In Germany it’s a common belief that drafts/draughts can make you ill.
Because of that, car and train windows typically get/stay closed, even when it’s really hot; and, for instance, on a warm day in a beer garden, people might change seats/tables when they’re sitting in a draught. It’s believed that the negative effect is heavily increased if you have wet hair, or if you are in poor health.

  • The German Wikipedia article about draughts says that it might stem from a widespread ancient fear of daemons/wind.

    This is probably based on the German SPIEGEL article Dämonen am Fenster from 1968 (translated: Daemons at the window).

  • The English SPIEGEL ONLINE article Draftophobia: Blown Away by the Fear of Air says in its introduction that it’s a "German quirk":

    A lot of Germans don't like drafts. Some even seem to have an irrational fear of moving air, believing it can cause pneumonia, flu, colds, clogged arteries and just about every malady imaginable. Two readers offer their views of this unusual German quirk.

  • From the English GLS article Why I love German (archived by the Wayback Machine), which originally appeared in the FAZ:

    […] Don't be fooled. For obscure reasons, Germans have got it into their heads that air is the enemy, especially indoors.

    For a bit of enjoyment, go into a cafe on a dull winter's day, one where the guests can barely be distinguished through the cigarette smoke, and tilt open a window just a crack. Before you have retreated three steps, the cry Es zieht! -- "There's a draft!" -- will go up and in a flurry of panic the window will be slammed shut. […] What elsewhere is known as a breeze is, in the Teutonic realm, the grim reaper's mocking breath.

    This is also referenced by the German 'USA Erklärt' blog post Die seltsame Angst der Germanen vor sich bewegender Luft (translated: The strange fear of moving air by Germanic people).

Is there evidence that staying (e.g., sitting) in a draught can make humans ill? Can illnesses be caused by the "moving air" of the draft itself, not merely any resulting drop in temperature? (Cold alone is covered in a previous question, and examples are given above of people people avoiding drafts even when the resulting temperature is not cold).

(It seems to be more widespread to believe that draughts can lead to muscle tenseness, but I want to focus on illnesses in this question.)

  • 3
    Definitely NOT unique to Germany. Many Russians are sure of the same thing.
    – user5341
    Oct 5, 2015 at 18:29
  • 5
    @Flimzy - I don't think this is a duplicate. It's only a duplicate if there's proof that the only possible mechanism for this is via coldness (moreover, it's the draft part that's critical - e.g. it's considered more dangerous to have a 72 degree draft in hot room than 62 degree ambient room temp).
    – user5341
    Oct 5, 2015 at 18:31
  • 4
    Yeah, came here because somebody on the History stack exchange was actually arguing that drafts were the cause of a blocked neck. This question is very distinct from the 'does being cold increase the chance of a catching a cold' question. Temperature is irrelevant. Sep 22, 2016 at 19:05
  • 2
    @Sklivvz: I would say most Germans believe and act on it. As I can’t compare it to other countries, I’m not sure how (un)common these behaviours are elsewhere, but for example: in a train, parents will tell their children to change seats when sitting in a draft; taxis often have at most one window open (and the driver still asks everyone to say something as soon as the draft is felt); even when a bus is full and everyone is sweating, people ask to close all windows except one, and no one will object; if someone becomes ill, they might say "I was sitting in a draft yesterday".
    – unor
    May 18, 2018 at 7:33
  • 2
    @Sklivvz: It was my understanding that common claims don’t need sources. Anyway, by linking sources that claim that the claim is not true, isn’t this example enough that it’s a common claim? If it weren’t a widespread belief, there would be no need for different people/sources to write about this "German quirk" in the first place. -- The sources I linked don’t provide any evidence (and the German Wikipedia article now even says that there are scientists that see a connection); only the German Spiegel article mentions studies, but it doesn’t cite them.
    – unor
    May 19, 2018 at 15:52


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