Why Everyone Has A Summer Cold Right Now (And What To Do About It)
As Covid rules relax, the common cold is back.
Drippy noses, annoying coughs and stuffy heads: it’s not just you. This year’s summer cold season really is worse than normal.
Months of social distancing, wearing masks, and doing lots of washing of hands and surfaces to stop the spread of Covid-19 had the unintended (but welcome) side-effect of making the flu and other respiratory viruses virtually non-existent. But now that masks are gone and social gatherings, festivals, in-office work and handshakes are back, the pneumoviruses and parainfluenza viruses that cause colds are also back with a vengeance.
The Surge In Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
In particular, this summer the US is seeing a major spike in respiratory syncytial virus (or RSV) cases – levels usually only seen in the fall and winter. The surge is most notable in southern states, but outbreaks of the virus have cropped up all over the country. Its spread has been tracked primarily through young children.
In most people, RSV causes a mild fever, congestion, and cough and can be treated at home. But among infants and toddlers, it’s the leading cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia, resulting in 2 million pediatrician visits and 58,000 hospitalizations every year. Among seniors, RSV is one of the top causes of pneumonia and is responsible for almost 180,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths yearly.
The RSV surge, which has also been seen in Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, is a rebound effect of pandemic lockdowns, which created a much larger than normal population of susceptible young children. The infants born in 2020, now toddlers, never developed immunity against the multitude of common microbes that they would’ve normally been exposed to back when we rode public transportation, spent time at the office, gathered with friends and sent kids to day care and school.
Since then, a new group of infants has been born, meaning there are roughly twice as many vulnerable children and vectors to spread viruses. And now that people are suddenly taking off masks and congregating around other people again, respiratory viruses are able to spread like wildfire.
It’s not just children that are lacking the normally-robust immune systems we’re used to, either. Virus-specific antibodies, T-cells and B-cells (the memory components of our immune systems) disappear if they’re not consistently being challenged. Missing out on a whole year of exposure to viruses has made adults more susceptible to getting sick, too.
What To Do About It?
Unfortunately, there’s no approved treatment for RSV. Antibiotics can’t touch viral infections, and antivirals like Tamiflu and Relenza don’t fare much better. So what does work?
1. Take Vitamin D3: Taking a high-dose vitamin D3 supplement can improve your resistance to common colds and infections by a whopping 700%. Plus, studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency is closely associated with severe RSV infection. Experts suggest taking 1000IU Vitamin D3 per 50lbs of body weight per day.
2. Sleep 7-8 Hours Per Night: Studies have shown that people who sleep six hours a night or less are four times more likely to catch a cold when exposed to a virus compared to those who spend seven to eight hours a night asleep. Sleep is necessary for the production of cytokines – proteins that regulate the body’s immune response and inflammation by sending cells to infected or distressed areas.
3. Wash Your Hands: It’s basic stuff, but it’s worth repeating – regular hand-washing has been shown to reduce your risk of viral infection by 21%. Be especially conscious of washing your hands after coming into contact with someone who has any cold symptoms.
4. Clean Frequently Touched Surfaces: Similar to coronavirus and influenza, RSV spreads through respiratory droplets in the air when a person coughs or sneezes, but it’s much more likely than Covid-19 to linger on skin and other surfaces like toys, doorknobs and mobile devices, which are common sources of transmission.
5. Stop Touching Your Face: Avoid touching your face, something most people do between 9 and 23 times an hour.
6.Stay Active: Regular aerobic exercise has huge immune benefits. And you don’t have to run a marathon, either – moderate activity is all you need. In one study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine, people who did aerobic exercise 5 days per week had nearly half the number of colds as those who didn’t exercise.
7. Stay Hydrated: Eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day is an easy, reasonable goal to remember, but that’s a little low and we can get more dialed in than that. Here’s what experts recommend as adequate daily fluid intake based on age and sex.
8. Take Zinc At The First Sign of Symptoms: Several studies have shown that zinc can reduce the length of a cold by a full day by reducing a virus’ ability to replicate, especially when taken within 24 hours of the first signs and symptoms of a cold.
If your child is sick, it’s important to monitor their breathing to make sure they’re not distressed – especially young infants and children with underlying lung conditions or weakened immune systems. If they exhibit a fever lasting longer than a few days, poor eating, or excessive sleepiness, parents should contact their pediatrician.
And of course, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic in addition to the new surge of RSV infections. So if you’re showing symptoms of Covid-19 such as trouble breathing, fever, sore throat or loss of the sense of smell and taste – get tested! Not only does testing help you get treated faster, but you can take steps to minimize the spread of the virus if you’re positive. It’s especially important now that we’re dealing with the delta variant of the novel coronavirus, which epidemiologists believe to be 200 times more contagious than the original virus.
The Bottom Line
This summer’s cold season is hitting hard, thanks to the rebound effect of masking and social distancing during the pandemic. But there are things you can do that have been proven to help you stay healthy. Get moving, get some vitamin D3, get quality sleep, drink enough fluids and keep up with your chiropractic care – they all help to keep your body working at 100%.