The common cold during COVID-19: How did I get sick in lockdown?


Jade Poole from I write words

The common cold during COVID

It seems that all other colds and flues have flown out the window since the start of COVID-19. So how on earth did you catch the sniffles during an international lockdown?

An itchy throat never used to cause much of a stir a year and a half ago. We would phone our moms and use our grannies age-old hot toddy recipe and jump in the car to go to work! We didn’t have to tick boxes saying weren’t experiencing headaches, coughing, temperatures or fatigue. Most of us experience at least one of those on a regular basis but now it’s hush-hush and immediate isolation should your immune system slip up!

Newsflash: there are still other viruses out there! COVID-19 is the virus of the hour but it hasn’t eradicated the common cold, throat infections or stomach bugs etc. If you’re feeling under the weather and wondering how on earth you managed to get sick whilst wearing a mask, socially distancing and washing your hands, here’s some information on how that could have happened!

Humans carry viruses

Unless you seal yourself in a regularly sanitized bubble with zero human contact and zero contact with any contaminated surfaces, you can’t avoid viruses. They’ve been here since the beginning and they’ll be here till the end! There can be dozens of viruses present in any one place at the same time: some you are immune to and some you are not.

One of the ways you could have still gotten sick is through human transmission, even if you’ve limited your outings and human contact. Remember that as lockdown restrictions have eased, people have become (worryingly) relaxed and you can’t count on everybody following all the relevant health and safety protocols.

The viruses you get from other people will most likely be contracted through physical contact (even if it’s brief), inhalation or membranes being exposed to a virus. Next, we’ll talk about rhinovirus transmission

Transmission through touch

There was a period amidst the Whatsapp chain messages and Facebook posts where we heard people getting into a panic about a new virus called the “Rhinovirus”. What this was most likely based on is a group of viruses called rhinoviruses which are one of the virus groups most responsible for the common cold and that is transferred via contaminated surfaces. This is why it’s always helpful to sanitize your hands, surfaces, grocery bags and doorknobs even though we know it’s hard to get right each and every time.

Common human coronaviruses

In some instances, a common cold is brought on by a type of already-existing coronavirus!

There is still the misconception out there that COVID-19 is the only coronavirus that exists. Although not to be confused with the current coronavirus and SARS-CoV-2, Common Human Coronaviruses are also responsible for targeting the upper respiratory system and causing mild to moderate illnesses.

Are we isolated?

One reason you have gotten sick is you haven’t been as isolated as you think. Just because your outside activity has decreased drastically, doesn’t mean you’re totally cut off from the world. There are the shop runs and quick dinners and meetups with friends who have sworn they’ve been isolating but say their yoga class doesn’t require them to wear masks. Do you see? It doesn’t mean you’re doing a bad job at preventing the pandemic, it just means that even the smallest contact can cause a virus to hop into your body and get you sick.

Existing bacteria

If bacteria that is already in your body travels to the wrong place, you can get sick. Skin infections, pneumonia and urinary tract infections are all examples of illnesses that can be caused when natural bacteria finds itself in the wrong part of the body.

Stress and your immune system

It’s ludicrous, the amount of stress we have all been under for the past year and a bit. Nobody ever imagined the amount of worry that would come surrounding our finances, health and future.

When was the last time you checked in with how you’re holding and handling your stress?

Stress is going to play a huge role in how well your immune system performs. When we are stressed, a few things happen. Firstly, we don’t treat our bodies very well. We lose sleep, survive on empty calories and sugar and “forget” to move our bodies. Without rest, proper nutrition and exercise: you’re going to get sick.

Read: how to look after your mental health during a global pandemic.

Secondly, the hormones released into our bodies when we experience stress have a part to play. We release cortisol in fight or flight situations but these days, people experience stress far more regularly. Cortisol is also responsible for fighting off inflammation which helps protect us against disease. Our constant exposure to cortisol may affect how effective the hormone is. We become less sensitive to it and more prone to inflammation and disease.

The world has not stopped spinning and because of that, you’re going to still get sick with things that aren’t COVID-19. Look after your health and keep diligent when it comes to your personal hygiene and safety protocols. Remember to self-isolate and seek medical attention should you be experiencing any corona related symptoms (we’re sure you know what they are by now. If not, check out this blog).


Yours in hassle-free insurance,


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