Health

The New Information We Now Know About “Long Cold” and “Long Flu”

Lingering Cough A lingering cough after a cold or flu can be attributed to a variety of factors. First and foremost, the respiratory tract can remain… Alexander Gabriel - October 13, 2023
Hackensack Meridian Health

Lingering Cough

A lingering cough after a cold or flu can be attributed to a variety of factors. First and foremost, the respiratory tract can remain irritated and inflamed even after the primary infection has subsided. This ongoing inflammation often triggers the cough reflex as the body attempts to clear mucus and irritants from the airways. In some cases, a secondary bacterial infection may develop, further perpetuating the cough. Postnasal drip, where mucus from the nasal passages drips down the throat, can also stimulate a persistent cough. Additionally, the initial infection can leave the airways more sensitive, making them prone to reacting to environmental irritants such as allergens or pollutants, leading to prolonged coughing.

Getting rid of a cough through natural remedies can be both effective and gentle on the body. Hydration is crucial; drinking plenty of warm fluids like herbal teas, honey and lemon water, or clear broths can help soothe an irritated throat and thin mucus. Honey, in particular, has proven to be a natural cough suppressant due to its soothing properties. Humidifying the air in your environment, either with a humidifier or a steamy shower, can ease throat irritation and congestion. Gargling with warm saltwater can provide relief by reducing inflammation. Herbal remedies, such as ginger or peppermint tea, may also help alleviate cough symptoms.

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Nasal or Sinus Congestion

Even after the primary illness has subsided, the respiratory system can continue to be affected. The inflammation and excess mucus production triggered by the infection can persist, leading to ongoing stuffiness and discomfort. In some cases, the viral infection may have caused damage to the respiratory lining, making it more prone to irritation and congestion. While these symptoms can be frustrating, they are typically a part of the body’s healing process as it works to fully recover from the respiratory illness. Various natural remedies and over-the-counter treatments are available to help relieve congestion.

Relieving long-term congestion stemming from a cold or flu requires a holistic and healthy approach. Staying well-hydrated is important, as it helps to keep mucus thin and more manageable. Steam inhalation, achieved through a warm shower or by using a humidifier, can effectively alleviate congestion and soothe irritated airways. Saline nasal sprays or rinses help to flush out mucus and irritants, providing relief from congestion. However, it’s important to note some nasal sprays can actually cause rebound congestion. Eucalyptus or menthol-based chest rubs can be applied topically to ease breathing.

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Continued Sore Throat

The initial viral assault can leave the throat tissues inflamed and sensitive. Additionally, postnasal drip, where mucus from the nasal passages trickles down the throat, can further exacerbate the soreness. If the infection caused throat tissue damage or if there was prolonged coughing during the illness, these factors can contribute to persistent discomfort. It’s important to stay well-hydrated, use throat lozenges, and gargle with warm saltwater to alleviate the symptoms. In most cases, this continued sore throat is a temporary inconvenience as the body gradually heals, but consulting a healthcare professional is advisable if the soreness persists or worsens over time.

A sore throat following a cold or flu could be indicative of a bacterial infection. While these respiratory illnesses are typically caused by viruses, they can weaken the immune system and make the throat more susceptible to secondary bacterial infections. One common bacterial infection that can follow a viral illness is streptococcal pharyngitis, commonly known as strep throat. Strep throat often presents with severe sore throat, fever, and difficulty swallowing. It’s essential to distinguish between viral and bacterial infections since the latter may require antibiotic treatment to effectively resolve the condition and prevent complications. If the sore throat persists or worsens after a cold or flu, especially when accompanied by high fever and swollen lymph nodes, seeking medical attention is a good idea.

