You’ve probably heard a lot more sniffles around if you’ve gone out recently or got on public transport.

Perhaps there’s that one person on the work call who’s not muted and starts a coughing fit before a meek: “It’s not Covid, I’ve been tested!”

Or, maybe you’ve been ill and agree with people saying that what’s going around right now is “the worst cold ever.”

Well get used to it. Because cold season has begun.

And some people are already suffering.

‘Nothing like this’

One of those is 24-year-old Rebecca London.

The retail worker from Bournemouth caught what she calls “the worst cold ever” at a festival.

image captionIt’s the “worst cold” Rebecca has had

A normal cold for her would have “a runny nose, sneezing, a bit of a sore throat and feeling a bit rundown”.

“Nothing like this,” she tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

“I barely slept, I’d wake up in the night just coughing, a constantly runny nose and feeling so tired,” she adds.

Rebecca did lateral flow tests and got negative results, but has been ill for more than a week, and was left wondering “if it’s ever going to end”.

And she’s not the only one.

This is the worst COLD I’ve ever had in my life 🥵— Nadia 💁🏻‍♀️ (@Nadiab_xo) September 21, 2021

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

It may not be Covid, but it is linked to what’s happened in the past 18 months.

“We’ve actually been seeing a rise in the number of coughs and colds and viral infections,” says Dr Philippa Kaye, a GP based in London.

She says the numbers have been as high as you’d see in a normal winter and the main reason is because of the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

“We are mixing in a way that we haven’t been mixing over the past 18 months,” says Dr Philippa.

“During those first lockdowns, we saw numbers of other [non-Covid] infections fall. We think that that was primarily due to the restrictions on meeting up.”

So while the lockdown rules were designed to stop Covid spreading, they also stopped other viruses moving between people too.

Now we’re going out, meeting with friends and getting on public transport again, the common cold spreads again.

“Most of these things are respiratory driven, so say somebody talks or coughs or sneezes – you breathe it in,” says Dr Philippa.

What do I do about it?

Firstly, remember the three main symptoms of coronavirus. If you have one of these, get a PCR test.

  • New and continuous cough – coughing a lot for more than an hour, or having three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
  • Fever – a temperature above 37.8C
  • Change in smell or taste – either you cannot taste or smell anything, or these senses are different to normal.

If you don’t have these symptoms but still want to check, you can do a free lateral flow test. If you can’t get one through your employer or place of education you can get test kits delivered free to your home or pick them up.

“Let’s say that you’ve got a cough or cold and it is not coronavirus. Then most of the time these can be managed at home,” says Dr Philippa.

Her recommendation is to have “loads of fluids and rest, over-the-counter simple painkillers for headaches and aches and pains.

“Even simple things like honey in a hot drink can help ease a sore throat.”

A woman in a room looking out the window

She adds: “You can get lots of advice from your local pharmacist for minor coughs and colds.

“But if you become more unwell, if you cough up blood, have chest pain, if you have shortness of breath or chest tightness, then you need to seek medical advice.”

Freshers flu

Look, we don’t want to put new university students off their exciting first few weeks but freshers’ flu will be pretty much unavoidable.

Just ask 18-year-old Noor Hashmi – studying at the University of Edinburgh, she’s suffering with the worst illness she’s ever had.

“Normally I’m still able to go about my day, but this one left me with muscle fatigue, a lost voice and headache that meant I’ve just stayed indoors.”

image captionNoor has taken both a lateral flow and PCR test to rule out Covid because her symptoms were getting so bad

It’s not actually flu though – it’s just another version of the common cold.

Add in the fact that students’ immune systems will probably take a battering from going out a lot, and you’ll be vulnerable to it.

Luckily, protecting yourself isn’t rocket science – it’s a case of eating well, getting enough sleep and washing your hands regularly.

And remember to register for your local GP if you’re moving somewhere new.

Noor can’t wait to get back to socialising properly.

“Although I think it’ll be some time before I’m socialising in a large group because everyone seems to have freshers flu right now,” she adds.



“With science and public health as our guide, we have developed a new international air travel system that both enhances the safety of Americans here at home and enhances the safety of international air travel,” pandemic coordinator Jeff Zients said.

The United States will lift travel restrictions on foreign visitors who have been vaccinated in November, a White House official announced Monday.

In addition to being fully vaccinated, travelers heading to the U.S. will also have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of boarding a flight to the U.S., Jeff Zients, the White House pandemic coordinator, said, according to The New York Times on Monday.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)


The U.S. will also welcome unvaccinated travelers but with more stringent testing protocols, including a requirement to get tested both before coming and upon arrival. The NYT reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will soon issue an order requiring airlines to collect contact information like phone numbers and emails for contact tracing purposes.

“International travel is critical to connecting families and friends, to fueling small and large businesses, to promoting the open exchange [of] ideas and culture,” Zients explained. “That’s why, with science and public health as our guide, we have developed a new international air travel system that both enhances the safety of Americans here at home and enhances the safety of international air travel.”

Unvaccinated American travelers will still be allowed to fly back, but with more stringent testing protocols, including a requirement to get tested within one day of their departure and show proof they have purchased a viral test to be taken after arriving, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters during a briefing later on Monday. This would apply to children as well.

Psaki said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will soon issue an order requiring airlines to collect “comprehensive contact information” from passengers for contact tracing purposes.

