As COVID Rules Ease, Common Colds Rebound Across America

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Infectious disease expert Ravina Kullar’s husband has a cold. So does her sister-in-law.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Clinic’s waiting rooms are becoming much more frequented by folks with coughs, sneezes and sniffles, said family medicine physician Dr. Neha Vyas.

These folks are part of a nationwide trend occurring as COVID-19 vaccinations rise, masks drop, protective restrictions lift, and life returns to some semblance of normal, experts say.

“Face masks have protected us not only from COVID-19 infection, but also other respiratory infections such as colds, the flu,” said Kullar, a consultant with Expert Stewardship Inc., a California company that promotes infection prevention in long-term care facilities. “People now are more susceptible to catching these respiratory viruses that someone acquires through the nasal passage or the mouth. It’s right on par with lifting the restrictions.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory warning that one of these bugs — respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) — has been on the rise in 13 states, mostly in the South.

At the same time, there’s been a strong uptick in sales of over-the-counter cold and flu medications, according to Catalina Marketing Corp., a company that tracks store purchases across the United States.

Among cough and cold remedies, there’s been a 564% increase for kids’ products and an 80% bump in medications aimed at adults compared to this time in 2019 and 2020, Catalina’s data shows.

There’s also been a 151% increase in vaporizer purchases, a 78% increase in chest rubs, a 48% increase in throat drops and a 19% increase in allergy or sinus remedies.

More people are also hitting the doctor’s offices with cold symptoms.

For example, the Cleveland Clinic has had a noticeable uptick in patients with respiratory infections and sinus infections, Vyas said.

“There are correlations between the fact we are opening up places and dropping mask mandates and interacting more and going to sporting events and going back to the gym, and the rise we are seeing in respiratory illnesses,” she said.

No cold/flu season last year

The fact of the matter is that masks and social distancing protected Americans from a lot more than COVID-19 during the pandemic, experts said.

Winter seasonal viruses — the flu, the common cold and the like — fell by more than 99% last year as Americans adopted practical measures to protect themselves against COVID, according to a University of Wisconsin study published June 21 in JAMA Network Open.

Essentially, the United States did not have a cold and flu season last year, researchers said. Cases in Wisconsin fell from an average 4,800 per month in previous seasons to an average 12 per month during the pandemic.

The fact that masks are coming off during the summer shouldn’t be any safer than if they came off during the winter’s cold and flu doldrums, said Dr. Stacey Rose, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

“There are plenty of viruses, including the common cold, that continue to circulate during the summer months,” Rose said. “Enteroviruses are classically spread in the summer months, and coronaviruses are year-round viruses. RSV can definitely be seen in the spring. Even influenza, which we used to think of as a strictly ‘winter’ virus, I think we’ve seen a lot more in the spring over the last few years.”

A certain amount of infection risk comes from resuming “normal” life, which includes interacting with others in cramped locations.

“People are traveling so much more,” Kullar said. “I flew to LAX, and I’ve never seen that airport so packed, even in pre-pandemic days.”

Adding to the risk, many seem to be taking a break from the entire suite of protective measures that became instilled in us during the pandemic, Vyas said.

“I’ve noticed even in my office those very strict hand-washing and hand hygiene and social distancing measures that we took a year ago are really not being as followed as much,” she said.

Stick with routine hygiene

In addition, kids are returning to child-care centers that are major vectors of viral spread and were shut down during the pandemic.

“Those of us who have young kids know that when we first enroll our kids in day care settings they tend to get sick a lot and they bring things home, and I think that all was reduced during COVID-19,” Rose said.

If you want to avoid getting a cold, then you should consider tightening up your personal protections against infection, Vyas said.

Medical professionals “try to clean high-touch surfaces all the time. We wash our hands all the time. We avoid sneezing or coughing into our hands all the time,” Vyas said. “Those are the things that should never be dropped. Those are just basic hygiene measures.”

And even though many now have the freedom to doff their masks in a variety of public places, Rose said they might want to think twice before tossing them away.

“It is pretty remarkable how effective these masks are at preventing the spread not just of COVID-19 but of these other viruses and infectious particles,” she said. “If we were to get into a situation where we found that influenza was spiking or RSV was spiking and we wanted to put a stop to that, from a public health perspective, don’t throw away that mask.”

For her part, Vyas thinks she’ll continue to wear a mask in crowded situations.

“I don’t know how comfortable I would be without wearing a mask now in public transportation,” Vyas said. “If I’m in a situation where I’m around a lot of other people, it may make sense to maintain that social distancing, to try not to touch high-touch surfaces, to stay away from buffets, to do all of those things we were doing before — not just to limit the spread of COVID, but for respiratory viruses in general.”

Source: HealthDay

Common Cold Combats Influenza

Bill Hathaway wrote . . . . . . . . .

As the flu season approaches, a strained public health system may have a surprising ally — the common cold virus.

Rhinovirus, the most frequent cause of common colds, can prevent the flu virus from infecting airways by jumpstarting the body’s antiviral defenses, Yale researchers report Sept. 4 in the journal The Lancet Microbe.

