold in "The Mall," Rhino blames it on the dog's jumping into the neighbor's pond to chase ducks on a cold day.
    Rhino: [scoldingly] Maybe next time you'll think twice about swimming in the neighbor's duck pond when it's 35 degrees out. It's like when people go outside with wet hair after they take a shower. Not smart.
  • In Fever Dreams Light and L get sick after staying out on the roof in the rain and having sex for a prolonged period of time.
  • Ghostbusters (1984):
    • Zigzagged in Sick Day. Ghosts use their ice powers on the Ghostbusters, which makes them all sick, but with different diseases: Peter Venmkan gets a sinus infection, Ray Stantz gets a cold, Egon Spengler gets what seems to be a serious flu, and Winston Zeddemore gets a stomach virus.
    • In Under the Weather, Egon catches a cold after being locked in a freezer.
  • Happy Days:
    • A fan fiction called A Day in the Rain is Worth a Few In Bed, Fonzie gets a cold from kissing in the rain with his Love Interest Meg, who's an Author Avatar.
    • Another fanfic involving Meg, The Fonz Does Not Get Sick, has Fonzie get a cold from swimming in winter.
  • If Them's the Rules, Tom ends up sick after other kid dumps a bucket of ice water on "accident" in the middle of winter.
  • The Kedabory Verse:
    • In Fragile; Handle with Care, Jesse catches cold after getting drenched in the rain the day before.
    • Inverted in I Got You, Little Buddy; Frostina becomes very weak after being in the warm sun.
    • In Let Me Warm Your Heart, Narcis gets mild hypothermia from getting caught in the rain/snow, which softens into a cold as the story progresses.
    • Downplayed in Nurse Jet. Sean was sniffling by the beginning of the story, but he wasn't fully sick until after leaving the window open overnight while it was raining.
    • Exploited in The Panda Chronicles chapter "The Toaster's Toast"; Aaron Z. opens the window on a cold January morning as part of his ruse to make Jesse think Tae-young is sick.
    • Defied in That Catch in Your Throat; Sabrina questions how Bruno could have caught a "cold"note  in the middle of spring. Sierra explains that colds are caused by viruses, not literally being cold, and that if he were to get sick from being cold, he'd get hypothermia.
    • In Twinkling in the Dark, when Miyuki scolds Candy for hogging the sheets, Candy retorts that she doesn't want to catch a cold.
  • In K-S-M: Kiss Me, which is a fanfiction of Laverne & Shirley, this trope is zigzagged. Laverne has a cold (or possibly flu, nobody's sure) and Shirley thinks that she went into the cold after taking off her coat, but Laverne herself thinks it's a result of being drenched with water after a fight at a party. However, a whole lot of others also got drenched at the same party, including Lenny, who is seen perfectly healthy.
  • The Loud House:
    • In Pool of Pity, Lincoln becomes sick with what seems like a cold after falling into a water fountain.
    • In Stormy Hearts, Girl Jordan catches a cold after walking through a storm.
  • This comes up multiple times in Sherlock Holmes fics by KCS:
    • All Gods Little Creatures: It is rather wet outside when Watson runs into two Irregulars, Bert and Alfie, and the flu has been going around, so he invites them in. He namedrops the trope when Alfie resists his efforts to take Alfie's wet coat. (Alfie is hiding kittens in the coat.)
    • Love Covers All Sins: Holmes finds being outside (even in a cab) rather unpleasant after three days of weakening himself to fool the killer, and notes that he hopes neither he nor Watson will become ill from the rain. When he catches the doctor's attention, Watson tells him he shouldn't be outside in his condition, and Holmes tells him that the advice applies to them both.
  • In this unnamed Mork & Mindy fanfiction, Mork develops cold-like symptoms after playing in the rain.
    • In Mork and Memories, Mindy asks Mork if he remembers catching a cold because he was in the rain.
  • In Old Fashioned Remedies, which is a fanfic of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, with a short appearance of Boba Fett from Star Wars Apple Bloom gets a disease from working in cold weather. The symptoms are fatigue, green face, red polka dots, and low mood. Yes, she gets better, but in the process, things get Squicky, and there's a bit of a Mind Screw.
  • In a What's New, Scooby-Doo? fanfic called Scooby Kratt, where they meet the gang from Wild Kratts. Velma has a cold and says she's had it since they were mystery solving last week in the rain.
  • The Stalking Zuko Series Zuko gets extremely sick from cooler fever as warming himself in a freezer caused a temperature shift that weakened his immune system.
  • In Tommy Pickles: The Terrible Twos, Didi thinks Tommy will catch a cold if he stays in his wet clothes.
  • In Travels of the Trifecta, Paul catches a severe cold from being soaking wet in the rain near the beginning of the story.

    Films — Animation 
  • In the movie Balto, Rosy is taken to the doctor, and sees her dog Jenna outside. When Rosy goes to play with Jenna, she starts to cough, and her father rushes out saying, "You'll catch your death out here!" Justified, as Rosy was already sick with diphtheria, and being outside on a cold Alaskan winter evening with no coat would have likely made her worse.
