Getting sick in the summer is patently unfair. Feeling congested and crappy is never fun, but there's something especially frustrating about the idea of coming down with a nasty cold when the weather is beautiful outside and you haven't worn a sweater in months. Unfortunately, there are plenty of sneaky ways you can get sick in the summer. In fact, getting sick during those easy, breezy summer months is pretty standard — it's just a different kind of sick. The good news, though, is that you can easily plan ahead and steer clear of most of these summertime-sickness culprits. You just have to know where the germs are lurking and how to best avoid them while you're soaking in the sun.
According to Business Insider, the way your body responds to a cold or an infection does change slightly from season to season, and for a pretty cool reason: The news outlet cited a 2015 study published in the journal Nature Communications, which found that nearly 25 percent of your DNA can change within a given season, largely because it's a way to protect your body and keep you healthy as the environment around you changes. In winter, for example, you're more likely to experience higher levels of swelling and general discomfort because your body is increasing the levels of genes that are related to inflammation, while in the summer, Business Insider explained, your body is more focused on expressing genes that help curb your blood sugar and burn excess fat.
In other words, your body might respond differently to a cold or a flu during the summer months than it would in the winter, and you might not recognize what's happening in your body as quickly as you would when it's cold outside.
What's more, if you do get sick, your body can apparently take longer to get better in the summer than in the winter.
According to Huffington Post, colds tend to stick around much longer in warm weather than in winter weather, and while this does partially come down to a difference in germs and viruses from season to season, it's also because people tend to do things in the summer that extend the life of a cold, like blasting the air conditioning in their home, going to bed late, and exercising too much. So if you find yourself battling a nasty cough during the dog days August this summer, do your body a favor and skip the beach invite for the day. Instead, try to cozy up on your couch with some tea, and maybe turn on your humidifier instead of your AC unit for the afternoon.
Plus, take some comfort in the fact that, according to The Wall Street Journal, summer colds only hit you at about 25 percent of the frequency of winter colds — but again, they're usually caused by a different kind of virus. Summer colds typically derive from the enterovirus, according to the University of Florida, which is an "infection [that] affects the tissues of your nose and throat, eyes, and digestive system." Winter colds, on the other hand, come from what's called the rhinovirus, and they're more likely to affect your respiratory health, aka your breathing. In other words, these two types of colds are pretty similar for the most part, but in addition to the standard wheezing, coughing, and sneezing that you associate with a typical cold, summertime sickness is also likely to make your stomach upset, too. What's more, Global News reports that symptoms of summer colds can be more severe than those associated with winter colds, and can even present in strange, unexpected ways, like a rash.
Clearly, coming down sick in the summer is not a good time. But it might be harder to avoid, since all of your standard tricks, like avoiding congested areas and washing your hands a lot, might not hold as much water during the summer months. After all, you tend to spend more time outside when the weather warms up, and you'll probably find yourself, more often than not, surrounded by a big, sweaty crowd of people, far away from that squirt bottle of antibacterial gel in the office. In truth, avoiding a summer cold can require totally different tactics than avoiding one in the winter.
One of the biggest, yet sneakiest things to watch out for when it comes to summertime sickness is your air conditioning.
Ronald Eccles, director of the Common Cold Centre at the University of Cardiff in Wales, told The Wall Street Journal that blasting cold air in your home or your car might just make you more vulnerable to catching a cold. Air conditioning tends to "lower the defenses in the nose and throat by causing constriction of the blood vessels," Eccles explained, and all of this can lead your immune system to be less effective in fighting off the bad stuff trying to enter your body and ruin your summer.
Your allergies are another sneaky culprit to watch out for as the weather heats up. Basically, you might assume your sniffling and sneezing is the result of your spring allergies continuing to act up as you head into the summer months, and you may accidentally neglect to get the care and rest that your body needs to get over what is actually a summer cold. To make matters even more complicated, Global News reports that there aren't really any medications designed for the specific strain of virus in a summer cold, so your usual, over-the-counter fixes might fall flat on this one. The only real solution is to get as much rest as you can, drink lots of fluids, let your immune system work its magic over time, and of course, talk to your doctor if it seems like the symptoms still aren't going away after a few days of waiting it out.