Everybody knows it. The days are getting shorter, the temperature is dropping and the weather is getting rainier. Nevertheless, this is also the starting signal for the cold season. How often you really get a cold is of course very different from person to person.
Basically, however, it is assumed that in Germany every adult is affected by a cold about two to four times a year (1). In some cases, however, this number is exceeded many times over by people. The question now arises as to the cause of these frequent colds and to what extent the fact that one always has a cold can pose a health threat.
In this article, we provide you with everything you need to know about the common cold. We will also show you what options there are if you suffer from constant colds. Everyday remedies hidden in your household cupboards can be of great help here.
the essentials in brief
- In autumn and winter, the occurrence of cold waves is particularly pronounced. It hits us most often in the dark months around the turn of the year.
- It is advisable to stay away from work at the first sign of a cold. In this way you not only protect your health, but also that of your environment. Especially if you go to work sick, which might otherwise have been avoided. A cold can have a huge impact on your ability to concentrate.
- In fact, men are more affected by a cold than women. This is due to the male hormone testosterone. A cold can last up to twice as long in men as in women. (2).
What is a cold?
The common cold is probably the most common disease worldwide. Commonly, a cold is also referred to as the flu-like effect. Contrary to what the name might suggest, the main catalyst for a cold is not too much exposure to cold on the body, but rather a virological infection.
The result is inflammation in the upper and middle respiratory tract. Of course, this can still be fueled by previous supercooling.
If you don't have a handkerchief with you, it is advisable to use the crook of your arm so that you can protect your surroundings from saliva or secretions when you cough or sneeze. (Image Source: Cottonbro/Pexels)
To date, around 200 different viruses alone are known to cause a cold. The most common cause of a cold are so-called rhinoviruses. These viruses prefer to stay near the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose, where they eventually lodge and spread (3).
It is generally assumed that a mild cold can be completely cured within a period of one to two weeks.
Background: What you should know if you have a constant cold
Before we present you with our suggestions for fighting a cold, however, we would like to share with you some of our useful information regarding a persistent cold. In the course of this, we have now summarized the answers to the most frequently asked questions for you in order to free you from any misconceptions that may still exist.
What is the difference between a cold and an allergy?
Feeling like you always have a cold doesn't necessarily mean you actually have a cold. Many people are surprised that over the course of the year they get sick more often than average or don't get better at all. In their search for clues, they sometimes take the most abstruse paths. But in many cases the answer is very simple: you suffer from an allergy.
Symptoms of an allergy can be very similar to the signs of a cold.
Allergies can come in many different forms. For example, one of the most widespread forms of allergy is pollen allergy, also known as hay fever.
In this particular case, the body reacts to an over-sensitivity of the body to pollen, which is spread through the air by trees, shrubs, grasses or herbs. But allergic reactions to house dust mites, mold spores or animal dander are not uncommon (4).
The following table shows you which symptoms typically indicate an allergy or indicate a cold. This should help you to distinguish between the two cases.
|season||within the cold season||all year round or in certain seasonal phases|
|location dependency||location independent||location dependent|
|Length of time||about two weeks||long-term or permanent|
|nasal discharge||Nose is stuffy and yellowish-green tint||liquid and clear|
|symptoms||Scratchy throat, difficulty swallowing, cough, headache, possibly fever or high temperature||frequent and heavy sneezing, increased flow of tears and mucus, tiredness, feeling of sluggishness (4)|
What can be the physical causes if I have a constant cold?
If the human body is attacked, this often manifests itself in the fact that the body uses disease-related signals to let us know that something is wrong. In the case of a cold, for example, with an inflammation in the throat. The fact that you suffer from a persistent cold can have a variety of physical causes.
weakened immune system
The immune system is responsible for ensuring that your body is protected as well as possible against all kinds of pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria or fungi. If your immune system is weakened, you are much more susceptible to an infectious disease.
In the background of a seemingly never-ending cold, a weakened immune system can often be seen. In fact, in many cases, a weakened immune system can also indicate an unhealthy lifestyle. Nevertheless, a healthy lifestyle is reflected in an intact immune system.
The lymph nodes act as the body's own filter for pollutants (5).
Incidentally, the so-called lymphatic system, which also includes the lymph nodes, also functions as part of the immune system. These are located within the lymph vessels. If the lymph nodes are swollen, they seem to be fighting an infection at that moment.
lack of sleep
Sleep plays a crucial role in your health. If your body does not get enough sleep, it is quite possible that this automatically leads to an increased risk of infection. Due to the lack of sleep , the body's own defense system is shut down. Ultimately, this can lead to you catching a cold more easily than, for example, a person who has a decent seven-hour sleep schedule (6).
A constant cold can indicate an underactive thyroid. This is a reduced performance of the thyroid hormone effect.
On average, children catch colds more often because their immune system has to develop slowly, bit by bit. (Image Source: Cottonbro/Pexels)
Since the body cells are not sufficiently supplied with thyroid hormones in the case of hypofunction, the metabolic processes in the body can be reduced. The consequence is often a strong increase in weight in those affected (7). If you want to be sure, a medical blood test can provide clarity.
Can stress be a reason why I keep getting colds?