  • Beauty and the Beast: Belle's father Maurice lets out a Freeze Sneeze when he first enters the Beast's castle after getting drenched in a rainstorm and develops a nasty cough after the Beast locks him in the cold dungeon. Later, after failing to convince the villagers to help him rescue Belle, he tries to go back to the castle by himself, but gets caught in a blizzard and becomes sicker than ever. Fortunately, when Belle and the Beast see this in the magic mirror, the Beast lets Belle go to take him safely home, where he somehow becomes instantly well enough to ride back to the castle with Belle at the climax.
  • In Christmas Carol: The Movie, Tiny Tim, only just recovering from pneumonia, makes the mistake of caroling outside Scrooge's window, and Scrooge throws a bucket of cold water onto him. This triggers a relapse of his illness, which is what would have killed him if not for Scrooge's ghostly adventures that night.
  • In Peter Pan, Captain Hook is shown sneezing and with a bad headache after the crocodile chases him through the water at Skull Rock. Smee's clumsy attempts to take care of him only make him more uncomfortable. As with Maurice (see above), though, his symptoms disappear once the plot gets back underway.
  • In Winnie the Pooh (2011), the Backson is shown to give Eeyore a cold in the fantasy sequence by sprinkling water on him and blowing icy air at him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Alexander's sister Emily comes down with a cold on the day of her school play, and blames it on having been out in the "cold van" all evening rehearsing.
  • In Babe, Babe catches a cold after running away from home on a rainy night. Though the cold itself concerns the vet less than the little pig's refusal to eat, which unbeknownst to the humans, is because of the reason why he ran away: he just learned that humans eat pigs. But after Farmer Hoggett comforts him with a song and dance, assuring him of his love, he eats again and quickly recovers.
  • An extreme version of this trope is in the backstory for Casper: the title character died at age 12 after getting sick from sledding outside too long on a winter's day.
  • In A Christmas Carol: The Musical starring Kelsey Grammer as Scrooge, Bob Cratchit has a cold and sneezes constantly, presumably due to Scrooge's stinginess with the coal in his office. Scrooge is later shown sneezing as well, implying that he's caught Bob's cold.
  • Independence Day: Julius tells his son to get off the cold floor so he doesn't catch cold. This gives David the inspiration to write a virus that will help humanity against the invading aliens.
  • In It's a Wonderful Life, George lost the hearing in his left ear from a cold he caught as a result of saving his brother from falling in the ice. Zuzu catches a cold from walking home with her coat unbuttoned. George complains that they ought to all have pneumonia from how drafty their house is.
  • In both the 1943 and 1970 versions of Jane Eyre, Helen Burns' consumption takes its fatal turn for the worse after she's forced to spend hours outside in the rain as a punishment (alone in 1970, with Jane in 1943). This is a page-to-screen embellishment, as neither Helen nor Jane is ever punished in that way in the book (although certainly in other ways) and Helen's illness worsens on its own.
  • Madeline: Madeline falls into the river and has a sneezing fit, and Miss Clavel seems to think she's sick, putting her to bed with tea and soup. The movie doesn't say if she's actually sick or just chilled, though – once she's alone, she gets out of bed and seems fine, although she does almost give herself away with an Ill-Timed Sneeze while trying to hide Genevieve the dog, who followed her home.
  • Mary Poppins: Discussed. Jane, Michael, Bert, and Mary get rained on and while they don't get sick, Mary does give herself and the children medicine to prevent this, saying that "People who get their feet wet must learn to take their medicine".
  • Played for Laughs in Pete's Dragon (1977): After being tossed from a boat into the water by Elliot, mean hillbilly matriarch Lena Gogan is shown sneezing and complaining about various body aches, and she insists that she has "p'monia." She recovers after just one scene, though.
  • In Disney's The Three Lives of Thomasina, little Mary catches pneumonia after running out into a rainy night after her long-lost, presumed-dead cat, the titular Thomasina. She nearly dies - only getting her cat back in the end gives her the will to recover.

  • Evoked in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, after swimming in the Pool of Tears she cried when she was a giant, Alice worries that she’ll catch a bad cold if she doesn’t get dry quickly, although she doesn’t.
  • In a move storybook based on Disney's Alice in Wonderland, the doorknob says, "I'm so wet! I'm catching my death of cold!" when the giant Alice literally cries a river, although he never said that in the movie.
  • In Samantha's birthday story in the American Girl series, Samantha complains that her grandmother makes her wear long underwear from September to June to prevent consumption.
  • In Anne of Green Gables, Anne catches a cold at one point from playing in the water at sunset the previous night. She still insists on baking a cake for when Mr. and Mrs. Allan come to tea, though, and because she can't smell anything, she accidentally puts anodyne liniment into the cake instead of vanilla.
  • In the Belgariad, cave-dweller Relg catches a cold soon after emerging onto the surface world for the first time; although exposure to the other characters might have infected him with something to which they were already immune, the text implies he caught it from the unaccustomed weather. (Then subverted: Relg recovers by walking through rock.) In the Malloreon, one character voices an apparently serious concern that the Team Pet snake might have caught a cold, though this proves not to be the case.
  • The story Charlie the Crocodile Who Couldn't Catch a Cold has Charlie, a Funny Animal crocodile, catch a cold from neglecting to wear his coat in the snow due to his erroneous belief that crocodiles are immune to colds.
