Summer Colds, coughs, and fever are illnesses that you often get during the cold season. This is because the rhinovirus, which is the leading cause of these respiratory diseases, is usually more prevalent when temperature and humidity levels drop, so catching them during the summer is rare.
With temperatures high in the summer, getting sick at this time is something you won’t expect to happen since the rhinovirus does not thrive in warm conditions.
However, getting a cold in the middle of the warm season is possible and it happens more often than you think. As such, you still need to keep a stock of recommended cough and cold treatments in your medicine cabinet during this time of the year.
Causes of Summer Colds
The enterovirus is the leading cause of summer colds.1 It is a genus of viruses that includes those that cause polio.
Enterovirus is a virus that usually pops up in summer since it thrives in warm weather. It is highly contagious that you can get it from direct contact with someone who is sick or touches a contaminated surface like a doorknob or light switch.
Aside from the enterovirus, a summer cold can also be caused by the respiratory syncytial virus or RSV, a respiratory disease that can cause mild cold symptoms.2 It usually goes away within a week.
Although its symptoms are mild, this virus can be dangerous to young children and older adults.
Additionally, a summer cold can be caused by one of the common viruses under the family of coronaviruses, such as 229E, NL63, and OC43.3
Symptoms of a Summer Cold
The symptoms of a summer cold are similar to that of the kind you can get during winter.4 These include:
- Runny or congested nose
- Frequent sneezing
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- Fever that comes on suddenly
- Low energy
Distinguishing Summer Colds From Allergies
If you have seasonal or chronic allergies, you may find it difficult to know if you have a summer cold or have allergic symptoms.
Below are some factors that will help you differentiate between summer colds and allergies:5
- The onset of symptoms varies – When you have a summer cold, you will experience the start of each symptom at separate times. However, if you are suffering from an allergy, you will feel all the symptoms at once.
- The symptoms fluctuate – If the symptoms start mild, then worsen, then go back to mild or disappear completely, you have a cold. On the other hand, you are dealing with an allergy if the symptoms appear when you are outdoors or surrounded by dust and pollen and disappear when you go indoors.
- Accompanying muscle aches – Muscle pain usually accompanies a cold. Allergies often come with headaches and face pain, but they do not cause widespread muscle aches.
- Length of illness – Summer colds tend to go away within 10 days. However, allergies can last for at least two weeks or even longer.
- Symptoms differ based on your location – If you keep sneezing, coughing, and experiencing all the symptoms wherever you go, you have a summer cold. On the other hand, if the symptoms disappear when you travel, you likely have an allergy. This is often a sign of hay fever, which flares up when you are in a high-pollen area.
- Different nasal discharge – If you have a runny or congested nose, the discharge will be thick or greenish if you have a cold. However, the mucus will be translucent and thinner in consistency if you are dealing with an allergy.
How to Avoid and Manage a Summer Cold
Below are some tips for avoiding and treating a cold during the warm season:
1. Keep your hands clean.
Healthy people can get viruses and germs from sick people by touching the surfaces touched by the latter. Because of this reason, your greatest defense is following hand hygiene practices.
Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds several times throughout the day. Use a hand sanitizer if you don’t have access to soap and water.
2. Spend time outdoors.
During summer, you may prefer to spend more time inside your home and other places where you can wallow in the cold air coming from a fully functional air conditioner.
However, there are more viruses and germs in enclosed and air-conditioned spaces, which increases your chances of getting sick.
Avoid staying cooped up in your home all day. Go outdoors and get some sunlight, but minimize the time you spend outside between 10 in the morning and four in the afternoon when the sun’s UV rays are at their strongest.
To maintain a healthy and fit body and lower the chances of getting sick any time of the year, spend at least 120 minutes a week outdoors.6
3. Get plenty of rest.
If you already have a cold, make sure you get plenty of rest and sleep.
Get at least eight hours of sleep to strengthen your immune system, which will facilitate faster recovery.7
Additionally, avoid strenuous activities and stress since they can challenge the immune system. Stay in a well-ventilated room as you rest and recover from your cold.
4. Eat more healthy foods.
Having a balanced diet is important when you are sick. The right nutrients will boost your immune system and help you recover faster.8
Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables since they are rich in nutrients that are good for your body. Examples of these are vitamins A, C, D, and E, copper, iron, zinc, and protein.
Add salmon and tuna to your diet as well, since they contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
5. Stay hydrated.
Lastly, drink plenty of fluids, especially water, whether you are down with a cold or not. Doing so helps you avoid getting dehydrated and keep a healthy and fit body.
Aside from water, drink more herbal tea since it can relieve your symptoms. The best ones to drink when you have a cold are lemon, elderberry, echinacea, and green tea.9
Also, avoid alcohol, coffee, and energy drinks since they dehydrate the body.
Make sure you also take your prescribed cough and cold medicines to get relief from your symptoms and avoid prolonging your condition.
Although summer can be a pretty hectic time of the year, don’t forget to prioritize staying healthy and fit to avoid getting a cold this season.
Khalil ur Rehman is a proud born and raised in Abbottabad. Khalil has worked as a journalist for nearly a decade having contributed to several large publications including the Yahoo News and The Verge. As a journalist for The Hear Up, Khalil covers climate and science news. [email protected]
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