Dealing with Excessive Tears in Winter: Why Do I Cry When It's Cold?

Dealing with Excessive Tears in Winter: Why Do I Cry When It’s Cold?

Ever wondered why your eyes start watering when it’s cold outside? You’re not alone. This common phenomenon has puzzled many, and it’s not as strange as you might think.

Cold weather can trigger your tear ducts into overdrive, causing your eyes to stream. But why does this happen? The answer lies in your body’s natural defense mechanisms.

Key Takeaways

  • Cold weather and its accompanying winds can kick your tear ducts into overdrive, causing your eyes to tear up. This tear production is a defense mechanism your body uses to shield your sensitive eyes from harsh environmental conditions.
  • Tear production is integral to maintaining eye health. They are used to counteract the dryness caused by reduced ambient moisture levels during the winter season.
  • The combination of low temperatures and wind chills can cause excessive tear formation, giving the appearance of crying. This is your body’s response to protect your eyes from damage in harsh conditions.
  • Misconceptions surrounding this phenomenon include the belief that an emotional response causes the tears and that wearing glasses or contact lenses can prevent this reaction. It being a cause for concern or an indication of an underlying health issue is also a misconception.
  • To prevent excessive tearing in cold weather, consider wearing sunglasses or goggles, remember to blink more often, and stay well-hydrated. While these precautions are not foolproof, they are effective measures to help protect your eyes in cold, windy conditions.

The phenomenon of excessive tearing in cold weather is linked to the body’s natural response to protect the eyes from harsh environmental conditions. Detailed explanations of this response are available on Georgia Center for Sight, which discusses how cold air affects tear production. For those experiencing discomfort from excessive tearing, Illinois Eye Center provides insights into the physiological processes involved.

Understanding Tear Ducts

Understanding Tear Ducts

Let’s delve deeper into the anatomy of the eyes and specifically your tear ducts. Now you might be wondering, why do I tear up in cold weather? Here’s a news flash for you: it’s not just about the cold. Next time it happens take a second to observe the wind direction as well. Your eyes just might be putting up a fight against the wind!

Tear ducts, or lacrimal ducts, play a pivotal role in maintaining the health of your eyes. They’re responsible for producing and draining tears to make sure your eyes remain well-lubricated and free from dirt or other potential irritants. This system is usually on autopilot and you probably don’t even notice it happening on a day-to-day basis.

However, when it’s cold, your amazing body steps up the process. It pushes your tear ducts into overdrive as a defense mechanism against the chilled winds. It’s a brilliant effort aimed at offering protection to the sensitive eyes from the harsh realities of the frozen outdoors.

Here’s some food for thought: this is why your eyes water more when it’s windy during winter than on a typical chilly day. The more intense the wind, the overzealous your tear ducts can become in their mission to shield your eyes from the potential harm. They pump out tears at a higher rate, which gives the impression of crying.

Impact of Cold Weather on Tear Production

Impact of Cold Weather on Tear Production

You might wonder why the cold weather seems to turn on the waterworks, making you look like you’re in the middle of a teary emotional breakdown. It’s not your sensitivity to the winter season acting up, it’s a perfectly normal reaction of your body to the external conditions.

Tears play an essential role in maintaining eye health. These salty droplets, produced by your tear ducts, perform a variety of tasks. You’d be surprised to know that one of their crucial jobs is to battle the wind and the cold. The havoc that cold weather wrecks on your eyes needs a sturdy defense system and tears are your body’s frontline soldiers.

When the temperature starts dropping, it tends to dry out the moisture in the atmosphere. This decrease in moisture levels plays havoc with the film of tears that coat your eyes for protection. Photo-sensitive cells in the eyes can detect the imbalance in dryness and signal your brain to ramp up tear production.

The icy winds that accompany the winter season only add to the thickness of the issue. The faster, stronger and colder the wind, the more it picks at your eyes’ surface film. This prompts an overactive tear production response by your body. When the wind blows stronger and the temperature drops lower, you’ll notice an increase in tear production.

Consequently, even though it might seem that you’re experiencing a sudden onslaught of spontaneous sorrow, it’s the body’s intuitive mechanism to protect your precious peepers. Regardless of the winter shell you might be bundled up in, it’s vital to remember that your eyes need additional protection. Wearing sunglasses, or other protective eyewear, during extreme cold or wind can help shield your delicate eyes from excessive natural tear production.

Remember, it’s not the cold itself causing the tears but the dryness and wind that accompany it. The same reaction can occur in hot, dry, and windy conditions as well. It’s all about maintaining just the right moisture balance for your eyes. So, the next time you step out into the freeze, arm yourself with this knowledge and protective gear to curtail the onset of those seemingly emotional outbreaks.

Physiology of Crying in Cold Weather

Physiology of Crying in Cold Weather

It’s fascinating how our bodies react to cold environments, specifically when it comes to our eyes. The body’s tear production system is finely tuned to environmental factors such as air temperature and wind velocity. To understand why you might cry during colder weather, you need to delve a little deeper into the science behind your tears.

Tears aren’t merely liquid droplets flooding from your eyes. They’re composed of a mixture of water, oils, mucus, and antibodies. Pay attention to the water part here—it’s especially relevant to our discussion. Your tears exist in an effort to maintain the overall moisture balance in your eyes.

