What is a Summer Cold?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
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  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2018
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The term "summer cold" is used to describe the experience of a runny nose, watering eyes, and general malaise during the summer. In fact, "cold" is a bit of a misnomer, because a summer cold is not usually a cold in the medical sense, although the symptoms can feel very similar. There are a number of techniques which patients can use to address a summer cold, and for some patients, it may be a good idea to visit a doctor to get additional treatment and advice.

Technically, a cold is caused by a viral infection which leads to inflammation in the nose, sinuses, and related areas. A summer cold is not typically caused by a virus, but rather by a reaction to an allergen. Summer tends to about with allergens including pollen, grasses, smoke from the grill, and so forth. People tend to be outdoors much more during the summer, which leads to increased exposure to allergens, and can lead to the development of a summer cold.


The best treatment for a summer cold is to avoid allergens which serve as triggers, which may not be an appealing option for people who would like to be outside during the summer, rather than trapped indoors. Over-the-counter allergy medications can be used to manage the inflammation and irritation associated with summer allergies by weakening the immune system's response to allergens. Measures such as staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet, and keeping fit can also help people manage a summer cold.

If a patient experiences congestion, decongestants can be used, and patients may also find that it helps to use an expectorant if they start coughing. That irritating tickle in the back of the throat which many people associate with a summer cold should also be resolved with an expectorant. Other techniques which can help include setting up a steam tent with a bowl of hot water and a towel to clear out the sinuses, and carrying a soft handkerchief to wipe the nose if it becomes runny.

Patients with severe allergies may find that it's a good idea to talk to a doctor about some prescription medications which can be used to manage allergies. Allergy testing can also be performed to find out what, exactly, someone is allergic to. For example, a patient who is allergic to rye grass might be able to avoid that allergen reasonably easily, without too many sacrifices in terms of activities.


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Post 14

If you know you are prone to summer colds, a good idea is to start upping your vitamin C intake about a week before summer starts. My doctor recommended I take the maximum dosage of 5000 mg of vitamin C a day, but broken up into smaller doses. Apparently our bodies use vitamin C really quickly and taking the dosage all at once is a bit of a waste.

I ended up getting the 1000mg tablets and taking them throughout the day. I was happy to say that my cold still came, but was much less pronounced than usual. Plus I figured that I got the added benefit of having more anti-oxidants in my body.

Does anyone know of any other supplements and tricks for beating a summer cold?

Post 13

There's nothing worse than having summer roll around and being excited about finally swimming at the beach, to wake up with a stuffed head and runny nose. I usually get a summer cold for about a week or two right at the end of the first month of summer, it never fails.

When I was younger and complaining of the sore throat, my mom always made me gargle with warm water that had a teaspoon of salt added to it. It really worked well at soothing my throat and making it feel less uncomfortable. I am pretty sure it also helped me get better faster. I recommend trying it anyway, and seeing if it works for you.

Post 12

@seHiro - My favorite way to ward off a chill in a place with lower temperatures is to use an electric heating blanket. You can switch the temperature of the blanket to whatever is comfortable for you, and prevent getting chilled while also avoiding getting overheated.

Overheating in a chilly place is bad, too, because then you will sweat, and when your skin is damp, ironically, it's easier to get chilled.

It also tempts people to take off warm outer layers of clothing, which causes them to cool down very quickly. Sudden temperature changes are definitely one of the things that can make an otherwise healthy person catch a cold.

Anyway, I love my electric heating blanket. I got one for Christmas that is bed-sized, so I sleep under it on a low setting. It turns itself off automatically after ten hours, so I don't have to worry about a fire hazard either, and it keeps me from getting sick.

Post 11

@burcinc - Many people claim that it's an old wives' tale that getting cold or chilled can make you sick. I tend to believe that it has a basis in truth, but it's not entirely accurate.

Based on my own experiences, getting very cold and wet by, say, walking outside during a rainstorm, leaves me feeling congested, feverish, clumsy and numb.

That could be mistaken for having caught a sudden cold from being chilled, except that these symptoms are extremely short-lived with me. They wear off in about an hour once I've dried off and bundled up in a nice blanket for a few hours.

