WebMD BlogsPublic Health

'Will COVID-19 Get Worse in the Winter?'

woman covid illustration
By Elizabeth Hanes, BSN, RNOctober 19, 2020

As you stock up your medicine cabinet for the traditional winter “cold and flu season,” you may find yourself wondering if COVID-19 will get worse this winter, too.

Probably, yes.

As I keep saying, there’s a lot we don’t know about how this virus behaves. But we do know a combination of factors -- including human behavior -- could lead to a spike of COVID-19 cases throughout the winter months.

First, thanks to cold weather, people will get pushed indoors. We know the virus spreads more easily indoors than outdoors, where wind can disperse and blow away the viral particles. So if people decide to beat “quarantine fatigue” by engaging in more indoor activities -- like entertaining friends at home or dining out or gathering for the holidays -- then we could see a surge of COVID-19 cases.

Second, the onset of cold and flu season means more people will get sick with influenza and the common cold. Whenever you get sick, your immune system temporarily becomes vulnerable. It becomes easier for a second virus, like SARS-CoV-2, to infect you because your immune system is so busy fighting the first virus that it can’t mount as robust a response against the second virus. So it’s entirely possible we’ll see more people getting sick with COVID-19 during flu season simply because they were more vulnerable to infection.

You can take precautions to avoid getting COVID-19 (or the flu) during the upcoming winter season. Get a flu shot to reduce your risk of getting influenza. Wash your hands frequently to avoid picking up any viruses. Don’t start allowing people (even friends and relatives who don’t live with you) into your home just because you can’t gather outdoors anymore. Avoid spending time in restaurants and bars (if they’re open where you live), especially if they are crowded. When you do interact with people indoors, wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet apart (farther may be better), and limit the time you spend with them.

If we all keep following public safety guidelines, we might be able to avoid a large COVID-19 surge this winter.




WebMD Blog
© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

More from the Public Health Blog

  • vitamin d supplement

    'What's the Best Time of Day to Take Vitamins?'

    Knowing what time of day to take your vitamin and mineral supplements can help you maximize their effectiveness and avoid dangerous interactions.

  • man sore throat

    'Does a Sore Throat Mean I'm Sick?'

    If your only symptom is a sore throat, it may not be anything to get worked up about. But, how do you know if you need to call a doctor?

View all posts on Public Health

Latest Blog Posts on WebMD

View all blog posts

Important: The opinions expressed in WebMD Blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Blogs are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD Blogs as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Read More