  • In the final book of the The Dark Tower series, Roland starts coughing and seems to have the start of pneumonia due to the extended exposure to cold and long amounts of walking with minimal nutrition. He eats a part of a freshly killed deer to cure it.
  • The Famous Five: At the beginning of Five have a Wonderful Time, George has been in bed with a cold, having bathed in April. Many of the other books warn of the children being in bed with bronchitis or pneumonia if they swim in cold water.
  • In Fungus The Bogey Man, Bogeys (a humanoid species who like things humans dislike) have a superstition that if a Bogey lets their feet get dry, they'll end up with a disease called a "hot".
  • In the Greyfriars stories, anyone who gets soaked with water is liable to be coughing and sneezing by the following chapter.
  • Bilbo in The Hobbit catches a cold after his ride downriver on a barrel, soaked through and very cold when he arrives.
  • The titular character of Ishmael "dies" of pneumonia after being out in the cold too long.
  • In the picture book Little Racoon Catches a Cold, the title character gets told to bundle up or he'll get a cold. He tries to literally "catch" a cold, but in the end falls in the river and is told "a cold caught you".
  • Little Women:
    • Evoked after Amy falls through thin ice and is narrowly rescued from drowning: Jo worries that she'll get sick and die as a result of the accident, but she doesn't. Somewhat justified, as Amy was already just getting over a cold at the time.
    • Later, Jo catches a cold after selling her hair because she forgets to keep her head covered more than she used to when outdoors.
  • The Moomins: One book has Moomintroll catch his first cold (although it's cured with flu medicine) from falling into the river in winter.
  • Mr. Men: In "Mr. Sneeze", a place called "Coldland" has all its citizens with perpetual colds due to the low temperature.
  • In the picture book Mr. Putter and Tabby Catch the Cold, Mr. Putter catches a cold after he goes outside in the snow without his hat.
  • In a book based off Oswald, Oswald gets a cold from being caught in the rain.
  • In Pride and Prejudice, Jane ends up with a bad cold after riding her horse through the rain to visit the Bingley sisters.
  • In the Rainbow Magic book "Sky the Blue Fairy", the titular Sky becomes very ill after the bubble she was trapped inside freezes over. To save her, Rachel and Kirsty bring her to the pot at the end of the rainbow, where Sky's four found sisters, Ruby, Amber, Saffron, and Fern, create a fairy ring to restore her colour.
  • Ramona Quimby:
    • In "Ramona's World", Beezus is not allowed to go out because it's raining and she's just washed her hair, so her mom thinks she will get sick. Beezus not being let out because her hair is wet is also a minor plot point in "Beezus and Ramona".
    • In "Ribsy", Ribsy runs out of the bathtub and under the bed. He sneezes, and Louanne thinks he's "catching cold", but in reality he's only sneezing from the dust. When the family have a hard time drying Ribsy, Zibby (Louanne's big sister) says that they don't want him to catch cold or else the owner might not offer a reward.
  • In Sam, Bangs & Moonshine, Thomas gets laryngitis from nearly drowning.
  • Marianne in Sense and Sensibility comes down with a bad fever after moping around a wet garden and not changing into dry clothes. This is more justified because she'd been generally neglecting her health and contemporary medical treatment included bloodletting, which would just makes things worse (not that Austen knew it at the time).
  • At one point in Stuart Little, Stuart is accidentally shut in the fridge and catches a cold which turns into bronchitis.
  • In The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, Jemima thinks her eggs will catch cold if she doesn't sit on them. Then again, she is described as a "simpleton".
  • What is Love?, which is a book tries to define the word "love" to children has a part about Tough Love which says that "your parents may make you wear a jacket in the rain even if you don't want to and your teachers may make you study subjects you personally dislike but don't think that means they don't love you because their motivations are still out of love. Your parents make you wear the jacket because they don't want you to catch a cold and your teachers give you lessons you don't like because they might be important in the future."
  • In The Woman in White, Marian gets soaked in the rain and develops full-blown typhoid fever within hours.
  • Wuthering Heights:
    • Cathy (I) nearly dies of a fever after spending hours outside in the rain at night, waiting for the runaway Heathcliff to come back. Whether this is from the rain, from grief, or both is ambiguous, though. At any rate Mr. and Mrs. Linton contract it while caring for her and both die, and it foreshadows the Brain Fever that leads to her Death by Childbirth three years later.
    • Edgar Linton's ultimately fatal lung infection is first triggered by a walk through chilly weather. Soon afterward, Nelly Dean also falls ill for three weeks after walking through cold and dampness while going to and from Wuthering Heights. Unfortunately, Cathy (II) takes advantage of her father and nurse both being sick in order to sneak to Wuthering Heights without their knowledge, visiting her cousin Linton and falling into Heathcliff's scheme to have them married so he can inherit Edgar's property.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon wants to get out of going to a birthday party for Amy's aunt and announces that he'll "run around outside with a wet head and try to catch a cold."
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show: In "The Death of the Party", Laura protests Rob going out golfing early in the morning, saying that it will ruin him for the party that evening. Rob does indeed come down with the flu, but in the end Laura acknowledges that he probably actually caught the flu before that morning's excursion.
