Text by Corina Tan
Adults may experience a cold two to three times a year, with children catching them even more often. There’s a reason why it’s called the common cold. We have listed down 12 reasons why you may have a lingering cold. As they are one of the most frequent reasons adults miss work and kids miss school. While often confused with the ‘flu’. A flu is actually the short form of influenza which is a much more serious disease because it can actually cause death. A lingering cold consists of a sore throat, and a runny nose, followed by coughing and sneezing. While most people recover within a week or so, it can sometimes linger for much longer.
Here are 12 reasons why you may have a lingering cold:
You Might Have Another Cold
In colder weather like the one we have been experiencing these past few rainy months, you can catch a virus, fight it off, and then catch an entirely new one. The new virus and symptoms can blend in with the previous one and make it seem that you are experiencing a really long lingering cold. Hundreds of viruses can cause a cold so it’s common to be infected again with another one, especially if your body’s immune system is not strong.
Side Effects of Medication
Coughs are often the last symptom to go away, and we often live with it until it subsides. However, a chronic cough may also be a side effect of some common medications such as blood pressure pills like ACE inhibitors.
Chronic Postnasal Drainage
If you have a productive cough with clear or white phlegm that persists for some time, you may have a chronic case of postnasal drainage. If your lungs are clear, then phlegm that builds up in your nasal cavities during your cold may take time to completely drain out. Postnasal drainage is a common after-effect of the cold and can often be exacerbated by allergies, weather changes and other external factors.
A common cause of a runny nose and cough may mimic cold symptoms but can actually be allergies. Allergies are usually triggered by the environment and can last much longer depending on the season and triggers that you are exposed to.
At times, as cold symptoms start to subside, you may develop pressure in the sinuses, headache as well as fever. This can happen when nasal congestion from the cold makes for a perfect environment where bacteria thrive and grows. This results in a sinus infection that occurs between 10 to 14 days after the onset of a cold.
Asthma Or Copd
When your cough is accompanied by wheezing that lingers, asthma of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) may be the cause. People are usually diagnosed with asthma in their childhood years, but adult asthma can also happen. In fact, COPD is often present in older people, particularly if they are smokers. A lung test can be conducted to diagnose the issue and treatment can then begin.
If a cold lingers and turns into a persistent cough with brown or green mucus accompanied by fever and shortness of breath, you may have an infection like pneumonia. One key symptom is when your lungs hurt. If any of these symptoms are present, it is important to seek help immediately as pneumonia is a potentially life-threatening illness that requires prompt treatment.
It may seem like your stomach and upper respiratory organs have very little connection. However, digestive issues like acid reflux can actually make a persistent cough or sore throat worse. If you experience a bad taste in your mouth that’s accompanied by a dry cough, hoarseness, heartburn, nausea, burping and regurgitation after a large or spicy meal, it’s best to be evaluated by a doctor, especially if symptoms of the cold linger persist beyond a few weeks.
A Stuck Airway
This is true especially for children as they insert foreign objects into their noses. If a runny nose lasts for weeks accompanied by a foul smell, then the child needs to be taken for a check-up so that the foreign object can be removed.
While TB is much rarer these days, this serious bacterial disease triggers persistent, uncontrollable coughing. You may even cough up blood and have fever, chills and night sweats. It is an extremely contagious infection which affects people who have been travelling or have a weakened immune system. It is very important to be checked and diagnosed so you can be treated and not expose others to the disease.
If your body’s defence system is compromised, you are less able to fight off infection. People who are immune compromised, have HIV, have genetic conditions, stress, dietary insufficiency, inadequate sleep, or dehydration may all reduce the body’s ability to fight the common cold. Such cases require supportive dietary supplementation, rest, fluids, stress management and sometimes microbial therapy.
Although rare, a cough that persists despite best efforts may indicate that a person has cancer. This is particularly true if they were or are a smoker or have had exposure to asbestos. Some people may have generalised weakness, decreased appetite, weight loss and shortness of breath. Close follow-up with doctors will help to rule out this serious diagnosis and help manage symptoms better.
It is very important that high-touch surfaces around the home are sanitised frequently. These include light switches, doorknobs, remote controls, keys, mugs or drinking glasses and faucets. Towels and bedding must be changed regularly too.
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