The Summer Cold: Causes, Symptoms, and Natural Relief Options

A woman sick with a summer cold blowing her nose.

When you think of cold season, you probably don't think about catching a summer cold. Cold season typically takes place between September (conveniently when school is getting started) through April and the start of spring. But, as the name implies, you can only catch a summer cold during the summer months. This can catch you by surprise if you thought the warm weather protected you from catching the common cold!

While summer colds and winter colds share many similarities, there are some key differences between the two. However, they thankfully can be treated or prevented with the same methods.

What Causes a Summer Cold?

Similar to a winter cold, a summer cold is also caused by a viral infection. The summer cold virus spreads through familiar means, such as contacting surfaces or individuals carrying the infection, or inhaling virus-laden droplets suspended in the air.

Summer Cold Symptoms

Summer cold symptoms are similar to winter cold symptoms, but there are a few key differences. 

Summer colds and winter colds share symptoms like:

  • Stuffy nose, also known as nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Scratchy throat
  • Cough
  • Muscle aches

Summer colds also include some unique symptoms that you won't get with a winter cold, such as a fever, conjunctivitis (better known as pink eye), and gastrointestinal symptoms like an upset stomach. Symptoms may also be more severe with a summer cold.

What causes a summer cold vs. a winter cold is a key difference too. 

Summer Cold vs. Winter Cold: What's the Difference?

Common cold viruses aren't all the same. While the symptoms of a summer cold and a winter cold are similar, they're caused by different viruses. Winter colds are typically caused by rhinoviruses, while summer colds are caused by an enterovirus infection.

Rhinoviruses are generally known to be “the common cold virus.” However, they are also associated with other upper respiratory tract infections as well as sinusitis, also known as sinus infections. [1]

However, enteroviruses can not only cause the common cold, but the most well-known enterovirus actually causes polio. While polio has been essentially wiped off the face of the earth thanks to vaccination and herd immunity, the same can't be said for the enterovirus that causes a summer cold. These enterovirus infections are most common during the warmer months of the year— during summer and fall. Like rhinoviruses, non-polio enteroviruses cause mild respiratory illness like the common cold. [2]

Is it a Summer Cold or your Seasonal Allergy Symptoms?

It can be difficult to tell if you're experiencing a summer cold or seasonal allergy symptoms, especially if your hay fever strikes during the summer months. 

Here's how to tell the difference between a summer cold and allergies:

  • A summer cold includes symptoms that don't accompany your seasonal allergies, like coughing or a fever. (Allergies don't cause a fever.) The severity of your symptoms will also fluctuate if you have a summer cold, meaning your symptoms can become more or less severe before they resolve. Allergy symptoms, however, stay at the same level of severity throughout the season depending on your allergic triggers and exposure.
  • Summer cold symptoms typically resolve after a week or two. If your symptoms last longer than that, it's probably allergies.
  • With your allergy symptoms, you'll experience them all at once. With a summer cold, you'll experience the start of each symptom separately.
  • With allergies, your nasal discharge will be thinner and typically clear in color. With a cold, your nasal discharge will be thicker, and either green or yellow in color.

Related: Allergies or Cold? How to Tell the Difference

5 Natural Remedies to Treat a Summer Cold

We've all heard the adage “prevention is the best cure,” and it's something we've said multiple times on our blog! However, despite our best efforts, sometimes it's hard to avoid catching the seasonal bug that's going around, no matter what season it is.

Here are our 5 favorite natural remedies to treat a cold, whether it's a summer cold or a winter one.

1. Decongest with SinuSonic

One of the worst parts of having a cold is the nasal congestion— you're stuffed up, you can't breathe normally, and it can even make you talk funny. Before you reach for the tissue box though, give SinuSonic a try!

The device produces gentle acoustic vibrations and light pressure to decongest your sinuses naturally, without drugs, medication, or any mess you may get with nasal irrigation. Need to blow your nose while you use SinuSonic? That means it's working!

Even when you're not feeling stuffy, using SinuSonic regularly can help you breathe freely and more efficiently. All you need is 2 minutes twice daily to relieve congestion and breathe better.

2. Rest Up!

With the endless number of outdoor activities calling your name in the summer, it can be tempting to power through your cold and go play during the warm weather. Try to resist that temptation though— not only do you risk passing the cold virus onto someone else, but your cold can last longer if you don't rest.

Getting plenty of rest and sleep allows your immune system to work to the fullest extent in making you healthy again. Excessive activity and stress can make it more difficult for your immune system to do its work, which can make you feel sicker longer! Be patient and give yourself all the rest you'll need; your body and immune system will thank you!

3. Don't Overuse Nasal Spray

Nasal spray is a popular and effective treatment for nasal congestion when used as directed. However, you need to be careful if you use nasal spray while you're sick. Using it for longer than directed (typically longer than 3 days in a row) can actually make your symptoms worse because overuse can further irritate your sinuses.

It can also cause a condition known as rebound congestion or rhinitis medicamentosa. This means that the longer you use nasal spray, the more you'll need it to treat your congestion, which is getting worse because your sinuses are constantly irritated. This can also develop into a dependence that continues this cycle.

To learn more about how overuse of nasal spray can make your nasal congestion worse, check out our article on the topic!

4. Soothe a Sore Throat Naturally

It can be hard to function throughout the day with a sore throat. However, there are plenty of natural remedies out there that can soothe your sore throat and put your health on the up and up. Give these a try next time you need to salve a sore throat:

  • Honey. This age-old remedy can soothe a sore throat and calm a cough thanks to its anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and anti-viral properties. You can take honey on its own, or mix it in with warm water or tea. [3]
  • Chamomile tea. Chamomile has been used medicinally for centuries because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Chamomile tea can help relieve cold symptoms like a sore throat, and may stimulate your immune system to better fight the infection that caused your sore throat.
  • Gargling. Gargling with salt water or a baking soda mixture can soothe a sore throat by killing the bacteria causing irritation, reducing swelling, and breaking up the mucus in your throat. 
  • Spicy food. Have you ever experienced a runny nose after eating something hot or spicy? This is called gustatory rhinitis. Spicy foods like cayenne pepper contain capsaicin, which can block pain receptors and help soothe a sore throat as well as kickstart your sinuses. Garlic can also soothe a sore throat thanks to its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.

5. Stay Hydrated

Getting plenty of fluids throughout the day prevents dehydration, keeps your mucus thin, and it can help you soothe a sore throat. In the mesmerizing realm of summer, where the sun's fiery reign prevails, staying hydrated has never been more important! 

Getting plenty of fluids throughout the day prevents dehydration, keeps your mucus thin, and it can help you soothe a sore throat. Staying hydrated all summer combats the effects of heat, keeps your body functioning as it should, and supports a resilient immune system that keeps summer colds at bay.

Summer Cold Causing Summertime Blues?

It can be hard to enjoy that beautiful summer weather if you're stuck inside with a summer cold. Summer colds share similarities with their winter counterparts as well as seasonal allergy symptoms, but it's essential to be aware of a few key distinctions that set them apart. Understanding these differences can help you navigate and address summer colds more effectively.

Don't worry though, with the right treatment you can kick that summer cold to the curb and get back to all that fun in the sun. 

Want to send nasal congestion packing? Try SinuSonic!

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  1. Jacobs, Samantha E, et al. “Human Rhinoviruses.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, Clinical Microbiology Reviews, Jan. 2013,
  2. “Enteroviruses.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22 Aug. 2022,
  3. Frothingham, Scott. “Honey for Sore Throat: Suggested Sore Throat Remedies.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 18 Apr. 2019,