  • In F Troop, it happens to Captain Parmenter after he keeps getting water dumped on him in one episode. Unfortunately, the cure leaves him Unsuspectingly Soused.
  • Invoked in Highlander...Anne tells Duncan he'll get a cold from sitting out in the cold air. (And she was a doctor. Eesh. As for whether immortals get sick, we never find out for sure.)
  • Laverne & Shirley: Mentioned in the episode "One Flew Over Milwaukee". While nobody gets sick from the cold or getting wet, Carmine does tell Shirley, who'd been sitting by an open window on a snowy day, to change clothes because he "doesn't want her to catch pneumonia".
  • Our Miss Brooks: The trope appears in any episode where Mr. Conklin is being particularly stingy in maintaining the school's heat; most notably "Blue Goldfish".
  • Sesame Street: This is occasionally discussed, but never played straight:
    • In one skit, Ernie tells Bert not to stand around in the cold weather or he'll "catch cold".
    • In the song "Achoo", the animals sing that one reason to sneeze is when they "catch cold in the rain".
  • The Tick (2001): Arthur tells Batmanuel that the last time the Immortal was in town he waited outside his hotel for hours in bad weather hoping to get his autograph and caught a terrible cold. (He never did end up getting Immortal's autograph.)
  • Worzel Gummidge: In "Muvvers' Day", Worzel falls into a pond and Sue says, "He'll probably get pneumonia!". Not only can pneumonia not be caught from falling into a pond, but Worzel is a scarecrow, and as John says, "Scarecrows can't get pneumonia!"

  • In the children's song Achoo, I Got a Cold, the little girl catches a cold from going out in the rain with wet hair and the little boy John catches a cold from fishing without a jacket.
  • Evoked none-too-seriously in the Christmas standard Baby, It's Cold Outside: "Think of my lifelong sorrow if you caught pneumonia and died."
  • Another children's song, Fred Penner's Ebeneezer Sneezer, has the title character catch a cold after going out to play on a chilly day without any warm clothes on.
  • From Christina Perri's "Jar of Hearts": "You're gonna catch a cold/From the ice inside your soul". Todd in the Shadows sums up this insult perfectly.
  • An old British folksong "On Ilkley Moor" suggests that, from traveling on Ilkley Moor without a hat ("baht'aht"), then "thou'll catch thy de'ath of cauld!", after which there are other repercussions, leading to a somewhat cannibalistic observation!
  • In Tom Paxton's song "Ramblin' Boy," this is how the title character dies:
    Late one night in a jungle camp,
    The weather it was cold and damp.
    He got the chills and he got 'em bad.
    They took the only friend I had.
  • Played for Laughs in the song "With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm": Allegedly, the ghost of Anne Boleyn sometimes catches a cold from haunting the Tower of London's drafty corridors at night, and finds it awkward to blow her nose with her severed head tucked underneath her arm.
  • "The Welly Boot Song" by Billy Connolly:
    If it wasnae for yer wellies, where would you be?
    You'd be in the hospital or the infirmary.
    For you would have a dose of the flu or even pleurisy,
    If you didnae have yer feet in yer wellies.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Earthdawn supplement Earthdawn Survival Guide had a game mechanic for catching a cold after being caught in the rain.


    Video Games 
  • In Harvest Moon: Animal Parade, if you work too hard in the rain, you'll catch a cold. The cold makes it so it takes more stamina to do work, unless you cure it. You also lose stamina faster just by working in the rain itself, but that's a somewhat more reasonable assumption to make, because doing hard work while soaking wet, in high winds, seems more difficult.
  • In Katawa Shoujo, Emi catches a cold after staying out in the rain too long.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Idle Animation changes based on your environment. If it's a cold place, you shiver, and then sneeze.
  • In Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, the late-game boss Blizzard Midbus attacks using snow and ice-based powers which can cause Bowser to become sick.
  • Almost happens to Dr. Wily in Mega Man 10.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Became a reoccurring mechanic in the series starting with Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, where leaving Solid Snake hanging around in the water of the underground drainage ditch for too long causes him to catch a cold, making him occasionally sneeze. The sound causes nearby guards to get suspicious.
    • Snake gets a cold after being stripped of his suit in Metal Gear Solid. Again, it only serves as something to attract guards. In-game dialogue implies he caught it from the sick soldier guarding his cell, though he can also catch cold from spending too much time in the frozen outdoors at the beginning of the game.
    • He gets a cold again in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, after sneaking around in the pouring rain. Later in the game, Raiden can also get a cold if you take too long finding his gear in the level where he's naked.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Naked Snake can catch a cold if you make him run around in the "Naked Camo" or hang around in water or rain. In addition to his random sneezing alerting guards like in previous games, his stamina will drain more quickly, the camera will shake in first person view, and the controller will vibrate (explained in-game as Snake shivering) until you cure him.
