If you’ve been struck down with a cold in the middle of the hottest summer on record, you’re probably wondering what the hell is going on. Here’s everything you need to know about summer colds.
I’m on my second cold of the month. For days now, the temperature has been in the mid-to-high 30s, every fan in the country is on overdrive and I’m dosed up on Day Nurse and Vicks – the smell of January. It’s especially frustrating after avoiding various strains of Covid and other illnesses over the past few years.
Summer colds just don’t seem logical. If you’ve ever read a Victorian novel, you’ll know that heroine after heroine dies or becomes critically ill after getting caught in the rain and failing to properly dry out or warm up. But you rarely read about someone who spent a week chilling in 35°C heat and then took to their bed with a rotten head cold.
And yet, so many people have this cold or have had an earlier variant of it since the weather took a vertical turn. So, why do we catch them when it’s warm, and what can we do to soothe our symptoms when it’s too hot for hot toddies?
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Are summer colds different to winter colds?
First things first, you can catch a cold at any time of the year says Dr Noel Young, doctor and clinical innovation associate at Thriva. “The cause of colds are viruses, and while they are present throughout the year, some types, like enteroviruses and rhinoviruses, are more prevalent in summer,” he tells Stylist.
Why do summer colds feel more severe than winter bugs?
The weather does, however, affect how well your body can defend itself against these viruses. He explains: “Summers in the UK are less humid than the winter, and this may make the mucus lining the airways dry out. This leads to dryer, thicker mucus that isn’t cleared as efficiently by the tiny hairs on the surface of the cells. This could cause any viruses trapped in the mucus to remain in your airways and cause infection.”
Dr Young also points to animal studies that have also shown that exposure to heatwave level temperatures can weaken the arm of your immune system that is involved in fighting viruses. So that would explain why if you’ve caught a cold in the past few weeks, it’s proving longer to shake off than your normal winter sniffles.
Why you might keep catching colds, despite being ‘healthy’
If you’re the kind of person who seems to catch a cold as soon as someone on the other side of the pub sneezes, it might be worth looking into why that is. People with conditions like diabetes, asthma and COPD can be vulnerable, but certain lifestyle factors can contribute to our susceptibility too.
“Too much stress, not getting enough sleep, getting dehydrated and drinking too much alcohol can all take their toll on your immune system,” Dr Young says. “A lifestyle with healthy habits is key in minimising your chances of getting an infection.”
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