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'Will COVID-19 Get Worse in the Winter?'

woman covid illustration
By Elizabeth Hanes, BSN, RNOctober 19, 2020

As you stock up your medicine cabinet for the traditional winter “cold and flu season,” you may find yourself wondering if COVID-19 will get worse this winter, too.

Probably, yes.

As I keep saying, there’s a lot we don’t know about how this virus behaves. But we do know a combination of factors -- including human behavior -- could lead to a spike of COVID-19 cases throughout the winter months.

First, thanks to cold weather, people will get pushed indoors. We know the virus spreads more easily indoors than outdoors, where wind can disperse and blow away the viral particles. So if people decide to beat “quarantine fatigue” by engaging in more indoor activities -- like entertaining friends at home or dining out or gathering for the holidays -- then we could see a surge of COVID-19 cases.

Second, the onset of cold and flu season means more people will get sick with influenza and the common cold. Whenever you get sick, your immune system temporarily becomes vulnerable. It becomes easier for a second virus, like SARS-CoV-2, to infect you because your immune system is so busy fighting the first virus that it can’t mount as robust a response against the second virus. So it’s entirely possible we’ll see more people getting sick with COVID-19 during flu season simply because they were more vulnerable to infection.

You can take precautions to avoid getting COVID-19 (or the flu) during the upcoming winter season. Get a flu shot to reduce your risk of getting influenza. Wash your hands frequently to avoid picking up any viruses. Don’t start allowing people (even friends and relatives who don’t live with you) into your home just because you can’t gather outdoors anymore. Avoid spending time in restaurants and bars (if they’re open where you live), especially if they are crowded. When you do interact with people indoors, wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet apart (farther may be better), and limit the time you spend with them.

If we all keep following public safety guidelines, we might be able to avoid a large COVID-19 surge this winter.

 

 

 

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