Why Do We Get Colds In Summer?

Why Do We Get Colds In Summer?

Sneezing, constantly blowing your nose and having a stuffy head are all things that feel totally wrong in the balmy days of a British heatwave, but the summer cold swings by every year to wreak havoc on us all. That flu feeling is something we normally associate with the deep, dark months of winter – so why do we get colds in the warmer months? We spoke to the experts to get the low-down on the summertime sickness…

Why do we get summer colds?

It might feel strange – and honestly, kind of cruel – to catch a cold in the height of summer, but the illness actually has little to do with the weather. Dr Daniel Fenton, Clinical Director at private GP London Doctors Clinic, says it’s not uncommon to get one any time of the year, because the sickness is usually kickstarted by a virus: “Most people consider the term ‘cold’ as a descriptor for the constellation of symptoms that include a cough, sore throat and runny nose. These are often associated with dreary winters, but the truth is, colds can strike at any time. There is a multitude of viruses that can cause the common cold, including rhinovirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), adenovirus, metapneumovirus and coronavirus, to name but a few.”

Dr Ron McCulloch, GP at Pall Mall Medical, adds that our close contact with others in summer allows germs to spread more freely: “In theory, as the summer months are milder our immune systems should be better adept at fighting infections. However, colds need human hosts to survive and it thrives off person to person contact. Summer BBQs, beer gardens and the local pool are hotbeds for germs.”

Are summer colds different from winter colds?

Both our medical professionals say that there’s not much difference in summer and winter colds in theory - Dr McCulloch says your immune system could be slightly weakened in winter, which might make you more susceptible. But Dr Fenton adds that there is one thing he believes makes a summer cold that much worse: the heat. “In my opinion, it always feels much worse when you are hot, sweaty and cold all at the same time in the midst of a heatwave.” We’d be inclined to agree with that – there’s nothing worse than wanting to be wrapped up in a blanket when it’s 25° outside.

How should we treat summer colds?

 First of all, it’s important to establish whether you’re mistaking a cold with allergies or vice versa. According to experts, a good way to tell is by checking the tissue after you’ve blown your nose – if you see clear mucus it’s likely a seasonal allergy, whereas if you find a green or yellowish mucus, it tends to be a cold or infection.
If you find that you are suffering from a cold this summer, Dr Fenton suggests the following:
Rest: If you actually allow yourself time to recover you’ll help to speed up the process of recovery.
Painkillers: Paracetamol and Ibuprofen will keep your temperature down and help with the sore throat symptoms.
Aspirin Gargles: An old-fashioned trick that is really helpful for sore throats - dissolve and aspirin in water and gargle like mouthwash (but do not swallow).
Skip the sugary throat lozenges: Instead, ask your pharmacist for advice – they may be able to provide you with some more helpful ones that contain a small amount local anaesthetic to numb the throat and make eating and drinking more pleasant.
For more information or advice, see your local pharmacist or visit NHS.uk. If you experienced prolonged symptoms, earache or a fever, make an appointment with your GP.

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