With life going back to normal, the dreaded cold has also returned, and it seems to be making up for lost time.
While instances of the cold and flu dropped significantly during last year’s lockdowns, the virus has returned with a vengeance, leaving Brits with the ‘worst colds ever.’ Que the sneezing in public punctuated with exclamations of ‘it’s not COVID!’
In fact, some Brits have complained that their colds have been so bad that they’ve needed to get a lateral-flow test just to be sure that they didn’t have 'the rona'.
One person wrote on Twitter: ‘My girlfriend has the worst cold she's ever had. Has completely knocked her sideways. Luckily I had a sore throat for a couple of days, but nothing else. Both tested for COVID yesterday, result just came back negative.’
Another person commented: ‘This is legit the worst cold/flu I've ever had, feel like I've been hit with a bus.’
Why are we seeing such a harsh return of the common cold?
London-based GP Philipa Kaye explained to BBC’s Newsbeat that the number of colds, coughs and viral infections have been on the rise as we are all ‘mixing in a way that we haven't been mixing over the past 18 months.’
During those first lockdowns, we saw numbers of other [non-Covid] infections fall. We think that that was primarily due to the restrictions on meeting up.
Last year the UK saw a record low of flu cases as the virus struggled to spread from person to person thanks to masks, social distancing and lockdowns. But now that we’re back, gathering together in bars, breathing in office air conditioning, and piling into the sess pool that is the Tube, it’s no surprise that our immune systems are once again getting friendly with the common cold.
Dr Philipa continued: ‘Most of these things are respiratory driven, so say somebody talks or coughs or sneezes - you breathe it in.’
What should you do if you think you have a cold?
While instances of the cold are on the rise and more ruthless than ever, it’s best not to just assume that your cough is so easily explainable, especially when the Delta variant is still circulating.
So, if you suspect you might have a cold, it’s best to play it safe and complete a COVID test just to be sure. If you have persistent symptoms or symptoms such as a cough, fever, or loss of taste and smell, then a PCR test might be required. But, if your symptoms are much milder and you want to take a test anyway, a lateral flow test can be ordered to your door or collected through your place of work or school.
To combat a cold, Dr Philipa suggests arming yourself with lots ‘fluids and rest, over-the-counter simple painkillers for headaches and aches and pains.’
But if you become more unwell, if you cough up blood, have chest pain, if you have shortness of breath or chest tightness, then you need to seek medical advice.