It’s that time of the year again when everyone’s walking with stuffed sinuses, runny noses and other common cold symptoms. But for most of us, it feels like the symptoms have gotten worse than in the pre-pandemic days. Does this mean the common cold symptoms have gotten worse with COVID-19 around?

An expert just set the record straight on the issue. And turns out the symptoms have not gotten worse. The viruses responsible for the common cold have also not gotten more virulent or stronger. The symptoms may seem like they have become more dreadful because most of us forgot how bad they were before the pandemic.

"All of us have forgotten about what common colds used to be like, and we're getting them now again," Vanderbilt University infectious disease specialist Dr. William Schaffner told ABC News this week.

During the earlier days of the pandemic, social interaction was not a thing due to the restrictions. Aside from social distancing, everyone was urged to wear masks. These two helped keep pesky viruses away, so cold viruses were not able to spread rampantly then.

Another expert, Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a professor of medicine and infectious disease specialist at the University of California San Francisco, said the lack of exposure made it possible for people not to contract a cold for a while. Hence, people getting the viral infection this season may feel like the condition has become worse.

"Lack of exposure to viruses over time might make a cold seem much worse than before because you haven't been exposed a little bit along the way," Chin-Hong said, as quoted by ABC News.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu activity during the 2020-2021 flu season was unusually low, both in the U.S. and globally, despite high levels of testing. In terms of hospitalizations, the country also recorded its lowest cumulative rate since 2005.

The CDC said that the COVID-19 mitigation measures led to surprisingly low figures. The school closures, reduced travel, frequent handwashing and staying at home were listed by the agency as factors, on top of the facial masks and social distancing.

The common cold is a viral infection characterized by sore throat, runny nose, coughing and frequent sneezing. People who catch the virus may also experience headaches and body aches. The condition is self-limiting, and most people recover in about 7-10 days, as per the CDC.

Every year, the U.S. records millions of cases of the common cold. Adults typically have the infection two to three times per year, while kids have even more. But during the early phase of the pandemic, those weren’t the case.

"We may have been a little spoiled over the last few seasons because we've been spared this experience of getting one or two or even three common colds during the winter," Schaffner said.

Common cold
The scientific community has been struggling to prevent common cold because of the ability of viruses to rapidly become resistant to drugs and stay undetected by the immune system. Pixabay