New Study Finds It's Rare to Get the Flu and a Cold at the Same Time

Posted On: 01-10-2020
New Study Finds It's Rare to Get the Flu and a Cold at the Same Time
Since winter is when flu season tends to be in full gear, it's important to keep up on the latest health news related to the flu. This is also the time when a lot of people deal with the common cold, but there is some good news of sorts to report. A new study has determined that it's rare to get the flu and a cold at the same time.

Colliding Viruses

A new UK study attempted to find out if it's common for cold symptoms to overlap with ones related to the influenza virus. The short answer is "yes," it is possible to have a cold while having the flu and vice-versa, but it's rare for this to happen. The reason for this determination is that the viruses behind both of these illnesses interfere with one another. This means one of two things is likely to occur:

• The flu delays the onset of a cold: Having the flu virus in your system could keep cold germs from doing their thing until the flu virus is gone.

• A cold delays the flu: If you have a cold when you are exposed to the flu virus, it could remain dormant until you are over your cold.

Activating the Immune System

For the study, researchers looked at more than 40,000 instances of respiratory illness in which the individuals involved were tested for nearly a dozen viruses. Researchers determined that viruses related to the cold and flu tend to be incompatible. It's not known why this happens, but one theory is that the immune system kicks into high gear when it's affected by whatever virus attacks first. In other words, an attack from one virus creates an immunity that makes it difficult for another virus to fully take hold at the same time.

Improving Vaccinations

Researchers hope this new information will help with the development of new or improved vaccinations that can amplify immune system responses to provide better protection against viruses. While most people think of the common cold as fairly benign in nature, mutant forms of this virus can be fatal in certain individuals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that various incarnations of the flu virus claim anywhere from 12,000 to just over 60,000 lives annually.

As far as the 2019-20 flu season goes, the CDC reports that influenza has worsened several weeks earlier than what occurred the previous year, which is another reason why older adults and individuals with compromised immune systems are often advised to consider getting the flu shot. While it's best to get vaccinated early, later flu season vaccinations can still be beneficial.

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