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Washington Voices

Not easy to take summer colds well

Sat., July 14, 2012, midnight

The dog days of summer have arrived … finally. After a particularly cool, wet and windy June, summer has blasted in like a blow dryer on high.

Right along with the dreaded summer cold.

I’d been waiting for summer, and when I say waiting, I mean W-A-I-T-I-N-G with all capitals and on bated breath. The warm sun that allows us to cast off snow boots, heavy coat, gloves, scarves, hats – the whole winter ensemble – is heralded as a gift from the summer gods.

Unfortunately, a mere few days hence of the dog days’ entrance, a nasty germ floating about in the air decided to make an entrance as well. Instead of frolicking in the warmth and basking in its delicious glow, I was wrapped in a terry cloth robe, flannel jammies with a big furry blanket and a couple of furry friends on top, chasing away the body aches and chills over the Fourth of July holiday.

It’s terrible to have a cold during summer. There’s only a short window of fun in the sun before winter hits once again, but germs don’t care. They have no heart. They infect, ruin several days – perhaps weeks – along with vacations, summer barbecues, picnics, hiking, biking, boating, camping and swim parties, and then move on to the next unsuspecting victim.

The older I get, the more aware of germs I’ve become. At one time in the not too distant past, no germ bothered me. Go ahead, sneeze, cough, let your nose run – I dare ya. Then, one day, it took the dare. After being curled in a fetal position for three days and looking like death warmed over, I remember thinking, so this is what it feels like to get really, really sick.

Over the past few years, germs haven’t been playing nice; schoolyard brawl would be an appropriate description. The colds that afflict me now are more severe and of the knock-down, drag-out type than the ones of my younger years. And somewhere, in my catalog of “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger,” I also recall a doctor saying “the common cold is a main culprit in our eventual demise.”

Doesn’t that just melt your ice pop?

According to an article, “ Double insult: Colds in summer nastier, last longer,” summer colds are typically worse than winter colds because a mean little germ called enterovirus is part of the summer cold concoction that brings with it diarrhea, sore throats and rashes among other things. Summer colds also tend to last longer and make us susceptible to recurrence, even those of the sun-starved Inland Northwesterner variety.

To add insult to injury, just as the warm days encourage us to get moving, movement also activates the enterovirus because this virus “is the only infection associated with strenuous exercise.”

Never fear however, there are ways to combat the dreaded summer cold. Doctors recommend washing your hands often, using hand sanitizer when out and about, getting lots of sleep to keep the immune system in check, drinking plenty of fluids, eating balanced meals, and keeping your distance from sick co-workers who refuse to go home.

As of this writing, I’m on the mend. Bottles of NyQuil and DayQuil sit idle in the cupboard. There’s hardly a hacking cough to speak of and, saints be praised, I’m back in summer shorts and sandals.

Just in time for the sweltering heat!


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