Regardless of when a person catches a cold, the cause is a virus. As the weather warms, the viruses that cause most colds tend to change. Enteroviruses cause many summer colds, triggering upper respiratory symptoms such as a runny nose and sore throat, as well as stomach problems. Enteroviruses are more common in the summer months than rhinoviruses, which are more common in the colder months.
Antibiotics generally cannot treat colds, but home remedies can help a person feel better faster. Read on to learn more about how to catch a cold in the summer and how to ease symptoms.
Symptoms of summer colds
Most summer colds cause symptoms similar to winter colds, including:
- A runny nose.
- Pressure in the sinuses or head.
- Throat pain
- Low energy.
- Muscle pains.
Many winter colds do not cause a fever, especially in adults, but summer viruses due to enteroviruses can cause a sudden fever. Although some people insist that summer colds are always worse or longer than winter colds, there is little clinical evidence to support this claim. Most summer colds, like winter colds, go away within a few days and do not require medical treatment. Some enteroviruses cause other diseases with different symptoms. These include:
- Herpangina, which causes small blisters in the mouth and throat, as well as a sudden fever.
- Hand, foot, and mouth disease, which causes symptoms similar to herpangina, except that the blisters are also on the hands and feet, and a person may also have flu-like symptoms.
- Conjunctivitis, which causes swelling and redness in one or both eyes. In rare cases, enteroviruses can cause serious and life-threatening illnesses, such as meningitis and myocarditis.
Summer colds vs. allergies
It can be difficult to tell the difference between a cold and allergies, especially when symptoms appear early in the allergy season. Some important distinctions include:
- Fever: Allergies to substances in the air, such as dust and pollen, do not cause a fever.
- Time of illness: Allergies typically appear as soon as a person comes into contact with an allergen. For example, a person may feel ill as soon as pollen season begins.
- Duration of illness: Colds, even bad ones, usually last less than 10 days, while allergies can last for many weeks.
- Symptom pattern: People with allergies may notice their symptoms improve indoors or when using air conditioning or air filters.
- Exhaustion – Colds commonly cause exhaustion and fatigue, while allergies rarely do.
- Muscle aches – Allergies can cause headaches and face aches, but they don’t cause widespread muscle pain.
- Response to medication: Antihistamines help with many allergies, but they don’t usually help with cold symptoms.
Treatments and home remedies for summer colds
No medicine can kill the viruses that cause most summer colds. However, a range of treatments can help with symptoms. These treatments include:
- Decongestants to help with coughs and congestion.
- Cough medicine and cough drops.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
- Steam showers to help relieve congestion.
- Using a humidifier while you sleep to reduce dry air and help with coughing.
A person should always consult a doctor before administering medication to infants and young children. Also, a person should avoid mixing multiple medications unless a doctor suggests doing so. Some evidence suggests that herbal remedies can help with some symptoms. Honey, for example, can help with a cough, while zinc can help shorten a cold. However, never give honey to a baby younger than 1 year old.