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Is the common cold a thing of the past?

Published: Feb. 3, 2021 at 5:29 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Concern over the coronavirus has led to safety precautions that may be paying other dividends. Cases of the common cold, the flu, and other illnesses appear to be far less common since the start of the pandemic.

Burlington resident Monica Sargent says following state guidelines for the coronavirus has kept her family safe and healthy. “I think everyone has been healthier than even before the pandemic,” she said.

That includes her grandson, Charlie, who has in-person learning four days a week at school, a place where sore throats, fevers, and runny noses usually run rampant. But not this year, Charlie says. “Because I am wearing my mask and staying a few feet apart from people.”

“This is the first time in my 41 years of primary care pediatrics that I would say -- seeing a cold? what’s a cold?” said Dr. Joseph Hagan, a Burlington pediatrician. He the past year has seen more calls to his office, but fewer calls about the more common infectious diseases. “We are seeing the effects of social distancing we are seeing the effects of wearing masks.”

State health officials don’t keep track of numbers for the common cold, but they say it makes sense that the current health guidelines are having an impact.

“COVID-19 is a much more transmissible virus so it requires us to be even more cautious than usual,” Hagan said. And limited time in schools and crowded places have helped reduce the spread. “Typically, it’s children who get colds and get flu and spread it among themselves and bring it home.”

But when it comes to the coronavirus, Hagan says that research shows that children are not great spreaders of COVID-19. “When children get COVID-19, they usually have gotten it from one of the adults in their world, so this is different,” he said

So will this trend continue after the virus goes away? Hagan says the sage advice from our parents and grandparents, in this case, holds true. “I think what we have learned is that hand washing, distancing, staying home when you’re sick makes a difference,” Hagan said. “My grandmother told me that a lot of years ago.”

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