As we approach Winter, we always see a steady increase in coughs, colds, sniffles and sore throats. This year, there’s an extra concern which is to understand if you have one of the many other Coronaviruses (including the common cold) or whether your symptoms mean you have Covid19. A lot of my patients are asking me to confirm the difference between Covid19 and a cold.
Lockdown has had an impact on our immune systems. I read a fascinating report from a virologist in the States who believes that lockdown was the worst thing possible. In his view, we have been protected from the normal range of bacteria and viruses due to isolating in family groups. We’ve been hand washing, and cleaning every surface, and as a result, we have not been around the ‘normal’ levels of infection, which means we’ll be hit hard when we start to mingle again and as the children go back to school. I’m already seeing half of my son’s class sniffling.
We also know that immune systems are suppressed when we feel lonely or are living with extreme and prolonged stress. Lockdown was a hard time for many of us, and mental health has been affected. There are links between physical and mental health, and the immune system.
Another interesting theory is that during lockdown we didn’t have our normal access to the sun – those people without a garden were only allowed the one walk a day. Vitamin D comes from sunshine, so if we don’t have enough sun in our lives, we are unlikely to have sufficient levels of Vitamin D. We know the substantive role that Vitamin D plays in creating and boosting our immune system.
Therefore, for a range of reasons, it’s probable that many of us will be suffering from colds and ‘normal’ flu as we head into Winter.
How can you tell if you have a cold or Covid? Well, if you have a continuous cough, high temperature, loss of taste or smell – isolate, and get a test.
If you have a sore throat, bunged up or runny nose and sneezing, it’s highly unlikely to be Covid. Take over the counter medication, drink lots of water, get enough rest, and call me if you’re worried.
Dr Ravi Dasan – the Harley Street GP