As the winter season begins, a brutal ‘super cold’ has been plaguing the United Kingdom, leaving people sick for extended periods. This phenomenon, characterized by severe symptoms and prolonged illness, has surprised many. The impact of this ‘super cold’ has been felt across the country, with reports of widespread illness and a significant rise in doctor visits. Other countries, including the United States, have also experienced a seemingly tougher time with colds earlier this year. These are the potential reasons why.
The Resurgence of Common Colds
After three years of relative calm in the realm of common colds, a multitude of airway pathogens such as adenovirus, RSV, metapneumovirus, parainfluenza, common-cold coronaviruses, and rhinoviruses have made a comeback. These previously overlooked viruses are now causing havoc, leaving people feeling miserable for weeks on end. After nearly three years of social distancing, wearing masks, and working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, the common cold has found a way to strike back with a vengeance. (1)
Super Cold or Forgotten Severity of Colds?
Many questions are arising as more and more people are falling ill with the common cold. This cold, which seems to drag on for weeks longer than usual, has posed many questions. Is it really a ‘super cold’ that we are suffering from? Or, is it just that we’ve forgotten how much having a cold, frankly, stinks.
The current ‘super cold’ outbreak has reminded many of the true severity of these seemingly minor illnesses. The once-familiar symptoms of coughs, sneezes, and sniffles have become a constant presence in the daily lives of people across the UK, the United States, and other countries. People have taken to internet forums to discuss their symptoms, how awful they’ve felt, and how long it seems to drag on for. Workplaces, classrooms, public transport, and really any public space have once again become a symphony of coughs, sneezes, sniffles, and people clearing their throats. (2)
Impact on Healthcare
This ‘super cold’ onslaught has placed a significant burden on healthcare systems. Doctor’s offices and hospitals have experienced a surge in patient visits, with individuals seeking relief from the prolonged and debilitating symptoms. However, amidst the chaos, health authorities emphasize the importance of distinguishing these colds from COVID-19, as testing remains crucial to prevent the spread of the virus.
Immunity and Strategies for Prevention
Researchers have found that, despite the severity of the symptoms, there is no evidence indicating that the ‘super cold’ is objectively worse than its predecessors. Instead, it is the collective amnesia regarding the impact of common colds that contributes to its perceived brutality. During the pandemic, measures such as mask-wearing, frequent handwashing, and social distancing have contributed to a decline in cold and flu cases. However, as society gradually returns to normalcy, it is crucial to remember the importance of these preventive strategies. Doctors have also explained that a decreased immunity after years of no exposure have made us more susceptible. They said that the long-duration of their symptoms is likely because another virus has infected them as they were healing from another.
“We may have been a little spoiled over the last few seasons, because we’ve been spared this experience of getting one or two or even three common colds during the winter,” stated infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Dr. William Schaffner. (3)
Parents May See Sicker Kids
For parents, experts explain that young children are particularly susceptible. Especially if they were very little during the pandemic or born during it, they weren’t exposed to the same respiratory viruses that children usually are while at daycare, school, the playground, etc.
“We saw a lot more RSV in the beginning of this year, because a lot of kids were not born when there was RSV circulating so of course, they’re going to get it and probably feel it a little bit more,” explained Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, professor of medicine and infectious disease specialist at UCSF.
One of the best ways to prevent getting sick? Wash your hands and surfaces that you touch often. This means things like countertops and phones, among others. If you take public transport, wash your hands when you get to where you are going. Do your best not to touch your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Coping with Prolonged Illness
For those unfortunate enough to be stricken by this ‘super cold,’ the road to recovery can be arduous. The prolonged illness has left many individuals unable to perform daily tasks and has significantly impacted productivity. It is essential to prioritize rest, hydration, and proper nutrition during this time. Seeking medical assistance and following the advice of healthcare professionals can also help manage the symptoms and speed up the recovery process.
It Will Get Better
The emergence of a brutal ‘super cold’ sweeping across the UK has left people sick for weeks, challenging the resilience built during the COVID-19 pandemic. This resurgence serves as a reminder of the severity of common colds and the need for continued vigilance in preventing the spread of such illnesses. By implementing preventive strategies and seeking appropriate medical care, individuals can navigate through this challenging period and emerge stronger on the other side.
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- “Colds Haven’t Changed. So Why Do They Suddenly Feel So Bad?.” The Atlantic. Katherine J. Wu. February 23, 2023.
- “Warning over ‘brutal’ new cold spreading across the UK that ‘lasts for weeks'” Yahoo. Andrew Smart. November 27, 2023.
- “Why common cold symptoms may seem worse than before the pandemic.” ABC News. Emma Egan. February 11, 2023.