Now for the part where I believe that the "old wives' tale" isn't

entirely untrue, I wanted to note that getting chilled alone probably won't give you an instant cold like people interpret the symptoms that they get.

However, repeated exposure to cold all the time can not only give the body aches and pains, but wear away on the immune system. When the immune system gets weak, that's when a real cold will strike, and the chill will indirectly be responsible!

Post 10

@dimpley - You've got the right idea. If you need some rest while sick, by all means, a daytime nap is perfectly fine. And just grinning and bearing it actually works much better for mild illnesses than taking a bunch of cold medicine.

I, myself, got fed up with taking cold medicine this past Christmas.

I had a December cold, right smack-dab in the middle of the holiday season, and all I really wanted was to be out and about buying Christmas presents like everybody else I knew, but instead I was home on the couch. I had taken some cold medicine, but I still felt all groggy and tired.

I don't know if it was the sleepy

effects of the medicine or what, but I realized that I had felt more awake before taking any pills. I also realized that my symptoms -- runny nose, cough, sore throat and body aches and pains -- were caused by something.

It was quite a realization: cold medicines treat the symptoms, not the cause. In other words, taking medicine wasn't actually making me any better, it was just suppressing my immune system's natural way of getting germs out of my body -- mucus -- to make me feel better.

I don't take cold medicine anymore these days. When you get aches and pains, your body is telling you to rest. When you get a runny nose, your body is trying to get rid of some of the germs. It's not a bad thing -- it's natural.

Post 9

@oscar23 - I live in a rather cold-prone area. This climate has long, cold winters and cool summers, and I have to be careful not to get myself chilled, or before I know it I've caught a cold.

Anyway, because I'm usually actually a bit chilled in addition to being sick, I find that one of the best remedies is a hot cup of herbal tea.

If the word "tea" reminds you of chamomile only, let me be the first to tell you, not all tea makes you sleepy. Peppermint is invigorating for those who feel sleepy.

Tea with the herb Echinacea in it actually increases your body's white blood cell production. White blood cells are the hunters

in your body that literally track down and eat germs, so this is great news for somebody who has a cold.

Other herbs to try are cinnamon (good for the sinuses), and ginger root, which clears up congestion.

Hope this helps you to beat back any colds that you get, no matter what kind they are. If all else fails, remind yourself that it's just a cold -- it will be gone in a few days, probably.

Post 8

@simrin - Another good way to boost your immune system is to cut down on or avoid refined sugars entirely. Sugar depresses the immune system, which means that it gets in the way of its ability to work properly.

Most people are unaware of this, but just one serving of refined sugar can seriously slow down your immune system's function for up to six hours after eating it! This can be a problem, because many vitamin pills, especially chewables, are made with sugar in the tablet itself to make eating them more attractive to people.

Eating vitamins in the form of healthy vitamin rich foods is the best best. Since you said that you already eat healthy, it shouldn't

be a problem for you.

I have noticed that whenever I have a cold -- a summer cold, a winter cold, even a day cold -- if I eat sugar while I am sick it takes longer for me to recover. To cut a cold out quick, cut yourself off from refined sugar.

Post 7

@Oscar23 - I know what you mean. I don’t usually have any symptoms of a cold during the summer, but I have really bad allergies that totally knock me out. All I really want to do is sleep.

It is really irritating because I don’t like to sleep during the day because then I can’t sleep at night. I usually take a 24 hour allergy pill that is available over the counter and it makes me feel great. It dries out my stuffy nose and relieves my itchy watery eyes.

It is also non-drowsy which takes away those tired feelings and actually makes me feel more energetic. I only take it when I really feel bad because the medication is strong. My husband sometimes takes it when he has a cold virus virus because he says that it makes him feel better.

Post 6

It seems like I get a summer cold every year, and at the worst possible times! The biggest problem I have with it, other than just feeling plain bad, is that the medicine always makes me sleepy.

Are there any kinds of allergy medicines out there that really work that don’t make you want to nap for hours? I mean, who really has the time. I find that the ‘daytime’ meds wire me up and I just don’t feel like they work as well as the others. Of course, I could feel that way because I don’t sleep through my symptoms with them either.

