Is it just me or does everyone seem to have the sniffles?

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Young woman checking her temperature while sitting on a couch
Credit: Getty Images / Brothers91

It's hard to believe that we've been living with the COVID-19 pandemic for almost two years now. Remember when we all thought it'd be gone after two weeks of quarantine? Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. The constant news coverage, a shift to masking, social distancing and increased hand-washing, it's safe to say that COVID has been center stage. In fact, I rarely heard complaints from friends or family about being under the weather these past years, not in relation to COVID. So, why now does it feel like everyone is fighting off a cough or a head cold? 

According to an April 2021 study in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, there were broad reductions in respiratory illnesses (excluding COVID-19) in 2020. This includes sore throat, sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, sinus pain, cough, headache, loss of appetite, chills and fever. The study found that the pandemic profoundly changed typical patterns of illness. The cause? Some scientists, including the ones from this study, are associating it with the preventive measures that were taken last year to stop the spread of COVID-19. Think masking, social distancing, self-isolating when sick and good hygiene habits, like regularly washing hands and sanitizing high-touch surfaces. 

While that doesn't mean no one got a cold during the pandemic, safety measures, such as the ones mentioned above, are thought to have considerably suppressed the common cold. Now that people are returning to bars and restaurants and are reconnecting through social gatherings, there are more chances to get sick, hence the spike in colds and other viruses some of us are experiencing within family and friend groups.

However, this doesn't mean you should panic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it's normal for adults to have an average of two to three colds a year, and for children to have even more as their immune systems continue to develop. To reduce your risk of catching the common cold, focus on eating a healthy diet, regularly exercising and getting enough sleep—all of which can help support a strong and healthy immune system—in addition to the tried-and-true practices of hand-washing, sanitizing high-touch surfaces and keeping your distance from those who are sick. 

And let's not forget that COVID cases are still high, even among those who are fully vaccinated. Thankfully, vaccinated individuals are much less likely to experience severe symptoms that result in hospitalization, so if you're eligible (which now includes children ages 5 and up), get vaccinated.

And even if you're vaccinated, the CDC still recommends a few safety measures: masking in places of high transmission; getting tested if you come into close contact with someone who contracted the virus or if symptoms occur; and isolating if you do test positive. 

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that the common cold and other viruses are still circulating. Protect yourself and others by avoiding crowded places if you can and staying home if you're experiencing symptoms. Maintain good hygiene by washing your hands frequently and sanitizing high-touch surfaces often.

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While EatingWell is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO and their local public health department as resources.