Picture this: you’ve finally gone on a much planned, long awaited vacation... away from the boss and far from worries of the city! But suddenly a sore throat, headache, sneezing, runny nose, fever and cough attack descend on you and you wonder how you can catch a cold when the outside temperature is bordering 40 degrees. Well, docs say it is a summer cold and is actually very common.
What causes it?
Apparently, the same virus that causes its winter cousin. “Extremes of temperature lead to a vasomotor kind of response in which the delicate lining of the nose, the mucosa (which has a lot of glands) starts secreting profusely,” explains Dr Shailaja Pillai, Physician, Internal Medicine, The Apollo Clinic, Thane.
“Fighting a summer cold involves the same tactics as battling its winter counterpart; once you get it, there is little you can do except relieve the symptoms. Its duration actually depends upon your immune system,” says Dr Shailaja, listing some do-s and dont’s.
* Stay hydrated and avoid coffee, tea and other drinks with caffeine.
* Eat light meals and skip heavy starchy foods; chicken soup is very nourishing and comforting. Its steam can help you clear your blocked nose.
* Decongestants can help minimise coughing and sneezing. Keep analgesics, cough medicine and cough drops on hand. Resist the urge to take an antibiotic (this is not a bacterial infection), and although resting is essential to help beat the virus, spend some time outdoors too. Avoid direct exposure to sunlight.
* See your doctor if your symptoms keep getting worse instead of better. These include earache, stiff neck and fever above 101 degrees.
“Wash your hands often and always keep a hand sanitiser with you. Sanitise common surfaces (a cold virus can live on surfaces for more than 24 hours), don’t share towels, get plenty of sleep, eat a balanced diet to bolster your immune system and stay well-hydrated,” says Dr Shailaja.
“You are more likely to catch a cold indoors, particularly in an air-conditioned environment which is tightly packed (airplanes, cinema halls). That’s because air-conditioning dries out the thin layer of mucus in the nose and predisposes us to infection. The cold air also helps viruses to establish a hold in the nose as they reproduce better in a cold nose.”
And if you tend to catch it every year around this time, talk to your doctor about taking some medicine which will help keep the summer cold at bay.
* Take extra vitamin C at the onset of a summer cold and throughout the illness to boost the immune system (amla, citrus fruits, juices).
* Do salt and turmeric gargles to moisturise the lining of the throat and speed up recovery.
* Ginger is a natural antiviral. Have ginger tea or add ginger extract to warm water and sip; it’ll clear sinuses and help reduce inflammation of tissues.
* Try acupressure. While it cannot cure the common cold, it can help speed up the healing process and increase resistance to future viruses.