I would actually really love to locate a natural summer cold remedy that skips the lullaby session altogether, but still really helps to relieve these symptoms.

Post 5

Summer colds are for the dogs, that's for sure, but I just cannot get myself to stay inside. My kids and I are just outdoorsy kinds of people.

We like to go work in the garden, swing in the yard and play in the pool. We love to go camping in our little pop-up camper. Whenever we get a chance, we crank up the grill and dine outside as well.

And, as a result, we all get the whole runny nose, general yucky feeling that the common cold brings. It’s really hard to treat this, especially for small children, when you don’t want to be knocked out cold.

So, we usually just grin and bear it as

best we can with as little medicine as possible. Sometimes, though, we just have to give in and go inside for some sleepy time.

Generally, though, our symptoms don’t last for all that long; usually no more than a few weeks. But boy does that feel like an eternity to miss out on summer’s sweet pleasures!

Post 4

I normally get two colds a year – one in the fall/winter and one in the spring/summer. If I get more than that, it is very unusual.

So whenever I get one of my seasonal flare ups, I rarely have any cold remedies on hand to help me through the symptoms, and then half the time I don’t have the correct medicine to help either.

For instance, I get up one day just before Thanksgiving feeling a bit drained and tired. Before you know it, my head hurts, my nose runs and I’m coughing up a storm. I go the cabinet to get some of the spring’s allergy medicine – no help at all!

So I go to the

store and load up on Thera-Flu and the like and feel better in about a week or so. Then the spring rolls around and I turn to the last of my wonderful Thera-Flu and this time it doesn’t work.

I’m not saying it always happens just like this, but I truly cannot tell the difference between allergies and a real cold. It’s usually the medicine that lets me know which I’ve got.

Post 3

This is such a great article! It's surprisingly very easy to confuse allergies for a cold. Most of us have allergies in the spring time when all the trees and plants blossom. But every plant has a different bloom time and it can happen in seasons other than spring. I think that's why when we have allergies in the summer, we actually think that it's a cold.

I made the same mistake last year myself. My husband had planted a new type of flower in our backyard last year which I apparently was allergic to. But I did not know this and when I started sneezing and coughing all the time with red eyes, I seriously thought that I

caught some kind of virus. My visit to the doctor revealed that it was actually hay fever!

He told me that the symptoms are pretty much the same, except that when you have a cold, you are more likely to have body aches and fever. Also, with a cold, it takes some time for the symptoms to show up and you should get better in about a week's time.

You know you have an allergy if your symptoms don't go away and happen all of the sudden. You are probably around something you are allergic to, like a plant or pollen as it was in my case, or maybe even mold! I actually should have caught on when my symptoms got better indoors.

My husband got rid of those flowers and I got better immediately! I know now that I shouldn't rule out allergies even if it seems like it's the wrong season for it.

Post 2

Colds don't happen in the summertime as much as they do in winter, but I seem to have a summer cold whenever I travel for vacation. I think I come in contact with new allergens or viruses when I travel somewhere new, or maybe even pick it up on the flight. I'm trying to avoid it this year by eating real healthy and taking vitamins before the journey. I'm definitely going to take along my allergy medicine with me just in case.

I wish I could avoid air conditioners as well. I read somewhere that air conditioners actually make us more susceptible to allergies and viruses because it dries out the air and our nasal passages. I know it's

not possible to avoid air conditioners when it's incredibly hot. There is not much I can do about it when I'm at work, but I have a humidifier at home that I turn on when the air conditioning is on. I hope that the two will balance each other out. I want to leave for my trip really strong and healthy so that I can have a nice vacation this year without a cold.
Post 1

I experienced something like this several weeks ago and it seemed like a summer cold even though it was not from allergies. I went swimming in cold water and drank lots of cool drinks and I think that was the reason for my symptoms.

I was feeling very tired and cold for the next few days and I had a mild cough and headache as well. I slept for a couple of days, only drank warm water and warm drinks and tried to keep myself warm with a blanket. Thankfully, I got through it without having to take any medicines other than a pain reliever.

I think we can have cold like symptoms when the temperature increases quickly and we don't take precautions for the changing weather. Remaining in cold water for a long time, taking cold showers and having very cold drinks can make us sick too!

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