Return of the common cold: infections surge in UK as autumn arrives

Common colds and other respiratory infections are on the rise with the return of school and the arrival of autumn. They spread like wildfire, causing more severe illnesses and some people to have their worst ever colds.
Public Health England says there is not a particularly bad new virus, but experts warn that more cases are possible and people should be aware of the potential for serious side effects.

Common colds and other respiratory tract infections usually peak in September, when schools close and autumn arrives. However, after 18 months of mask wearing and social disengagement, many people have weaker immune defenses to fight off the assault of respiratory viruses.

People may become more ill from viruses that they are less able to fight or contract co-infections that cause them discomfort. This is especially true if all the anti-Covid vaccines are reactivated at once.

Professor Ronald Eccles, former director at Cardiff University's Common Cold Centre, stated that we don't know what the common colds will look like this season. This is a significant increase, but the entire system has been thrown off balance by the fact that children have not been able to get immunity for the past year due to social distancing and mask wearing.

A wide range of viruses can cause common colds. These include 100 different rhinoviruses (RSV), respiratory syncytialvirus (RSV), adenoviruses and four types non-Covid coronaviruses. Our immunity to viruses is usually increased by occasional exposure, especially in winter.

Others have seen an increase in common colds following lockdowns. When schools and nurseries reopened last fall in Hong Kong, they saw an increase in common colds. This isn't the only instance of this happening. New Zealand's respiratory non-Covid disease is becoming more common, more severe and earlier than in other countries. This is likely due to the waning immunity of the population to them. Prof Stephen Holgate from Southampton general hospital said.

This is already happening in the UK, particularly with RSV, childhood hospital and intensive-care admissions. The RSV occurs one to two months earlier than usual, he said.

Public Health England surveillance on Thursday revealed that common colds and other respiratory illnesses continue to rise in the younger age group, but are also increasing in the older age group.

Professor Peter Openshaw at Imperial College London suggested that it could be possible that common colds are returning due to the decline in mask wearing and social distancing.

The Academy of Medical Sciences warned in July that many respiratory viruses such as flu and RSV could return in winter, increasing the burden on the NHS. People should have quick Covid tests if they experience symptoms. Dr Gary Howsam is vice-chair of Royal College of GPs.

He said that after more than a year in which most people have not had contact with others except frontline staff, it is inevitable that we will see a major rise in illnesses such as common colds and flus. This is also happening alongside the Covid-19 virus.

Covid-19 symptoms can sometimes be similar to other illnesses like the common cold. It is important to get a PCR test done immediately if a patient experiences symptoms of Covid-19.

Public Health England's medical director, Dr Yvonne Doyle said that as we enter winter there are steps we all can take to stay healthy and lessen the NHS's burden. Not only are they important for Covid-19 but also keep other bugs away. If you feel unwell, it is best to remain at home.