We all look forward to summer—time to get away, get outside and have some fun. So what could be more unfair than catching a cold when it’s warm? Most people think of the common cold as a winter problem. But— you can definitely come down with a summer cold, too. Unfortunately, germs don’t go on vacation. The sneezing, sniffling and achiness that accompany it can be miserable when it’s nice outside and you don’t want to be cooped up indoors.
· Summer colds occur more frequently than you might realize.
· Individuals are infected with different viruses during the summer months than they are during the winter season. There are many viruses that cause a cold, and each has a different seasonality.
· The National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases estimates that 30-50 percent of colds are caused by rhinoviruses, which are most active during the spring, summer and early fall.
· The other culprit is often enteroviruses. Along with the usual coughing, congestion and fever, enteroviruses are associated with a host of other nasty symptoms – diarrhea, sore throat, rashes and body aches, to name a few. These viruses can last a bit longer than others.
Wait, Do I Have a Cold, or Do I Have Allergies?
Sneezing, congestion and a runny nose are symptoms that plague individuals with summer allergies – and summer colds. How can you tell the difference?
· A viral infection is more likely to be associated with a fever and muscle aches, which you won’t get with allergies.
· Summer colds have a definite life span – one to two weeks – whereas allergies can linger for weeks at a time.
· Summer colds tend to give you more yellow or greenish type of drainage. Allergies tend to give a clear drainage from your nose.
Why Are There Colds in the Summer?
During summer, people tend to be more active, which can lead to stress and fatigue. This doesn’t help your immune system fight an approaching virus.
· Summer time is filled with more time in the air conditioning to “beat the heat.” Air conditioners extract moisture from the air and dry the mucus lining in the nose, which predisposes us to infection. It is also known that viruses reproduce better in a cold nose, so the air-conditioned cool is actually supporting the growth of viruses.
· Travel in and of itself increases the risk of viral infection. If you have already been exposed to the common viruses in your home town, you are less likely to become infected by them. While traveling, you will undoubtedly encounter new viruses, to which you have no immunity. Exposure occurs not only once you arrive at your destination but also all along the way; while moving through airports or train stations, you may come into contact with people from around the world even if you yourself are only going a short distance.
· Long flights pose a higher risk given we are in tight quarters on a plane with over 300 possible sources of viruses (i.e….passengers)! The chances of getting a cold are directly related to the number of hours of exposure. The longer the flight, the higher the risk.
What are Some Ways to Get Over a Summer Cold?
· At the end of the day, all you can do is let a summer cold run its course.
· Get plenty of rest. Your immune system is compromised without rest.
· Stay hydrated. Dehydration is a complication that can make a summer cold seem worse.
· Use over-the-counter pain relievers, cough drops, nasal sprays and cough syrups to alleviate your symptoms.
· Take a warm, steamy shower to open up nasal passages.
· Make sure to wash your hands well; most viruses are transmitted through both coughing and sneezing.
· Even though it's tempting to ignore your symptoms and head outdoors, stay inside. The summer fun will still be there when you are well. You don’t want to spread your summer cold germs to others!
Remember, hand washing is also key! You want to reduce exposure as much as you can so you can stick to what summer is really about: fun in the sun!