The findings help answer a mystery surrounding the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic: An expected surge in swine flu cases never materialized in Europe during the fall, a period when the common cold becomes widespread.

A Yale team led by Dr. Ellen Foxman studied three years of clinical data from more than 13,000 patients seen at Yale New Haven Hospital with symptoms of respiratory infection. The researchers found that even during months when both viruses were active, if the common cold virus was present, the flu virus was not.

“When we looked at the data, it became clear that very few people had both viruses at the same time,” said Foxman, assistant professor of laboratory medicine and immunobiology and senior author of the study.

Foxman stressed that scientists do not know whether the annual seasonal spread of the common cold virus will have a similar impact on infection rates of those exposed to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“It is impossible to predict how two viruses will interact without doing the research,” she said.

To test how the rhinovirus and the influenza virus interact, Foxman’s lab created human airway tissue from stem cells that give rise to epithelial cells, which line the airways of the lung and are a chief target of respiratory viruses. They found that after the tissue had been exposed to rhinovirus, the influenza virus was unable to infect the tissue.

“The antiviral defenses were already turned on before the flu virus arrived,” she said.

The presence of rhinovirus triggered production of the antiviral agent interferon, which is part of the early immune system response to invasion of pathogens, Foxman said.

“The effect lasted for at least five days,” she said.

Source: Yale University

Bee Healthy: Honey May Beat Cold Meds Against Cough

Amy Norton wrote . . . . . . . . .

There may be no cure for the common cold, but a spoonful of honey might make it less miserable, a new research review concludes.

Parents have long used honey to soothe kids’ sore throats and cough — probably because their parents did. But the review of 14 clinical trials finds some science to back it up.

Overall, adults and kids given honey had less-severe, less-frequent coughing spells than those who received “usual care” — including over-the-counter cough syrups, cold and allergy medicines, and painkillers.

And while honey might not be a slam-dunk against cold symptoms, it’s reasonable to give it a try, experts said.

That’s partly because the cold-and-cough medicines sold in drug stores do not work well and can have side effects, said Dr. Russell Greenfield, an integrative medicine specialist who was not involved in the study.

“The reality is: We don’t have a good conventional therapy for the common cold,” said Greenfield, who is clinical physician executive of Novant Health Integrative Medicine in Charlotte, N.C.

In contrast, honey might be helpful, and it’s largely safe and relatively cheap.

The exception, Greenfield said, is babies: Children younger than 1 year should not be given honey, due to the risk of botulism.

Honey has a centuries-long history as a folk remedy, including as a balm for sore throats and cough. For the new review, researchers at Oxford University in England pulled together recent evidence on whether the nectar actually works.

They found 14 clinical trials done since 2007; most focused on children, but five involved adults. Each tested honey against standard cold-and-cough medicines or a placebo.

Overall, honey was better than usual care in limiting coughs.

“The majority of studies focused on cough, and the evidence is best for cough,” said lead review author Hibatullah Abuelgasim, a medical student at Oxford.

A few studies looked at other symptoms. A study of adults, for instance, measured throat irritation and found that honey seemed to speed recovery.

Given the mostly benign nature of honey, “it’s reasonable to try it — especially if it replaces potentially harmful alternatives,” Abuelgasim said.

One of those potentially harmful alternatives is antibiotics, which are commonly prescribed for colds. That’s despite the fact that antibiotics kill bacteria, and therefore, won’t work against the viruses that cause colds.

In some cases, a person with a cold may develop a secondary bacterial infection and need medication for it, Greenfield noted. But, he said, “colds, by definition, won’t respond to an antibiotic.”

What is the magic behind honey? It’s not entirely clear, according to Greenfield.

Honey contains antioxidants, he noted, and research suggests it has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activity. It also helps coat the mucus membranes, Greenfield said, which might bring some relief.

Plus, it’s sweet and “doesn’t taste bad,” he said. “In integrative medicine, we don’t discount the placebo effect — we try to use it.”

As for the best way to use honey — by the spoonful or mixed into tea, for example — the trials do not answer that. They used various modes of delivery, Abuelgasim said.

Her advice: “It may be best to take it how you prefer.”

With the world in the middle of a pandemic, however, even a cough should be taken seriously, according to Greenfield.

“These days, it’s a different animal,” he said.

So before turning to self-care with honey, Greenfield said, anyone who develops a cough or other possible symptoms of COVID-19 should consult their doctor.

The findings were published online in the journal BMJ: Evidence-Based Medicine.

Source: HealthDay

How to Treat the Common Cold at Home

Colds are very common. A visit to your health care provider’s office is often not needed, and colds often get better in 3 to 4 days.

A type of germ called a virus causes most colds. There are many types of viruses that can cause a cold. Depending on what virus you have, your symptoms may vary.

Common symptoms of a cold include:

  • Fever (100°F [37.7°C] or higher) and chills
  • Headache, sore muscles, and fatigue
  • Cough
  • Nasal symptoms, such as stuffiness, runny nose, yellow or green snot, and sneezing
  • Sore throat

Treating Your Cold

Treating your symptoms will not make your cold go away, but will help you feel better. Antibiotics are almost never needed to treat a common cold.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) help lower fever and relieve muscle aches.

