Margaret A. Wissman, DVM
Can birds catch a cold from drafts?
If such a notion were true, every wild bird would succumb to a cold. Birds are remarkably resilient and adaptable creatures. They can withstand a wide range of temperatures and environmental conditions without becoming ill as a result. That doesn’t mean that a pet bird would not be stressed by having a draft blowing on it day in and day out. (Humans cannot catch a cold from becoming chilled or wet either; another common misconception.)
Pet birds cannot catch our colds, nor do they routinely suffer from any common viruses that are for "colds,” per se. There are viruses, such as avian influenza virus, that can cause respiratory and other organ system diseases in birds. But many respiratory infections in birds are caused by bacterial, fungal, mycoplasmal and chlamydial organisms, although some can also becaused by viruses.
Drafts can cause a bird stress and even possibly lower a bird’s resistance to disease, but there are many other factors that affect a bird’s immune system, which may allow it to develop respiratory disease, as well.
There are also other factors to consider when the temperature drops and your bird’s health might be at risk.
Humidity In The Home
Homes have lower humidity during the winter months, and heated air can dry out mucous membranes. Many rain forest birds suffer from sinusitis at this time. Amazons seem particularly prone to winter sinusitis. To keep the humidity up in your house, follow these tips.
- Use warm water during your bird's bath time, and maintain an adequate ambient room temperature afterward, during preening and drying-off time.
- Take your bird into the bathroom when you shower so it can inhale the steam.
- Keep bird-safe plants in the bird room for their good effects on the air.
Birds are susceptible to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas. Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home, and have your heating system inspected by a qualified contractor before turning on your furnace every fall.
Check your chimney and flue for any blockages. Keep your bird away from the fireplace.
Use non-electrical space heaters only in well-ventilated areas. Don’t use gas or diesel generators indoors, and don’t burn coal or charcoal in a closed space. Make sure vents of fuel-burning appliances are clear.