Winter’s Lingering Colds Experts Probe Causes of Prolonged Symptoms Amid Seasonal Challenges

by Jessica

The extended duration of seasonal coughs and colds during this winter has prompted experts to weigh in on potential causes. Ron Eccles, an emeritus biosciences professor at Cardiff University, attributes the prolonged symptoms to children returning to school after the Christmas break and the cold, damp conditions, creating an optimal environment for viruses.

The wet weather has kept people indoors, fostering virus survival, and leading to complaints about enduring colds. Eccles suggests that multiple infections or increased vulnerability due to the festive season’s stress may contribute to lingering colds. While Covid is still present, with a particularly unpleasant strain this winter, distinguishing between Covid and regular colds can be challenging, making it crucial to keep away from vulnerable individuals if experiencing symptoms.

Jeremy Brown, a professor of respiratory infection at University College London, acknowledges the difficulty in collecting data on milder variants of cold viruses. He emphasizes that distinguishing symptoms of a bad cold from COVID-19 is challenging, with COVID exhibiting similar symptoms but potentially making individuals feel more unwell.

Professor Brown raises the possibility that viral infections may be worse or more prolonged post-pandemic due to decreased exposure to respiratory viruses weakening adaptive immunity. GP Dr Alisha Esmail suggests a ‘post-covid effect,’ where less exposure to classical winter viruses during quarantining and isolating leads to a need to rebuild immune responses.

There’s a reported phenomenon called the ‘100-day cough,’ suspected to be whooping cough in some cases. Dr Esmail notes the common cold viruses currently circulating include coronavirus, rhinovirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and parainfluenza. Seasonal allergies, sinus infections, underlying wheezing, or bacterial infections could also contribute to persistent symptoms.

Typically, a cold lasts about seven to 10 days, but if symptoms persist beyond three weeks, worsen suddenly, or involve high fever or breathing trouble, consulting a GP is advised. Rest, hydration, and over-the-counter treatments may help, but persistent symptoms may require further investigation. Factors like lack of sleep, poor nutrition, and high-stress levels can also prolong illness and weaken the immune system.

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