  • Mini DAYZ has a body temperature gauge which decreases if your character is exposed to cold conditions, all of which is made worse by changing weather (e.g. snowfall) and your clothing not being warm enough to prevent loss of body heat if its low quality and/or damaged from enemy attacks. Should your body temperature gauge drop to zero, your character becomes sick and can no longer regenerate health even if they have sufficient food/water, plus using tetracycline to cure yourself is pointless if you don’t have the means to warm yourself up again (since you’ll just become sick once more shortly after taking it). Fortunately, staying inside an enclosed structure and/or using certain items (e.g. whiskey) can heat you up quickly, but these are only temporary solutions at best.
  • Implied in Moshi Monsters: After being set free from being frozen in ice, Judder has the flu, although he might have had it before being frozen.
  • Persona:
    • In Persona 3, the main character gets caught in the rain on the way back from school during the onset of a typhoon, and spends a few days in bed with a fever. The main character can also come down with a cold if fatigued by studying too late or spending too much time dungeon-crawling in Tartarus; because daytime is being spent in a crowded school and the fatigue weakens his immune system, this is in fact more realistic than catching cold due to the weather.
    • In Persona 5, there are five days of flu season. During this time, any enemies you encounter have a chance of starting their battles inflicted with despair, a status effect that disables all actions and kills its victim in three turns. The Reaper is not immune to this. That's right, Death itself can be killed by a cold.
  • Phoenix himself in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations catches a cold after falling to a river in a very cold mountain. While the fall only caused him minor injuries, the sudden shift in temperature caused his immune system to weaken.
  • In Puyo Puyo Chronicle, the Blueo manzais (cutscenes) have characters consistently worrying about catching a cold from being out in Blueo, with Amitie adding that they could also have frostbite (Blueo is a Slippy-Slidey Ice World).
  • A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky: A woman in Lilledragen:
    Woman: It's dangerous to go outside without heavy clothing. Are you trying to catch the flu?!
    Gainer: No, ma'am...
    Woman: Just try to keep warm, dear.
  • Played for Laughs in Final Fantasy XIV. In the Endwalker storyline, Urianger returns to Camp Broken Glass with the Loporrits in tow as the creatures want to see the planet for themselves. Unfortunately, Urianger is wearing the Level 80 Astrologian gear, which is really thin and shows off a lot of skin, and Camp Broken Glass is just south of the now-ravaged Garlemald, which is in the extreme north in Ilsabard. Alisaie snaps at Urianger, saying he'll catch his death of cold, which he agrees with.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In an Angelina Ballerina episode, Mr. Operatski thinks he's got a cold after falling in the river and nearly drowning. It is never confirmed if he actually did get a cold.
  • In Around the World with Willy Fog, Tico falls ill as a result of being exposed to the cold when the travellers set out to cross the frozen Great Lakes in an ice boat after heavy snow prevents their train from leaving Chicago. However, none of the other members of the party get sick from the cold, implying that the reason it happens to Tico is because he's by far the smallest of the group and is therefore less able to endure the freezing weather.
  • Subverted in the Arthur episode "Arthur's Almost Boring Day", in which Mr. and Mrs. Reed make Arthur and D.W. walk to Grandma Thora's house in a rainstorm. D.W. moans, "We'll die out here!" but as it turns out, neither of them get sick.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: After getting caught in "The Storm", Katara and Sokka both come down with severe colds. Aang, who is of stronger constitution (possibly due to having spent a century as a Human Popsicle), remains healthy and has to undertake the Fetch Quest to get their cure. They're an inversion because they're from a frozen climate but were not acclimated to a warmer climate.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: Fighting Mr. Freeze is enough to give Bruce a cold. Justified: it's stated there's an exceptional heat wave occurring; the temperature shift would weaken his immune system.
  • An episode of Ben 10 has Ben getting a cold after sneaking into the back of an ice cream truck.
  • Defied in the The Berenstain Bears Animated Adaptation of "Get in a Fight" which has Brother and Sister arguing over their treehouse in a rainstorm. Mama orders them to get inside and dry themselves off, then quotes this trope verbatim.
  • Betty Boop: In "Betty Boop's Ker-Choo", Betty says that she has a cold "because [she] didn't button up [her] overcoat".
  • Big Hero 6: The Series: Hiro immediately comes down with a cold after falling into the water in "The Impatient Patient".
  • Played with in the CatDog episode "All About Cat." When Cat sets out to make Dog sick so Cat can replace him in the starring role of the musical "Abe Lincoln, Superstar!", he opens the window to let in a cold breeze on Dog while he sleeps, and replaces his pillow with an ice block... but then he pours a vial of germs onto Dog too.
  • Dennis tries to invoke this by getting cold and wet in an episode of Dennis and Gnasher so he can catch a cold that's going around and get out of school. It doesn't work, though.
  • In Dibo The Gift Dragon, Elo catches a cold from walking in the rain in "Elo Catches a Cold", even though other people were in the rain and didn't catch it.
  • In the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode "Blooooo", Mac and Bloo both catch particularly nasty colds after playing in the mud during a thunderstorm. Bloo turns white and drags his snot along the wall (which is mistaken for ectoplasm), leading Wilt, Coco, and Eduardo to think he's a ghost.
  • On the Futurama episode "Cold Warriors", Fry gets a cold as a child when he falls into freezing water while ice fishing. It happens again in the year 3010, a time where the common cold has been eradicated, and Fry's dormant strain threatens to contaminate the whole world.
