Healthy Living

It’s no myth: The summer cold and other common—but so unexpected—summer illnesses

Yes, most of us work during the summer, but we all feel the same thrill we did as kids: “Hey, summer’s here!” And why not? It’s shorts weather, weekends at the pool or lake, and don’t forget the annual summer vacation—and if we’re lucky, a few more four-day weekends thrown in for good measure.

Which is why we feel equally as bummed if illness strikes. Enter the summer cold—it’s real, folks.

“While most viral illnesses strike in the spring and then again in late fall and winter, we do see certain sicknesses during summer months,” said Dr. Ramon Parrish, a family medicine physician at Augusta University Health.

Watch where you go

It’s an unfortunate coincidence, but according to Parrish, most illnesses in June, July and August are related to something that’s synonymous with summer: vacation.

Take that cold for instance: You’re more likely to come down with a cold when you travel to a different environment—with different viruses that you may not be immune to.

“It’s not uncommon to go visit a city or other location where you’re in contact with many different people and come home with a cold,” said Parrish.

His advice to prevent and treat a cold is the same he would offer during winter months.

“Handwashing is key to help keep you from getting sick in the first place,” Parrish said. “But if you do, the treatment is the same—just treat the symptoms and slug it out.”

Cruises, another popular vacation destination, are well-known for incubating norovirus, a gastrointestinal virus that causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramps, along with flu-like fever and muscle pain. The virus is hard to prevent, since it’s caused by contaminated food or water or touching a contaminated surface—but handwashing can help.

If you plan to drive or fly long distances, try to build in some stops or at least walk up and down the aisle of the plane. Fluid buildup from sitting too long can cause leg pain—and worst-case scenario, can lead to venous thrombosis, a life-threatening condition where a blood clot develops in a vein in your leg.

Should your vacation involve sending the kids to camp for the summer, don’t be surprised if your child returns with a case of mono. Mononucleosis can be common among teens in group settings like camp and can cause fever, fatigue, headache, sore throat and swollen lymph nodes. Treatment includes a lot of rest and fluids, but that ensure your teen avoids participating in contact sports for several weeks: The disease can also cause a swollen spleen, and if it swells beyond the protection of the rib cage, a direct hit could cause the organ to burst.

Other summertime considerations

While it’s not an illness per se, food poisoning tends to be more common in the summer months, since more of us are enjoying food outdoors, where it has a greater potential of being inadequately cooled or heated, potentially leading to stomach upset and diarrhea.

Along with heat, in Augusta, allergies are never far from most peoples’ minds. In summer, the allergen that affects us most strongly is grass, moving into ragweed by late August and September.

“Where we are is a hotbed of allergy, and it’s also worse this year, because it’s been dry,” said Parrish.

However, summer illnesses—like summer romances or sunburn—tend to be blessedly brief.

“Summer’s not a time people usually think of illness because, for the most part, we don’t see a lot,” admitted Parrish. “When we do, it’s usually related to the environment the person is in. In fact, that sunburn is probably a lot more likely to happen!”

Don’t let a summer illness keep you down.

Augusta University Health offers a variety of care centers and practice sites to fit your schedule. Make an appointment at one of our care centers today, visit, or call 706-721-2273 (CARE).

About the author

Augusta University Health

Based in Augusta, Georgia, Augusta University Health is a world-class health care network, offering the most comprehensive primary, specialty and subspecialty care in the region. Augusta University Health provides skilled, compassionate care to its patients, conducts leading-edge clinical research and fosters the medical education and training of tomorrow’s health care practitioners. Augusta University Health is a not-for-profit corporation that manages the clinical operations associated with Augusta University.