There could be an increase in the spread of the common cold as more people drop their masks

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- One of the silver linings to the pandemic is with more people using face coverings, keeping physical distance and keeping their hands cleaner, viral infections such as the common cold have decreased.

"we've had the lowest flu season we've seen in decades; pediatric ICUs had no sort of outbreaks of childhood respiratory illness, and a large part of that is we were all protected by covering our mask," said Dr. Cameron Wolfe, Duke University associate professor of medicine and infectious disease.

But now, those masks are increasingly coming off.

And although cold and flu season doesn't really ramp up until the fall, doctors are sharing a warning.

"Remaining vigilant is the main thing. Hand washing will be key for folks. Those who feel comfortable wearing masks and want to continue to do so, that's great," said Dr. Sachin Gupta a family physician for UNC Healthcare.

Some of the typical symptoms of colds and flu are on the uptick.

"We are seeing folks who have cough, stuffy noses, runny noses, sore throat, headaches," said Jessica Dixon, an infection prevention specialist at WakeMed. "Although we have not seen a significant increase in influenza yet, certainly things like body aches that you think of that are fairly unique to flu vs. having a cold are also symptoms that you may have with COVID."

COVID-19 and cold symptoms are similar, so if you experience these symptoms during the summer should you get tested for COVID?

Doctors say yes, particularly if you're not vaccinated.

Health experts said that group is more likely to spread the virus to others who are not vaccinated, which right now also includes children younger than 12.
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