  • In the update of How to Catch a Cold, Goofy says that people used to think colds were acquired by going out in the rain.
  • Speaking of [[Western Animation/Goofy Goofy]] this trope is played unusually in the short "Cold War." The narrator properly notes that the common cold is caused by a virus, but Goofy is subsequently shown getting sick after opening his office window in winter. (The window is above ground level, which, in the absence of strong winds, would seem to pose an obstacle to him getting sufficient viral exposure
  • In Little Princess, Princess is told she will catch a cold if she doesn't move out in the rain in "I Want a Tent", but the rain never actually makes anyone sick.
  • In one Looney Tunes short, a dog trying to find shelter from the snow trespasses into a skunk's house. The skunk runs him out and he falls into a frozen pond, catching a cold in the process... which works to his advantage, as his nose is now too stuffed up to be affected by the skunk's odious smell.
  • In Madeline's Christmas, the twelve little girls' bedroom window is left open on a snowy night, and the next morning all the girls except Madeline are sick. Chloe is shown sneezing even before this happens, though, and later Miss Clavel gets sick despite being warm in the house. Played more completely straight in the Theatre adaptation, though, where the girls, Miss Clavel and Mrs. Murphy all get sick from going outside without scarves and Madeline is spared because she remembered to wear hers.
  • In an episode of The Magic School Bus, when Arnold takes his helmet off on Pluto, his head freezes over. Back on Earth, he's just got a cold. Just so everyone's clear, the estimated warmest temperature on the surface of this little ball of ice is just about a skip above absolute zero. The post-episode Q&A segment acknowledges how this was not realistic in the slightest and that he should have "turned into an ice block, or worse".
  • Mega Man: Fully Charged: mixed with Harmless Freezing. In I.C.E. (In Case of Emergency) Mega Man tells Ice Man they need to unfreeze some people "before they catch a cold".
  • An episode of Mike, Lu & Og has Mike getting a cold after getting drenched in ice water.
  • The ice-powered villain Frozer from Miraculous Ladybug has a bright purple nose (he has blue skin, so a red nose would be purple for him) and sounds like he has a stuffy nose when he speaks. His civilian self didn't have a cold when he was akumatized nor does he normally sound stuffed up, so it seems this was done purely because of this trope.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Winter Wrap Up", Spike has fallen asleep on the last piece of ice left in the lake. Applejack jokes he's in for a big surprise when it finally melts. Next time we see him, he's wrapped in a blanket by the fire with fuzzy slippers, looking sick (although another interpretation is that he's just sleepy, because Spike sleeps a lot.
  • At the end of the B-plot of The Owl House episode “Escaping Expulsion”, King is implied to have caught a cold after being trapped in a combo spell Eda cast Gone Horribly Right (which morphed into a spiky blob of ice). To wit, he’s sneezing, has a cup of hot cocoa, and is wrapped in a blanket.
  • In the Paper Port episode "Paper Night Fever", Matilda gets a fever, but since she gets a different and random power every day, this fever is actually a super fever (which can burn down all Paper Port if not cured in time), which is later revealed she got it because Charlie was messing with her by changing her bath temperatures too fast to listen to her reactions.
  • In Penelope, "Penelope Catches Cold" is an episode where the rain makes Penelope get a cold.
  • In the Peppa Pig episode "George Catches a Cold", George's cold is acquired from walking in the rain with no rain hat on.
  • The Pororo the Little Penguin episode "Get Well Soon, Loopy" has Loopy catch a very serious cold from getting drenched in water.
  • Played ridiculously straight at the end of the Recess episode "Rainy Days." Less than a minute of playing outside in the rain has T.J. and friends all sneezing and feeling sick by the time they go in.
  • In the Rocko's Modern Life episode 'Yarnbenders', Filburt the turtle falls ill after being stuck on his back in the rain, leading Rocko and Heffer having to tell him a twisted fairy tale.
  • In the Rugrats episode "Slumber Party", Tommy gets sick when Angelica opens a window in his bedroom before he naps, leading to a Fever Dream Episode where he hallucinates his whole family as figures from the mobile above his crib.
  • In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer makes Lisa crawl into a freezer to get a particular tub of ice cream, and she comes down with a cold. She then spends all her time playing a parody of Crash Bandicoot, and cheats on an English test.
  • Space Ghost episode "The Iceman". Blip catches a cold after being exposed to prolonged cold temperatures.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man: Peter goes around in un-insulated Spider-Man suit in the dead of snowy winter, and the next time we see Peter Parker, he's sneezing, albeit not necessarily with a cold.
  • On Spongebob Squarepants the Suds are the underwater version of a cold (for sponges, anyway), caught after Spongebob fell asleep in front of an open refrigerator.
  • Steven Universe: in "Arcade Mania," Steven wears a loud, puffy jacket to a stealth mission in an ice cave because he "doesn't want to catch a cold."
  • We Bare Bears: Notably Averted in "Bear Flu"; though the bears were playing in a lake and fell ill shortly afterwards, it's made explicitly clear that it was because the lakewater was filthy.
  • Inversion: The Year Without a Santa Claus: Vixen, who's acclimated to the frigid temps of the North Pole gets sick when she goes to warm weather Southtown.