  • DO NOT use aspirin.
  • Check the label for the proper dose.
  • Call your provider if you need to take these medicines more than 4 times per day or for more than 2 or 3 days.

Over-the-counter (OTC) cold and cough medicines may help ease symptoms in adults and older children.

  • They are not recommended for children under age 6. Talk to your provider before giving your child OTC cold medicine, which can have serious side effects.
  • Coughing is your body’s way of getting mucus out of your lungs. So use cough syrups only when your cough becomes too painful.
  • Throat lozenges or sprays for your sore throat.

Many cough and cold medicines you buy have more than one medicine inside. Read the labels carefully to make sure you do not take too much of any one medicine. If you take prescription medicines for another health problem, ask your provider which OTC cold medicines are safe for you.

Drink plenty of fluids, get enough sleep, and stay away from secondhand smoke.

Wheezing can be a common symptom of a cold if you have asthma.

  • Use your rescue inhaler as prescribed if you are wheezing.
  • See your provider immediately if it becomes hard to breathe.

Home Remedies

Many home remedies are popular treatments for the common cold. These include vitamin C, zinc supplements, and echinacea.

Although not proven to be helpful, most home remedies are safe for most people.

  • Some remedies may cause side effects or allergic reactions.
  • Certain remedies may change the way other medicines work.
  • Talk to your provider before trying any herbs and supplements.

Preventing the Spread of Colds

Wash your hands often. This is the best way to stop the spread of germs.

To wash your hands correctly:

  • Rub soap onto wet hands for 20 seconds. Make sure to get under your fingernails. Dry your hands with a clean paper towel and turn faucet off with paper towel.
  • You can also use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Use a dime size amount and rub all over your hands until they are dry.

To further prevent colds:

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into the crook of your elbow and not into the air.

When to Call the Doctor

Try treating your cold at home first. Call your provider right away, or go to the emergency room, if you have:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sudden chest pain or abdominal pain
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Acting strangely
  • Severe vomiting that does not go away

Also call your provider if:

  • You start acting strangely
  • Your symptoms get worse or do not improve after 7 to 10 days

Source : MedlinePlus

Larger Doses of Vitamin C may Lead to a Greater Reduction in Common Cold Duration

The relationship between vitamin C dosage and its effects on the duration of the common cold symptoms may extend to 6-8 grams per day according to a statistical analysis published in Nutrients.

Dozens of animal studies using different animal species have found that vitamin C significantly prevents and alleviates infections caused by diverse bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. Given the universal nature of the effect of vitamin C against various infections in different animal species, it also seems evident that vitamin C influences the susceptibility to, and the severity of infections in humans. However, the practical importance of vitamin C in human infections is not known.

The common cold is the most extensively studied infection regarding the effects of vitamin C. The majority of controlled trials have used a modest dosage of only 1 g per day of vitamin C. The pooled effect of all published studies has shown a statistically highly significant difference between the vitamin C and placebo groups, which indicates a genuine biological effect. However, the optimal doses and the maximal effects of vitamin C on the common cold are unknown. The trials that used doses higher than 1 g per day usually found greater effects than trials with exactly 1 g per day, which suggests a dose dependent effect. Nevertheless, definitive conclusions cannot be made from such a comparison because of numerous confounding differences between the trials. The most valid examination of dose-response is therefore within a single trial that has randomly selected trial groups with different vitamin C doses, so that exposure to viruses is similar and the outcome definition is identical in the study groups.

Dr. Harri Hemilä from the University of Helsinki, Finland, analyzed the findings of two randomized trials each of which investigated the effects of two vitamin C doses on the duration of the common cold. The first trial administered 3 g/day vitamin C to two study groups, 6 g/day to a third group, and the fourth group was administered a placebo. Compared with the placebo group the 6 g/day dose shortened colds by 17%, twice as much as the 3 g/day doses did. The second trial administered 4 g/day and 8 g/day vitamin C, and placebo to different groups, but only on the first day of the cold. Compared with the placebo group, the 8 g/day dose shortened colds by 19%, twice as much as the 4 g/day dose did. Both studies revealed a significant dose-response relationship between the vitamin C dosage and the duration of the common cold. The dose-response relationship in these two trials was also quite linear up to the levels of 6-8 g/day, thus it is possible that even higher doses may lead to still greater reductions in the duration of common cold. Dr. Hemilä notes that there have been proposals that vitamin C doses should be over 15 g/day for the best treatment of colds, but the highest doses that have so far been investigated in randomized trials have been much lower.

Dr. Hemilä concludes that “given the consistent effect of vitamin C on the duration of colds, and its safety and low cost, it would be worthwhile for individual common cold patients to test whether therapeutic 8 g/day vitamin C is beneficial for them. Self-dosing of vitamin C must be started as soon as possible after the onset of common cold symptoms to be most effective.” Dr Hemilä also states that further therapeutic trials should be carried out to investigate the dose-response relation in the region of over 8 g/day of vitamin C.

Source: Medical News Today

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