Cold, Wet Socks Are What The Doctor Ordered

Robert Layman / Staff Photo Wool socks come in a variety of shapes in sizes, some with more wool content than others.

By Lindsay Courcelle

The other day I was watching the evening news at my in-laws’ when I realized that, in the span of one commercial break, I had seen four commercials: two for over-the-counter medicines, one ad for a pharmaceutical drug, and one for Febreze air freshener. None of the items would ever be found in our house, and frankly, seemed both unnecessary and unhealthy. That’s not to say that all medicine is bad, but of the drugs that were being advertised, I could immediately think of natural remedies that would be just as likely to cure the ailments.

I wondered what life would be like if there were television ads for chamomile tea, elderberry syrup, and garlic, not to mention alternative therapies and naturopathic medicine. In that alternate reality, the average person would not jump to get antibiotics when they came down with a cold, and would find natural remedies to be as normal as heading to the pharmacy for some pills.

The first time I heard of “wet, warming socks” from my friend Blake, I thought it sounded totally bizarre. She was telling me some of her favorite remedies for her son, and the wet socks were one of them.

The idea is this: when your child (or you) are coming down with a cold or flu or headache, you dramatically change up the bedtime routine for footwear. Instead of a normal pair of dry socks, you put on cold, wet, thin cotton socks, covered with a pair of dry, thick wool socks.

As crazy as this may sound, it is promoted by naturopathic doctors, including those at Bastyr University, one of the leading schools for professions like naturopathic medicine, acupuncture, nutrition, midwifery, and more.

The wet warming socks are a type of “heating compress,” a hydrotherapy technique that stimulates the body’s natural defenses. According to Jamey Wallace, ND, chief medical officer at Bastyr Center, “The body reacts to the cold socks by increasing blood circulation, which also stimulates the immune system. You have to ‘rev up’ the immune system, so it’s ready for battle against the affliction or condition.”

Your body knows it needs to heat up the cold, wet socks, so it increases your circulation. As this happens, congestion decreases in the upper respiratory passages, head and throat. Many patients report that they feel less pain and sleep better due to its sedating action. I can attest to this, as my two-year-old daughter definitely sleeps very soundly when we use this natural remedy. Even as a baby, this would help her kick a fever or sickness very quickly. Now that she is older, she thinks it is very funny to put on wet “magic” socks before bed, and in the morning she can’t wait to exclaim “Socks are dry now!”

As always, I have to give the disclaimer that this method shouldn’t replace a visit to see your health-care provider, and people with chronic conditions or a compromised immunity should consult with a doctor before starting the wet sock treatment.

If you want to give it a try, it is best to start on the first day of an illness, and repeat it for three consecutive nights. It can help with the common cold, sore throats, influenza, sinus infections, upper-respiratory-tract infection, and headaches.

There are a few important tips to remember when using this method. First of all, it is important that your body and feet are warm before you put on the cold, wet socks. Take a hot bath, or soak your feet in a bucket of very warm water. Keep your feet warm while you dry them off. Next, put on a pair of thin cotton socks that have been soaked in ice cold water and wrung out. Immediately put a pair of dry, wool socks over the wet socks. Be sure that the wool socks completely cover the wet socks.

Wear warm pajamas and go to bed immediately. If you find that your pajamas get damp in the night from sweat, change into warm, dry clothes, but keep the socks on. Your wet cotton socks will be warm and dry in the morning, and your symptoms will likely have diminished magically overnight.

I know we won’t be seeing an ad for wet, warming socks on TV anytime soon. In this day and age, it’s more important than ever to have face-to-face conversations with your friends and loved ones, so tell them about the wet-sock treatment and you just may save them a trip to the pharmacy.

Lindsay Courcelle, CMT is a myofascial release therapist, part-time vegetable farmer, and natural health advocate. Email her at



Lindsay Courcelle

Lindsay Courcelle, CMT is a Myofascial Release therapist, part-time vegetable farmer, and natural health advocate.

More Posts - Website