    Real Life 
  • During his visit to the Western Isles of Scotland in 1773, Samuel Johnson was told that everyone on a certain island normally caught colds shortly after the quarterly ferry boat arrived. He thought the story unlikely since the contemporary understanding was that the common cold was caused by exposure to cold, but nevertheless reported the conversation faithfully in his book about the trip. The story was eventually referenced as evidence to support the germ theory of disease.
  • The death of Francis Bacon (stuffed a chicken with snow, died from pneumonia) is a prime contender for this trope. (As usual what really happened is in dispute.)
  • Two urban legends surrounding the deaths of US presidents: The throat infection that killed George Washington (or at least that led to his doctors bleeding him to death) is traditionally attributed to a long horseback ride he took through the snow two days earlier, while the pneumonia that killed William Henry Harrison just thirty days into his presidency is usually attributed to the long inaugural speech he gave in cold, wet weather with no coat. In truth, Harrison didn't become sick until three weeks after his inauguration, and the exact cause of Washington's death is still up for debate.
  • Similarly, a persistent legend about Emily Brontë holds that she caught a cold at her brother Branwell's funeral, presumably from the harsh autumn weather as the family walked to and from the church, which led to her death from tuberculosis three months later. Actually, the accounts from Charlotte Brontë and their household servant Martha Brown imply that she didn't fall ill until a week after the funeral.
  • Prolonged exposure to cold does sometimes bring on a temporary bout of the sniffles, as breathing cold air slows the action of cilia that normally keep the mucus coating of the nasal passages from accumulating. Such environment-induced nasal congestion isn't infectious, however, and clears up quickly once the sniffler resumes breathing normal-temperature air. Interestingly, it could clear one's sinuses and or nasal passages, leading to a runny nose
    • While the cold doesn't cause illness, it can bring some illness (like the flu or the common cold) out of its incubation period, triggering symptoms, or it can complicate an illness already present (like the Balto and A Christmas Carol examples under Western Animation).
    • In December 2022, a study found that the cold temperatures of winter kill off the immune cells in your nostrils, making you that much more likely to get sick when you inhale germs through your nose. Turns out the old adages really do have some degree of truth to them.
  • While it still doesn't make the common cold a deadly disease, there actually really are a few reasons why you're more likely to catch a respiratory virus like those causing the "cold" or the "flu" while the weather is cold outside:
    • Influenza viruses and coronaviruses (some of which cause the common cold) have been shown to survive much longer on surfaces such as door handles in cool and damp environments, compared to warm and dry circumstances. You can then smear the virus particles onto your mucous membranes if you touch your nose (as humans do unconsciously hundreds of times per day) or eat something without thoroughly washing your hands first.
    • As explained above, the cold air can cause the nose to become congested, which then causes people to breathe in through their mouth when doing strenuous activity outdoors. In this case the nose does not fulfill its function of catching virus-laden droplets, aerosols and other particles in the sticky mucus anymore, and so it becomes much more likely that the virus gets directly into your throat or lungs and infects the less well defended tissues there. And of course, you are going to get exposed to these very common and widely circulating viruses, unless you lock yourself up at home and never get close enough to other people to inhale their aerosols.
    • Even if you can keep breathing through your nose, when the air is freezing, the body will quickly reduce blood-flow through the capillaries in the nose to avoid losing too much heat. This means that the mucous membranes in the nose get "patrolled" less frequently by immune system cells and antibodies that travel in the blood, which makes it more likely that viruses that are capable of infecting the type of cells in these membranes (such as rhinoviruses, which also cause the common cold) will have the opportunity to do so before they're caught and neutralized. Once a few cells are infected, the initial few virus particles get massively multiplied and the more virus particles there are, the higher the likelihood that some are going to survive in the mucus to infect other tissues further down the respiratory tract. (I.e. you first get the sniffles, then a sore throat, then a cough, etc.)
    • At the same time, cold winter air dries out once it gets heated indoors (cold winter air carries less moisture than warm summer air), to the point where it can dry out the mucous membranes in your nose, which also makes them less effective at catching viruses before they end up further down the respiratory tract.
    • Due to the tilt of the planet and the filtering effects of the atmosphere,note  any area on Earth close enough to the poles to have winters with freezing temperatures does not receive enough sunlight of the specific wavelength the human body needs to produce vitamin D in the skin from about September to March. (Also, people spend most of their time indoors in bad weather and are normally bundled up against the cold, so not much sunlight would reach their skin in any case.) The vitamin D that is produced during the summer months is stored in the body’s fat reserves, but there is only so much vitamin D you can produce,note  so by the time January/February comes around, most people’s vitamin D storage is running low. Vitamin D is important for a healthy and strong immune system. This is why that time is the main flu season, and why early spring (and not the darkest, coldest time of winter, as you’d perhaps expect) is when statistically the most deaths from infectious diseases occur. But it’s not the coldness of winter that’s making you that more susceptible to catching whatever disease is going around. It’s the darkness of winter.
