Is the Common Cold More Common in Spring?
As its name suggests, the common cold is one of the most prevalent health conditions around the globe. Almost all UK adults will experience a cold at some point int their lifetime, but luckily, the condition tends to be mild. Usually lasting no more than a week or two, the common cold can generally be treated with rest, sleep and plenty of fluids.
Although we tend to think of a cold as something that strikes in winter, research shows that the condition can easily catch us off guard as the weather gets warmer.
Are colds more common in spring?
A study published in the American Society for Microbiology found that, although the common cold is most dominant in winter, the arrival of spring sees it get a second wind. So though the cold can be seen as a winter condition, it can still strike as the temperature rises.
This is partly because any shift in climate and season can leave us more vulnerable to illness. Our bodies get used to dealing with a certain kind of environment, so when that changes it can force the body into a period of adjustment. This is a view shared by Dr Bradley Chipps, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, who states that changes in barometric pressure, temperature and wind can compromise your immune system’s built-in defences against cold and flu.
It’s also possible that people are more likely to venture outside in spring and interact with others. This is good for our overall health, but potentially risky when it comes to colds. The weather may have warmed up a bit but could still be cool enough to encourage the spread of cold viruses. Factors like these may account for studies that have found spring to be an even more important time for rhinovirus transmission than the early autumn.
Are spring and summer colds worse than their winter counterparts?
The rhinovirus is the most common cause of the cold, responsible for as many as 50% of cold infections. Rhinovirus has been shown to thrive best in colder, drier climates but other causes of cold-like symptoms, such as enteroviruses, are more common in the summer and can lead to more severe symptoms.
A study published in Health Psychology found that spring and summer colds can feel worse than winter ones because they’re unexpected, and patients feel like they’re suffering alone. In other words, feeling like your missing out on fun in the sun can actually make your symptoms feel worse.
In some cases, people may experience cold-like symptoms when they’re actually suffering from common springtime health concerns – typically hay fever. Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, is an allergic reaction to pollen, which starts to become more prevalent in the atmosphere during spring. Between 10 and 30% of all adults suffer from hay fever, and symptoms can include sneezing, coughing, a blocked nose, itchy eyes, headaches and lethargy, all of which are also common in colds.
So while the common cold may be at its most common in winter, it’s a good idea to take precaution against the condition all year round.
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 NHS UK. Common Cold. 2017
 Jacobs, SE., Lamson, DM., George, KS. & Walsh, TJ. Human Rhinovirus. American Society for Microbiology. 2013.
 Heid, M. Why are you more likely to get sick when the seasons change? TIME Magazine. 2018.
 Monto, AS. The seasonality of rhinovirus infections and its implications for clinical recognition. Clinical Therapeutics. 2002
 Annamalay, AA. et al. Prevalence of and Risk Factors for Human Rhinovirus Infection in Healthy Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Western Australian Children. 2013.
 Ikäheimo, TM. et al. A Decrease in Temperature and Humidity Precedes Human Rhinovirus Infections in a Cold Climate. 2016.
 NIH. Catching a Cold When It’s Warm. 2012
 LeRoy, AS., Murdock, KW., Jaremka, LM., Loya, A. Loneliness Predicts Self-Reported Cold Symptoms After a Viral Challeneg. Health Psychology. 2017.
 Allergy UK. Allergic Rhinitis (Hay fever). 2013
 NHS UK. Hay Fever. 2017