INDIANAPOLIS — As more people are getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and cities across the country are loosening mask mandates, there is a small downside you may have experienced yourself … the common cold is back.
Pandemic hygiene habits like wearing face masks, social distancing and constant sanitizing were not only keeping us safe from COVID-19, but experts said these efforts also played a part in decreasing cases of the common cold.
According to Dr. Anthony Zabel, a family physician with IU Health, now that we are mingling with more crowds and are not wearing masks as often, germs are starting to spread.
Dr. Zabel said his office did not have a single flu patient throughout the past year. He also believes pandemic hygiene practices significantly cut down on the amount of upper respiratory viral infections he would typically treat.
But that’s changing fast. More and more patients are coming into the office with viral respiratory symptoms like runny nose, cough, and sore throat.
Zabel’s patients are all tested for COVID-19 and sometimes the flu too. Often, they are coming into his office because they are required to get a negative COVID-19 test for work or other reasons.
Zabel explained all of his recent patient's COVID-19 and flu tests have been negative and most are simply experiencing a nuisance common cold.
"Patients are a little annoyed that they have symptoms that could be COVID-19 symptoms and many of them have had one or both of their vaccines, but they still require a negative test to get back to work or their kids back to daycare,” Zabel said.
It can be difficult to tell the difference between a common cold and COVID-19. Dr. Zabel said the main difference is that COVID-19 comes with the loss of taste and smell.
He recommends if you are not feeling well, maybe practice some of the routine actions we learned during the pandemic and stay home.
"I think some of what we can take away from the isolation and mask-wearing during the pandemic is maybe we can all be a little more conscience to our neighbors when we're sick stay home and not share our germs with others,” Zabel added.