GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As mask mandates subside, health officials say they are seeing an increase in prolonged symptoms connected to the common cold and influenza.
Over the past two years, hospitals across the nation saw record lows in influenza cases. Health experts attribute the decrease in cases to better hygiene and people wearing masks.
However, now that COVID-19 cases have stabilized, many people are lessening up on their hand washing routines.
“When we haven’t had these common cold viruses for a couple of years, our immunity is going to be down lower than it would be,” said Dr. Liam Sullivan with Spectrum Health. “Hence, the reason people might experience symptoms a little bit longer than what we typically expect them.”
The National Institutes of Health said symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 may present the same but are caused by different viruses.
“Distinguishing COVID from flu can be difficult because the symptoms overlap so much,” explained Dr. Brooke Bozick, an NIH expert on respiratory diseases.
Spectrum Health reports it is seeing patients who are fighting the cold and flu for up to a week.
“We rely on getting [exposure to the flu and cold] every so often, so it gives a little boost to our immune system,” Sullivan said. “That way when we do get them, the symptoms are limited to three or four days until you start to feel better.”
There is no cure for the common cold. Typical treatments include rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medicines.