In colder climates, the air tends to be drier. When the ambient moisture level drops, your body instinctively boosts tear production to counter this dryness. It’s a protective reflex, keeping your eyes safe from possible damage. More tears mean more moisture, and this helps prevent your eyes from drying out.

But what about the wind? Stronger winds mean more tears. It’s as simple as that. When the temperature drops, and a wind chill sets in, your eyes react. They undergo further strain due to the inclement weather conditions, prompting an even higher level of tear production. Hence, you find tears rolling down your cheeks, giving the appearance of crying.

Remember, it’s all about protection. Your body senses the harsh weather and pulls up its defense mechanisms. One of these responses is the production of tears to provide a protective layer for your eyes against the harsh conditions. It might look like a nuisance but really, your body is working to protect you.

It’s essential, therefore, to shield your eyes when you’re out in cold or windy weather. Make it a point to wear sunglasses or other protective eyewear. It helps maintain the right moisture balance and stops that excessive tear production, making your teary-eyed experiences in the cold less frequent.

Common Misconceptions Debunked

It’s worth clarifying some points of confusion surrounding the cold-induced teary eyes situation. First off, your body isn’t responding emotionally when you start crying in the cold. It’s a physiological reaction, not a sentimental one.

Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t just the chill alone coaxing those tears. Wind plays a considerable role too. No matter how bundled up you are against the frost, your eyes remain exposed to the environment. If there’s wind along with the cold, it’s even more likely to stimulate tear production.

Another misconception lies in the idea that wearing glasses or contact lenses can prevent cold-induced tears. While eyewear might provide some barrier against wind, it doesn’t completely eliminate this reaction. Sunglasses and prescription eyeglasses offer some protection but don’t fully desensitize the nerve endings in your eyes that cause extra tears when exposed to chilly air and wind.

Also, you might assume that folks residing in colder climates are immune to such reactions. Guess what? They’re not. Gail Langellotto, an entomologist at Oregon State University, candidly stated “Even after living in Oregon for 12 years, my eyes still water when it’s cold outside.”

Your eyes crying in the cold aren’t indicative of an underlying health concern either. It’s merely your body’s natural response aiming to keep the eyes moist and protected against harsh conditions.

Rest assured, there’s no cause for alarm when excessive tear production strikes in frigid weather: it’s a natural, protective reaction. But if it’s giving you discomfort, opt for protective eyewear, even on cloudier, windier days to safeguard your eyes against chill-induced tears.

Practical Tips to Prevent Excessive Tearing

So, the question remains, how can you protect your precious eyes from Mother Nature’s icy clutches? Take heart, dear reader, there’s good news. With a few preventative measures, you can help to minimize the waterworks when stepping out into frigid conditions. If you’re an individual who often finds their eyes tearing up in the cold, consider the following tips:

1. Wear Sunglasses or Goggles

This is your first line of defense, not only against the cold but also the wind that often accompanies it. Glasses and goggles create a type of barrier, minimizing the effect of cold temperatures on your eyes. Any eyewear will do – from regular prescription glasses to snowboard goggles, depending on your needs and preferences.

2. Remember to Blink

This might sound silly, but when it’s cold, we have a tendency to squint or keep our eyes open longer, exposing them to the harsh conditions. Intentionally blinking often helps your eyes remain moist and reduces the chances of them becoming dry or irritated, which can cause tearing.

3. Stay Hydrated

During the colder months, we often forget to drink enough fluids. However, maintaining a proper hydration level is essential for maintaining good eye health. So, remember to drink at least the recommended eight glasses of water per day. Proper hydration can prevent dry eyes and thereby reduce excessive tearing.

Like any natural process, managing cold-induced tears is all about understanding your body’s needs – and adjusting accordingly. It’s important to remember, though, that these tips are not foolproof, and everyone’s experiences with cold weather and eye discomfort will vary. But, they should provide a solid starting point to help you better navigate wintery conditions.


So, you’ve got the lowdown on why you might cry when it’s cold. It’s all about your body’s natural response to chilly conditions. But remember, you’re not helpless in the face of winter’s icy grip. By wearing protective eyewear, remembering to blink often, and staying hydrated, you can keep those tears at bay. Everyone’s experience with cold-induced tears can differ, so don’t be discouraged if you need to experiment with these tips to find what works best for you. Keep these strategies in mind and you’ll be ready to face the cold, tear-free. Here’s to your healthy, happy eyes in all seasons!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do my eyes tear up excessively in cold weather?

Your eyes tear up in cold weather to protect and moisturize the surface from drying out. This is a natural response to cold and windy conditions.

How can I prevent excessive tearing in the cold?

Wearing sunglasses or goggles can provide an effective barrier against the cold and wind. It’s also crucial to remember to blink frequently to keep your eyes moist.

Does staying hydrated help reduce excessive tearing?

Yes, staying hydrated can help maintain good eye health and reduce excessive tearing. It enables your body to produce tears properly, promoting eye comfort and clear vision.

Can these tips completely prevent cold-induced tears?

These tips can aid in managing cold-induced tears, but experiences may vary. Everyone’s eyes respond differently to weather conditions, hence, it’s essential to understand and adjust to your body’s needs.

Are there other ways to protect the eyes during winter?

Apart from the measures mentioned above, over-the-counter eye drops can provide additional moisture. Also, staying indoors when the wind is excessively harsh can offer protection.