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Are Summer Colds Worse Than Winter Colds? Or Does It Just Feel That Way?

Plus, the most common places where a summer cold can spread

Catching a cold is never fun, but there’s something particularly frustrating about dealing with one during the summer. The warm weather should be our escape from the sniffles and coughs that plague us in the winter, right? So, what causes summer colds, and are they actually worse than winter colds or does it just feel that way? We spoke to experts about [on] the causes of summer colds, plus prevention and treatment tips so you can get back to your fun summer plans [outside].

Understanding the common cold

Colds, whether they strike in the sweltering heat of summer or the frosty chill of winter, come from viruses. The most common culprits are rhinoviruses, responsible for up to 50% of colds. Rhinoviruses can infect us any time of the year, but their activity does spike during the spring and fall. In winter, other viruses like influenza and coronaviruses (not the COVID-19 kind) take the lead. SO INTERESTING CAN YOU JSUT ADD 1 QUICK LINE EXPLAINING THE NOT COVID 19 KIND OF CORONAVIRUSES?

Are summer colds different?

“Simply put, the main difference between the common cold and a summer cold is solely the time of year it is contracted,” explains Raj Dasgupta, MD, FACP, FCCP, FAASM, Chief Medical Advisor for Fortune Recommends Health.

“An individual can get a cold in either the summer or winter,” adds Philip Kadaj, MD, Medical Expert on JustAnswer. “It just so happens that colds are more easily transmitted in winter because people spend more time indoors.”

Dr. Kadaj goes on to say that summer and winter colds are “generally caused by different viruses. For example, influenza viruses, parainfluenza viruses and RSV tend to cause infections in winter. Alternatively, coronaviruses and enteroviruses are more common in summer months.”

Interestingly, the CDC has found that enteroviruses, commonly linked to summer colds, last a median of 20 days, as opposed to around a week for rhinoviruses. This can explain why we may feel worse when sick in the summer than during the winter.

How to tell THE DIFFERENCE between summer colds and allergies

But what if it’s just seasonal allergies? Dr. Kadaj explains the difference: “There are some symptoms more indicative of colds such as fever, chills and colored nasal discharge. Symptoms more common with allergies would be itchy eyes, itchy throat, rash/hives and clear nasal discharge.” Dr. Dasgupta also notes that “allergies also persist as long as the allergen is around, unlike colds which typically resolve in a week or two.”

Prevention and treatment for summer colds

mature woman washing her hands to prevent a summer cold
Getty

Regardless of the season, the best way to both ward off and tackle a cold is through good hygiene and self-care. Dr. Dasgupta advises, “Prevent a summer cold by washing your hands often, avoiding close contact with sick people and keeping your immune system strong with a good diet and enough rest.”

If you do come down with one, Dr. Dasgupta recommends “staying hydrated, getting plenty of rest, using over-the-counter meds for symptoms and drinking warm fluids like soups and teas to soothe your throat.” In fact, we’re more likely to become dehydrated in the summer, which can make cold symptoms worse.

He also notes that summer colds can be more common in certain places: “Summer colds are more common in crowded places like amusement parks, airplanes or summer camps where people are close together. Pools and air-conditioned spaces can also contribute due to temperature changes and exposure to new germs.”

So, keep this in mind from Dr. Kadaj: “A good and fun rule of thumb as well is to go outdoors as much as you can! Avoid those indoor crowds!”


Learn other ways to treat the common cold:

Garlic and Honey Is the Savory-Sweet Duo That Calms a Sore Throat + Speeds Cold Recovery

How to Stop a Cold in Its Tracks: MDs Share Their Top Tips So You Can Feel Better Fast

Mullein Tea Is a Little-Known Brew That May Be the Best Remedy for Colds, Flu & More

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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