      • Incidentally, during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, it was found in the UK that people with darker skin tones – Afro-Brits and South Asians, with a much less pronounced effect for the lighter-skinned East Asians – had a much higher likelihood than white Europeans of dying from the disease, which is caused by a type of coronavirus similar to those causing the common cold. Even though everyone in the UK has access to the same health care (the NHS), and even after they controlled the statistics for age, socio-economic statusnote  and pre-existing health issues, they found that people with dark skin were still significantly more at risk of severe illness and death if they got infected with COVID-19. The simplest explanation would be that these people have chronic vitamin D insufficiency because their dark skin is evolutionarily adapted to much stronger sunlight and so they cannot produce enough vitamin D even in the summer months and really should take supplements all year round when living in a northern country. Earlier studies also had shown that daily doses of supplemental vitamin D can shorten the length and intensity of a bout of "common cold" (regardless of skin tone, since even white Europeans are low on vitamin D in the winter/spring, as explained above), even if this doesn’t significantly reduce the risk of getting infected in the first place. (Large doses taken just occasionally haven’t been found to result in the same helpful effect, though they can help bring up acutely low vitamin D levels as part of hospital treatment, which is what doctors are actually doing as part of COVID-19 treatment now, since there isn’t really any cure for viral diseases and giving vitamins to boost the patient’s own immune system is a relatively low-risk treatment and vitamins are a already being mass-produced and therefore easily available.)
    • In pre-modern times, before the Industrial Revolution and the invention of canning and refrigerators, late winter / early spring was known as the “hungry gap” in Europe because that was the time when the food harvested in the previous year ran out but nothing much was ready to be harvested yet from the new crops. Especially raw fruit and vegetables couldn’t really be stored beyond the time when temperatures got warmer again (or they had simply been used up by that point), and the earliest European berry species only become ripe in May/June. So vitamin C supply, necessary for a strong immune system, was a problem during this time of year. (There were a few stop-gaps, such as Ground Elder, which is a perennial leafy green rich in vitamin C that comes up just a few weeks after the ground thaws - it was imported to the more northerly parts of Europe by the Romans probably for that reason and then was grown by monks throughout the middle ages. Kale was bred to survive even frozen stiff and can be harvested all winter. In the Americas, winter squash was bred to keep for up to 6 months even without cooling. Various peoples around the world invented methods to ferment cabbage or root vegetables, which makes them storable for much longer and also releases/produces more vitamins as part of the microbial activity.note  And of course in very northern latitudes, people get their vitamin C more from hunting and eating animals that can synthesize vitamin C internally, unlike our fruit-eating African ape ancestors who lost this ability at some point early in their evolution.)
  • In a non-English scientific podcast about the COVID-19 pandemic, a virologist specializing on coronaviruses mentioned that the 4 coronaviruses that cause the “common cold” were originally zoonotic diseases just like the ones causing SARS and COVID-19 and that the last of the 4 “harmless” coronaviruses jumped from cows to humans in the 19th century.note  He said there is a current theory that this now mostly harmless coronavirus caused a quite severe disease epidemic at first as well.note  The theory (and hope) is that either coronaviruses in general tend to mutate to become less lethal once they’ve entered the human species.note  Or else that, once everybody got infected with a specific coronavirus, those that survive have lifelong immunity at least insofar as that they don’t get severely ill again because their immune system has learned to notice and fight the virus off.note  So, once a new coronavirus has infected more-or-less everybody a least once and is rotating through the population every year like the flu, totally new infections would only occur in children – and it seems like coronaviruses (even COVID-19) cause much less severe illness in children than in adults for some unknown reason. So at that point, everyone would get infected with the virus the first time as a child, when it can’t hurt you much, and then again and again as adults, but even then you won’t get severely ill anymore because your immune system was trained for this specific virus when you were a child. Perhaps that is how new coronaviruses go from “deadly pandemic” to “just another common cold” every time one of them jumps the species barrier, even without the virus mutating much. Conversely, if this theory holds true, it would suggest that the coronaviruses that (among other types of viruses) cause the “common cold” once really were serious and potentially fatal diseases, at least for one generation of humanity, each causing nasty local epidemics whenever it hit a new country/population, similar in severity to what was happening in winter/spring of 2020. (Travel was much slower and rarer in pre-modern times, so it could have taken decades for one specific virus to go around the entire planet.) Which might be part of how the myth of “catching your death of cold” may have originated.
  • While rhinoviruses and the coronaviruses that cause the "common cold" do not cause viral pneumonia (like COVID-19 and influenza viruses can, due to the above-described inflammation overreaction destroying the lung alveoli), it is not at all unlikely that this mild viral infection could keep your immune system busy enough that you get an outbreak of bacterial pneumonia (starting first with bronchitis, i.e. a deep, wet cough) on top of the cold, from bacteria that are already present in and on your body at all times but which are normally kept in check by the immune system, such as Staphylococcus pneumoniae. Or perhaps it is the increased mucus production during a viral "cold" that carries the bacteria from the upper resperatory tract, where they live harmlessly, down into the normally sterile lungs, where the body is not prepared to keep them in check. The exact mechanism how these so-called "commensal" bacteria can suddenly turn on you is still not fully understood, but this bacterial pneumonia then can be fatal, if it's not treated with antibiotics.


George Catches a Cold

George catches a cold from not wearing a rainhat.

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