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Some people may think that you can only catch a cold in the winter because the cooler conditions are most suitable for viruses to thrive. But actually, quite a lot of people experience a cold during the summer season, because while their name may suggest otherwise, colds can just as easily develop when the weather is warm.
Colds during this season have become known specifically as ‘summer colds’, but is there anything that makes them different to colds that happen during the winter or other times of the year? Are there any differences in how they are treated? Read on to find out!
What makes a summer cold different from others?
In terms of how they behave and the human reaction, nothing really! There are more than 200 different viruses which can cause cold symptoms. Some colds you’ll experience in life will be worse compared to others, but the weather has little effect on their impact. The weather does influence what type of virus you’re more likely to catch though.
During the winter months, the colds caught by people are usually triggered by the most common viral infections in humans – a group of germs called rhinoviruses. Rhinoviruses and a few other cold-causing viruses tend to survive better in cooler weather. Their numbers surge in September and begin to dwindle in May.
During summer months, the viral landscape changes and rhinoviruses become overshadowed by non-polio enteroviruses (which are the second most common type of virus during the rest of the year). Like with other cold-causing viruses, symptoms which enteroviruses can cause include a sudden fever, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, mild respiratory issues and gastrointestinal issues which include nausea or vomiting.
How to know you have a summer cold instead of allergies
If your nose and throat become irritated during the summer, then it may not be clear to you right away whether allergies or a cold are affecting you. In the spring and summer months, a lot of pollen from plants and grass will thrive in the air. This is the common trigger (known as hay fever) when people susceptible to allergens experience irritation in their respiratory system. However, while people who are sensitive to these allergies will likely experience symptoms (to some extent) for many weeks, symptoms of a cold usually last just a week or two at most.
For more insight into how to distinguish colds and allergies, you can read our separate blog on the matter here.
Avoiding summer colds
Like with colds that can occur at other times of the year, there’s no way to completely prevent yourself from getting a summer cold. But there are numerous precautions you can take during the daily routine to minimise the chances of catching one:
- Wash your hands regularly, especially when in restrooms of public spaces and in any other areas where pathogens can be prevalent.
- Keep your distance and avoid interacting with people who you know have a cold as much as possible.
- Do your best to take care of your immune system. Methods include getting plenty of sleep, eating nutritious foods, avoiding stress and taking supplements which contain immune-boosting natural remedies.
Treating summer colds
If you’re unfortunate enough to catch a cold during the summer, then most of the same treatments that apply to winter cold symptoms can be applied in response:
- Get plenty of rest and sleep and avoid excessive activity or stress that could challenge the immune system. Even though the summer traditionally encourages a lot of interesting outdoor activities, you may have to stay inside and take it easy for long periods.
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water and preferably avoid any beverages that could dehydrate (such as alcohol, coffee or energy drinks). Hot beverages like tea can be soothing and help reduce the effect of symptoms. Adding ginger root to tea can help since its anti-inflammatory ingredients are effective at relieving a sore throat.
- Getting a strong intake of vitamins and minerals is helpful for your recovery, especially immune-boosting nutrients such as vitamin C, zinc and iron.
- Consider taking herbal remedies because while they can’t wipe out a cold, they can support the immune system. Popular choices of herbs for fighting colds include elderberry, garlic, liquorice root and Echinacea
- Consider medicines that are commonly used to treat common colds if you are having trouble with headaches or muscle pain. Paracetamol and ibuprofen are commonly used to treat such symptoms.