The plan to welcome foreign travelers has been in the works for more than a month. Currently, the U.S. restricts non-essential travel for non-U.S. citizens from several destinations around the world, including the UK and EU. In the past, the Biden administration has cited the spread of the highly contagious delta variant as a reason they had not yet lifted international restrictions.

However, several countries have welcomed vaccinated Americans in recent months, including the UK, France, Greece, and the Netherlands. And while the EU removed the U.S. from its pandemic-era list of safe countries last month, individual member states can still set their own rules around testing or vaccination requirements.

While plans to welcome UK and EU travelers may be in the works, it was not immediately clear when other travel restrictions would be lifted.


Portrait Of Three Women
Image by Valentina Barreto / Stocksy

Every 65 seconds, a new brain develops Alzheimer’s, and more than 5 million Americans are already living with the disease. Even more staggering? Women account for almost two-thirds of all Alzheimer’s cases. Why women develop Alzheimer’s at higher rates than men is not fully understood, but hormonal health likely has something to do with it. Functional Nutrition CoachingBecome an expert in whole body health & healing.ENROLL NOW

Hormonal health is crucial for brain health, at all ages—for both men and women—but women go through reproductive stages in their lives that impact their brains in unique ways. I call these critical life stages the three P’s: puberty, pregnancy, and perimenopause.

Here’s what we know about the changes in the brain during each of these stages and how women can best protect their cognitive health for life.


What happens to the brain during puberty? 

During puberty, hormones are programmed to regulate certain functions in your body and brain. Research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry states that the hormonal changes that occur during puberty can increase the risk for the onset and persistence of depressive symptoms in females

Research also shows that depression and anxiety may be linked to an increased risk for Alzheimer’s, so reducing the incidence of depression through early diagnosis and treatment is valuable for a woman’s life on every level. 

How to protect the brain during puberty.

More than anything, it’s critical for a girl going through puberty to be afforded the physical and social conditions she needs to optimize her brain health—and that includes things like having access to proper nutrition, exercise, and a safe and stable environment.  

Environmental toxins are bad for the brain at any time in life, so reducing exposure to them is critical—be it air pollution, ingested toxins, and products that may interfere with estrogen production, like certain makeups and plastics. Choosing stainless steel or glass products over plastics can help, drinking filtered water, and avoiding foods that have pesticide residue or a lot of artificial ingredients. Also of primary importance is making sure they’re getting enough sleep during puberty, as sleep is crucial for memory consolidation and learning, stress reduction, and immune system support. Exercise is also essential, as is staying away from drugs and alcohol. The brain is drastically changing during puberty, and it’s important not to compromise it through exposure to unhealthy elements.


What happens to the brain during pregnancy? 

When women become pregnant, their entire bodies, brain included, will experience a huge surge in hormones, followed by a big drop after the baby is born. Many women experience “pregnancy brain,” which consists of lower cognitive functioning, memory, and executive functioning, according to a meta-analysis on pregnancy and changes in cognition.

In some ways, pregnancy resembles puberty as the brain is exposed to a large influx of hormones that, in this case, prepare you for giving birth, while at the same time affecting brain function, too. We now have some evidence that for some women, the estrogen “baths” a woman’s brain experiences during pregnancy may actually protect her from developing Alzheimer’s down the road. Research also indicates that gestational diabetes might be red flags for developing type 2 diabetes in midlife, which is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.

How to protect the brain during pregnancy.

During pregnancy, women need to ensure they are getting enough sleep, exercise, and healthy food. I recommend the Mediterranean diet, filled with vitamins and minerals, healthy fats like olive oil and fish, lean protein, and green leafy vegetables for fiber. I also advise avoiding processed foods, refined sugar, and too much salt—these foods can lead to unhealthy weight gain, fatigue, and even a higher chance of developing high blood pressure or gestational diabetes. 

It’s also important for women to be gentle with themselves during this tumultuous time. There are so many overwhelming changes that happen in the brain and body, in addition to what’s going on around them. Life is going to change dramatically with a baby coming. It’s a source of joy but also a lot of work!


What happens to the brain during perimenopause? 

Women’s brains in midlife seem to be more sensitive to hormonal aging than just chronological aging. Both body and brain experience a change in estrogen production, which in turn triggers myriad modifications to brain structure, brain-region connectivity, and brain energy consumption. Notably, many women going through perimenopause experience a drop in brain energy levels, which in the immediate term manifest themselves as hot flashes and fatigue, and in the long term might make a woman’s brain more susceptible to developing Alzheimer’s. 

How to protect the brain during perimenopause. 

The Mediterranean diet has also been recommended for perimenopause, as the nutritious meal plan has been proved to be best for brain health as women age. Women should also keep alcohol to a minimum, avoid smoking, get as much sleep as they can, and reduce stress—as all these factors are known to sink your estrogen. Research shows aerobic exercise can also help improve cognition. 


Men and women appear to develop Alzheimer’s for different reasons: Men’s brains seem to be more sensitive to cardiovascular risk factors, and women’s brains to hormonal and metabolic risk factors. (To find out more about the differences, listen to my episode of the mindbodygreen podcast.) 

Filling the gap between women’s health, neurology, and psychiatry is vital so that women can receive the best and most appropriate preventive care for their brain health during every phase of life. 


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