ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – Many of us were told at one point in our lives that being outside in the cold for too long can increase your risk for catching a cold, but is this really true?

Just like that the snow and the cold is back here in Rochester. After going back and forth between the warmth, the cold, you may think that this increases our risk for getting sick, but it’s actually more about the exposure itself to certain viruses rather than the temperatures themselves. 

Dr. Holly Russell, Family Physician and Medical Director of Clinical and Community-Based programs at the Center for Community Health & Prevention says, “I think the reason that people get sick more often in these cold times is because we’re indoors ore, and so so we’re sharing these spaces, we’re breathing the same air much more than when it’s nicer outside so it’s really more of the fact we’re getting exposed more rather during these periods rather than the temperature itself is affecting the immune system.” 

Spending more time indoors and less time receiving sunlight this time of year can also have huge effects on your mood. 

“It’s not just that, oh, we sometimes feel a little down when, you know during the winter in Rochester when we don’t see the sun, but this is a real, true phenomenon where people experience worsening moods when they don’t have any exposure to the sun,” Dr. Russell says. 

Dr. Russell says a safe and easy way you can alleviate these symptoms often attributed to seasonal affective disorder is a treatment called light box therapy. 

“The goal here is that you’re mimicking that outdoor light and mimicking that your brain actually thinks that you’re seeing the sun…I actually recommend that a lot this time of year for patients and I use one myself because it’s a simple solution. There’s really no side effects, it’s fairly low cost,” Dr. Russell says. 

It creates that outdoor light without the harmful UV rays , and while you do need UV exposure to get your body to create its own Vitamin D, she recommends getting that nutrition through food or supplements as a safer alternative.

Dr. Russell also wants to make clear to always check with your health care team before starting any new supplements or treatments.

How does light box therapy work?

As mentioned above it creates that “outdoor light” without the harmful, UV rays that increases your rate of developing skin cancer, and tricks your brain into thinking it’s seeing sunlight.

This light is measured in “Lux,” which is the standardized unit of measurement of light level intensity. When looking for one of these treatments in stores or online, look for the ones that provide 10,000 Lux.

It’s recommended to expose yourself to the light therapy during the first hour of waking up, sitting about 16 to 24 inches away from your face for 20-30 minutes with your eyes open, but not looking directly at the light.