Common cold transmission rising as pandemic restrictions ease

Common Cold
Photo credit Tom Merton/Getty Images

If you've come down with a cold over the last several weeks, you're not alone. With society returning to a pre-pandemic normal, so is the common cold. That's a new development according Dr. David Hilden, an internal medicine physician at Hennepin Healthcare.

“The ironic thing about the pandemic of the past couple years is that many people felt really pretty good. They didn’t get a single illness,” Dr. Hilden said.

That appears to be changing. With masks no longer required, workers returning to the office and people picking back up their pre-pandemic habits, Dr. Hilden said we are seeing a sizable increase in common cold transmission after a relatively quiet two years.

“Now that people are back to a little bit of a normal life, or in many cases a completely normal life, you are being exposed once again to all those viruses and dust particles and allergens that are in the air,” he said.

More cases of the flu are also popping up, according to a Minnesota Department of Health spokesperson. However, the numbers still remain well below pre-pandemic levels. There have been 645 hospitalizations due to the flu this season compared to just 35 in last year’s flu season. A typical, pre-pandemic flu season would see  between 2,000-6,000 hspotializations.

And while Minnesota would normally be on the very end of its cold and flu season, this year will likely be different.

“These past two winters have been mild for all those symptoms – both cold and flu – and so I think we’re going to see much more of it now and it’s going to seem like we hit some cold and flu season when probably what we’re doing is just start returning to the normal cycles,” Dr. Hilden said.

Dr. Hilden expects we'll get back to the traditional cold and flu cycles this winter. He also says while the viruses may feel more severe, it's just people re-acclimating to the feeling of being sick.

“Now when people are getting them, it’s hitting them like a ton of bricks,” Dr. Hilden said. “They’re getting a cold or their allergies and it feels more severe but I don’t think there’s a ton of evidence that they’re actually more severe.”

For those that want to avoid the cold, Dr. Hilden recommends all the same practices we use to avoid COVID -19, which we've seen over the past two years have been very effective at stopping a common cold.

Dr. Hilden is the host of “The Healthy Matters Podcast heard at”

Featured Image Photo Credit: Tom Merton/Getty Images