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Summer colds

August 2012

Summer coldsSummer! And although it has been somewhat wet it has at least been a bit warmer than winter. But however hot the summer, nevertheless quite a number of us will suddenly find we are suffering from a cold.

The common cold is caused by almost 200 different types of virus which can occur throughout the year. Certainly colds are more likely in the winter, in fact you are four times more likely to get a cold in the winter. This is because more people occupy enclosed heated environments where the cold viruses can be spread through the warm air; and these viruses are also spread more easily by touch in the winter when more people share enclosed spaces.

But nevertheless summer colds are quite common and can be especially annoying when they interrupt plans for holidays or outings.

Dry nasal passages are more susceptible to the cold virus. Air travel can pose an especial risk because there are so many people sitting together in such an enclosed environment so that the airborne virus spreads easily. Interestingly, research shows that the chance of catching a cold is directly related to the number of hours of exposure to the cold virus. That means the longer your flight, the more chance you have of catching a cold from another passenger.

Air conditioned areas mimic the heated areas of winter, where there are often several people sharing an enclosed space. Normally the inside of the nose is protected against infection from a thin layer of mucus. Air conditioners extract moisture from the air and therefore can help dry out the nose making a person more susceptible to catching a cold. Interestingly, a cold virus often reproduces better in a cold nose.

Again, because we are often out and about in the summer, mixing with more people, perhaps attending events and parties, it can be easy to spread a cold by touch. The cold virus can survive for several hours on a contaminated surface, then all we need do is touch the surface and transfer the infection to our nose or eye surface, and hey presto, the cold virus will have found another home where it can thrive and multiply.

When you catch a summer cold, the virus that has caused it will not be a specific virus that exists in warmer weather and the symptoms will be the same as a winter cold, including runny noses and congestion, headaches and a sore throat.

Another problem in summer is associated with people suffering from hay fever. Here, a summer cold can be worse because the nose is already sensitised by its allergic reaction to pollen. This can lift its response to the viral infection of a cold and produce more severe symptoms.

Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between a common cold and hayfever; but with hayfever you won’t get itchy eyes.

Prevention of summer colds is the same as for winter colds. Wash hands regular and especially after touching items used by many other people. Keeping fit and healthy to ensure one’s immune system is as high as possible is always important.

Treatment of summer colds is exactly the same as in winter - and, despite how they feel, there is no evidence that a cold in the summer months lasts any longer than one in cold weather. It just makes you more miserable because, in the summer months, you are probably missing more enjoyable activities!

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