There are different types of stress that you as a human experience. We therefore differentiate between short and long stress phases. Depending on which phase you are in, your immune system will react differently, or the stress will have a different effect on your immune system. In fact, women are more resistant to stress than men. This is related to the female hormonal balance.
- Short stress: It turns out that short periods of stress have no effect on our immune system. Much more it is ramped up again for this period.
- Persistent stress: Persistent stress can significantly weaken your immune system and thus have the direct consequence that you always have a cold. If the person is in a stressful situation, huge amounts of hormones are released at this moment. The body is therefore working at full throttle and is under great pressure at the same time. This constant pressure in a never-ending stressful situation will inevitably have a negative effect on our immune system at some point, as important hormonal processes in the body can be permanently disrupted (8).
Constantly caught cold: Avoiding and overcoming a permanent cold
If you have constant colds, your lifestyle can be severely restricted. In extreme cases, this can even go so far that it may seem as if you have lost some of your joie de vivre due to the illness. This must be resolutely counteracted.
In the following we will show you how you can strengthen your immune system and give you further useful tips on how to cure an existing cold quickly and reliably with simple home remedies.
Prevention is better than aftercare. This undoubtedly also applies to the aspect of your physical health.
In order to be able to prevent a cold and keep your body fit and vital, you now have numerous options that you can easily integrate into your everyday life.
- Washing hands: Many of the viruses get into the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose via the hands. This can happen because viruses prefer to be in places that we regularly touch with our hands, such as doorknobs or banisters. By always washing your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap, they are removed from your hands and can no longer pose a danger.
- Exercise: Exercise is generally always good for your body, as long as it is done within normal limits, like anything else. It has been proven that people who exercise regularly catch colds less often than people who do less exercise. In addition to strengthening your immune system, exercise can also help you to reduce the risk of obesity and high blood pressure. (9)
- Balanced diet: Excessive consumption of meat, animal fats and alcohol can have a negative impact on your health. On the other hand, a balanced diet based on fruit, vegetables, milk or whole grain products is considered to be particularly beneficial for your immune system due to its high vitamin and mineral content.
- Contrast showers: Alternating hot and cold showers ensure that the blood circulation in the body is stimulated enormously, since the cold water constricts the blood vessels and the hot water widens them. In addition, contrast showers contribute to an improved metabolism and circulation and can thus have a positive effect on the immune system.
Although drug manufacturers often promise a quick cure in their advertisements, many people still turn to traditional home remedies in cases of the common cold, rather than reaching out to the medicine cabinet. Home remedies are usually free of chemical additives and are also able to reliably relieve the symptoms of your cold.
In the table below you will find a wide range of options that can counteract your cold if you want to avoid medication (10).
|Honey with elderflower tea||If possible, you should take elderflower tea in the early stages of the infection.|
|Honey with hot lemon||Hot lemon with honey soothes the mucous membranes. Alternatively, if you like, you can use hot milk with honey.|
|solution with table salt||Saline is used to rinse the mouth, nose and throat and to disinfect the mucous membranes.|
|juice from the onion||With onion juice has a calming effect and calms the cough.|
|Inhale||Essential oils such as eucalyptus dissolved in boiling water are said to loosen the mucus in the airways and sweating has a healing effect.|
|Wet wraps||Breast wraps have an expectorant effect.|
|Chicken soup||Chicken soup has always been used as a remedy for infections of all kinds.|
As you can see, there are a large number of solutions that can naturally help to prevent you from catching a cold or otherwise reduce the symptoms of the disease.
You should also avoid antibiotics if you have a normal cold, as they are only effective if you have a bacterial infection. This could happen if your cold is accompanied by signs of a persistent high fever.
In rare cases, a persistent or recurring cold can also be an indication of more serious or chronic diseases, such as an autoimmune disease, which must be investigated by a doctor.
- Ernst, Edzard & Wirz, Peter, & Pecho, Lisa (1990). Contrast showers and sauna protect against colds. Z Allg Med, age 66, pp. 56-60. Source
- Sue, Kyle (2017). The science behind “man flu”. bmj, 359 years old. doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j5560. Source
- Hansel, Rudolf (1991). Herbal remedies for colds. In: Phytopharmaka. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-97166-2_10 Source
- Robert Koch Institute (ed.) (2014). Hay fever. Fact sheet on KiGGS Wave 1: Study on children's health and young people in Germany - First follow-up survey 2009-2012. Berlin: RKI Source
- Fischer, Reinhard (1984). lymph nodes. In: Pathology. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-97874-6_9 Source
- Prather, Aric. A. & Janicki-Deverts, Denise & Hall, Martica H., & Cohen, Sheldon (2015). Behaviorally assessed sleep and susceptibility to the common cold. Sleep, vol. 38, no. 9, pp. 1353-1359. Source
- Mödder, Gynter (1998). The hypothyroidism. In: Thyroid disorders. Berlin, Heidelberg Springer https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-07095-6_8 Source
- Scholz, H. Strong immune system: permanent stress and alcohol damage. Source
- Lee, Hyun Kun & Hwang, In Hong & Kim, Soo Young & Pyo, Se Young (2014). The effect of exercise on prevention of the common cold: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trial studies. Korean journal of family medicine. Jg., Nr. 3, p. 119. Source
- Bleckwenn, Markus (2015). Dangerous courses with a cold. MMW Advances in Medicine, vol. 3, p. 157. Source