A few days ago, I asked both on Facebook and Twitter, whether or not people had experienced a cold recently.  Not surprisingly, I received quite a few replies about the suffering that people were having or from which they had recently recovered.  The symptoms were pretty much the same: stuffy nose, sore throat, mild to severe laryngitis, fever and general malaise and nausea.  Naturally, some asked me if they were being afflicted by the H1N1 flu strain but the likelihood was pretty low.  In almost all cases, this was just another round of what people call the summer cold although I think Al Gore’s description fits better as it’s truly: “An Inconvenient Truth.”

The summer cold season has been around for about a month and as usual, there are more than enough statistics showing that a few particular viruses are making their way across the North American continent.  In Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC – pronounced FAQ) can track these little monsters just about as well as Lady Gaga can track hers on Facebook.  While you can see their surveillance online, I can tell you that the two usual suspects, Respiratory Syncytial Virus and Adenovirus are hard at work and that a more recent virus Metapneumovirus is doing its fair share.

Knowing the source or etiology of the colds may calm some nerves (as I said, there is little chance of these colds being the flu), but there remains that sticky little problem that everyone has asked:  Why are we getting colds in the summer?  There are of course the old standards such as the rapid change of hot and cold temperatures affecting the immune system, the higher relative humidity allowing greater virus survival in the air and the accompanying association with continuing recirculating air in the HVAC systems. These factors all play a role but their contribution is minimal.  The viruses of summer, just like those of winter are really only able to spread through ‘droplet infection’ or through contaminated surfaces. Which means that while Mother Nature may not approve, the spread of summer colds is once again based on our own sense of hygiene.

So, as always, keep the hands clean, try not to touch your face, nose or eyes, ensure that you stay out of the 1 metre (3 foot) radius of anyone that might be infected and shedding, ensure that you are extra diligent in the presence of crowds and most important of all, if you do feel you’re getting sick, take the time off work and help others stay healthy.

The summer cold is an unenviable occurrence and may be an unfair scourge on whoever is attacked.  But if you are one of the unlucky ones, I suggest that you make the best of it by enacting another oxymoron of your own:  take a sick sunning day and catch some rays while you convalesce.