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The return of the common cold: Sales of adult cough medicine has risen 80% compared to 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic slowly crawls towards its end in the U.S., an old nemesis for many Americans is making its return to replace it.

The common cold is making a comeback after laying dormant for nearly a year.

Data from Catalina Marketing Corp indicates that an 80 percent jump in adult products aimed at combatting cold and coughs this year compared to this time in 2020.

When it comes to children’s products, there has been a 564 percent increase in comparison with last year.

There was also a 151 percent increase in purchases of vaporizers, 78 percent increase in chest rubs purchases and 19 percent increase in allergy remedy purchases. 

It comes as health officials report that cases of the flu have spikes across the country, as social distancing and mask mandates have been ended in some parts of the U.S. 

Catalina gathered data from the first four weeks after the CDC announced that fully vaccinated Americans no longer needed to wear masks, and compared cold-related purchases to 2020 and 2019. They found sharp increases from 2020 to 2021

Catalina used data for the first four weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lifted mask guidelines for fully vaccinated Americans on May 13. 

Advil and Motrin were the main beneficiaries of the surge in purchases. 

Motrin children’s pain relief products saw purchases increase by 96 percent, and adult products by 22 percent.

Purchases of adult Advil pain relief products rose by 21 percent.

Mucinex cold remedies also saw a 759 percent increase in purchase from 2020 to 2021.

It’s been noted that 2020 did not have a flu season because masking and social distancing mandates around the country prevented the virus from spreading.

Cases of the flu declined by 99 percent during the pandemic according to data from the CDC.

Only 1,316 cases were recorded from September 2020 to January 2021, compared to over 130,000 in the same period a year before.

Some strains of the flu may also have disappeared. 

Two common forms of the flu, H3N2 and the B/Yamagata lineage of the virus, have not been detected in a year.

While they still could be circulating undetected, there is a chance that the strains may have gone extinct due to not being able to find viable hosts for a long period of time.

There also have been instances of respiratory viruses that cause the flu making resurgences following the lifting of mask and social distancing mandates.

In Houston, for example, cases of rhinovirus – the most common respiratory illness among humans – and enterovirus increased 85 percent from March to April, the first month without any mask requirements in the state of Texas. 

Flu season did not occur in 2020 due to intense social distancing and masking around the country. Now with many COVID mandates lifted, the common cold may make a return

Flu season did not occur in 2020 due to intense social distancing and masking around the country. Now with many COVID mandates lifted, the common cold may make a return

Seasonal coronaviruses, which cause common colds and usually appear in the winter, rose by 211 percent over the same time period.

The most striking rise was in the share of parafluenza, a common virus that casus respiratory illnesses, which spiked in Houston by 424 percent from March to April.

‘This sharp resurgence we’re seeing of seasonal respiratory viruses in Houston is not surprising now that mask mandates have been lifted in Texas, and other precautions, such as social distancing and occupancy limits in stores, restaurants and events, have been removed,’ Dr Wesley Long, medical director of diagnostic microbiology at Houston Methodist hospital, said of the surge. 

Catalina also compared purchases at this point in 2021 to purchases made in 2019.

While 2019 was a normal year in regards to the flu, as there was no distancing or masking pre-pandemic, there are still some disparities in purchases between 2021 and 2019.

Purchases of children’s cold medicine are up 34 percent in 2021 as compared to 2019, vaporizer purchases have more than doubled with a 101 percent increase and there is a 42 percent increase in chest rubs.

While these rises could signal a particularly brutal flu season, increase in purchases could also be preventative, as some families may be stocking up on the items they have not purchased for two years.