THOUSANDS around the nation are suffering with “the worst cold ever”.
Victims have flooded social media reporting symptoms of the “super cold”, which include sandpaper throats, headaches, dripping noses and being unable to get out of bed.
Coughs and colds this autumn have increased by 149 per cent year on year. So what is going on?
It might be more than one cold
THIS year is like every single year, there is never just one cold, cough or virus doing the rounds.
So if you feel like you’ve had a cold and are only better for a day or two before feeling ill again, you may have been hit by successive bugs.
There are often lots going around with similar symptoms.
There’s a bigger viral loan this year
COMMUNITY viral load is a medical term used to describe the amount of a virus that is circulating.
Last year we stayed inside isolating and socially distancing. Colds and coughs couldn’t spread between us all so the community viral load was smaller.
This year we are mixing and are back to spreading germs between us, so there are lots of cold viruses around.
And as restrictions have eased, there is plenty of opportunity to pass them around, at home, in the office and while out seeing friends.
We’ve got illness anxiety
THIS time last year a lot of us were rightly scared of Covid.
Hospitals were at capacity, we had no vaccine and we knew little about the virus.
This presents two problems. Firstly, we spent months being fearful of germs and sickness so there’s a very real hangover from that time.
This is making us anxious when we do get ill, especially as Covid and cold symptoms can be similar. Getting rid of that illness anxiety won’t happen overnight.
Secondly, anxiety increases the stress hormones in our system and stress can impact our immune system.
The stresses of the pandemic could leave us just a little bit more prone to catching colds.
We’ve forgotten what being ill feels like
WHILE there are millions across the country who have battled Covid, a lot of people have been completely asymptomatic with it and many others haven’t even had it.
Huge swathes of the population spent months shielding or staying indoors or not mixing.
All of this means we have kind of forgotten what being ill feels like. A lot of us have upped our hygiene in the past 19 months with hand washing, anti-bacterial wipes and sprays.
This means not only have we decreased our chances of getting Covid, but everything else too.
So while it might feel like you are the worst you have ever been, ask yourself when the last time you were actually sick was.
Cold or Covid?
THIS is where things can get complicated. The symptoms of a cold are very similar to Covid.
It is not unusual to get a fever with both, or lose your sense of smell or taste with a blocked nose or to have a continuous cough.
That is why it is vital that if you have any of these symptoms, even if you are sure it might be a cold, that you must immediately book and get a PCR test done.
Lateral flow tests should only be used if you have no symptoms at all.
If you have even one Covid symptom, get a PCR test.
Once you’ve got it, it is vital to do it correctly.
Walk-in centres often provide mirrors, and if it’s a drive-thru centre, use your rear-view mirror, or your phone to make sure you are doing it right.
There are people on hand to advise, if you haven’t taken one.
Once you have taken your PCR you must isolate until the results arrive, which usually takes 24 hours.
There is no way for a medic to know whether you have a cold or Covid without the test, so it’s vital the minute you get a symptom you get a PCR done, to protect yourself and others.
…And here’s how to cope with it
THERE is no cure for a cold but there are things you can do before cold and flu season starts and at the first sign of a sniffle to get yourself better.
SUPPLEMENT: NHS advice suggests that, from October to March, everyone over the age of five takes a vitamin D supplement.
Vitamin D can help support a healthy immune system – though is not solely responsible for it. Your local supermarket should have supplements.
GET VACCINATED: IF you haven’t had your Covid vaccine yet and are eligible, book it without delay to keep yourself and others safe.
If you have been invited for a booster shot, get it done. More groups than ever will be offered the flu vaccine this year, including all over-50s and secondary school children up to Year 11.
PRACTISE SAFE SNEEZING: CATCH it, bin it, kill it. It’s the NHS motto for sneezing and coughing.
Always have tissues with you, sneeze or cough into them then dispose of them in a bin or toilet to prevent spreading.
If you don’t have a tissue, use the crook of your arm to limit cross-transmission.
BE KIND AND MEDICATE IF NEEDED: IF you are feeling rough with a cold or cough and have had your negative PCR, take fluids to stay hydrated.
Cold and warm drinks are both good options and for children, ice lollies can be great for soothing a sore throat and getting fluids into little systems.
Take paracetamol and ibuprofen if you can to help with symptoms.
Similarly, studies have shown honey can help a cough so try the old-fashioned remedy of hot water, honey and lemon.
WAIT IT OUT: MOST people feel better in a few days, but if you think you are getting worse, if symptoms change, you have a new symptom or are concerned, call your GP surgery. And if a cough persists for more than three weeks, see your doctor.
EAT WELL AND DON’T SMOKE: A BALANCED diet will help support your immune system, which is the body’s natural defence.
Plenty of fruit and veg, several alcohol-free nights a week, staying in the recommended alcohol intake amounts, quitting smoking and exercising regularly will all help keep you as healthy as possible and in the best position to fight a cold.