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Headaches

The initial infection may have induced inflammation and elevated cytokine levels, which can trigger persistent headaches as the body continues its recovery. Additionally, dehydration, a common consequence of fever and respiratory infections, can lead to headaches. If over-the-counter cold or flu medications were used, rebound headaches can occur as a result. In some cases, sinus congestion and pressure, which often accompany respiratory illnesses, can lead to lingering headaches. Furthermore, the stress and strain on the body during an illness can exacerbate tension headaches. While headaches are often a benign part of post-infection recovery, it’s important to consult a healthcare provider if they persist or become severe, as they could indicate underlying issues that require further evaluation and treatment.

Treating a headache without over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication can be achieved through several natural and self-care strategies. Resting in a dark, quiet room and ensuring you get enough sleep can help alleviate tension headaches and promote overall relaxation. Applying a cold compress to the forehead or the back of the neck can provide relief by constricting blood vessels and reducing inflammation. Gentle neck and shoulder stretches, as well as relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation, can help ease muscle tension that may be causing the headache. Avoiding common headache triggers like caffeine, alcohol, and certain foods can also be beneficial.

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Brain Fog

During the illness, the body redirects a significant amount of energy and resources to fight off the infection, leaving less available for cognitive functions. The release of inflammatory cytokines as part of the immune response can also affect the brain, leading to cognitive difficulties and a feeling of mental cloudiness. Additionally, medications taken to manage cold or flu symptoms, such as antihistamines, can have side effects that include drowsiness and cognitive impairment. Post-illness, lingering fatigue and the body’s recovery process can continue to impact cognitive function, resulting in prolonged brain fog.

Various vitamins and supplements can be beneficial for alleviating brain fog. Vitamin B complex, which includes B1 (thiamine), B6 (pyridoxine), and B12 (cobalamin), plays a crucial role in cognitive function and can help combat mental fogginess. Omega-3 fatty acids, often found in fish oil supplements, can support brain health and enhance mental clarity. Ginkgo biloba extract is known for its potential to improve cognitive function and circulation, potentially reducing brain fog. Rhodiola rosea and ashwagandha supplements may help combat stress-related brain fog and boost mental resilience. Additionally, adaptogenic herbs like Panax ginseng can help enhance focus and cognitive performance.

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Loss of Taste and Smell

The virus can damage or disrupt the olfactory and gustatory nerves, impairing one’s ability to smell and taste. In some cases, inflammation within the nasal passages and sinuses can further exacerbate these disturbances. The loss of these senses may persist even after the infection has cleared as the nerves and tissues gradually heal. However, for some people, this symptom can endure as a long-term or chronic condition. In such cases, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation, as prolonged loss of taste and smell can impact one’s quality of life and appetite. The exact mechanisms and potential treatments for this persistent symptom remain an area of ongoing research and exploration in the medical field.

Retraining your brain to taste and smell again after a prolonged loss can be a gradual process that involves various strategies. One effective method is smell training, which includes exposing yourself to a variety of strong, familiar scents daily. This practice can help reawaken your olfactory nerves and improve your sense of smell over time. Additionally, incorporating different textures and flavors into your meals can stimulate your taste buds and rekindle your sense of taste. Maintaining good oral hygiene, including regular tongue cleaning and dental care, can also help enhance taste perception. Staying hydrated and reducing factors that contribute to inflammation, like smoking, can promote the recovery of your senses. Patience is essential, as it may take weeks or even months to fully regain your ability to taste and smell.

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Ongoing Chest Discomfort

Persistent coughing, which is common during and after these illnesses, can further irritate the chest muscles and airways, contributing to ongoing pain. Viral infections can also make the airways more sensitive, leading to a heightened perception of discomfort. In some cases, the infection may have resulted in complications like bronchitis or pneumonia, which can extend chest symptoms. Additionally, pre-existing conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be exacerbated by a respiratory infection, leading to prolonged chest discomfort.

If the chest pain is severe, sharp, or crushing in nature, especially if it radiates to the arm, neck, or jaw, it could be indicative of a heart-related issue and should be taken seriously. If chest discomfort is accompanied by difficulty breathing, a high fever, rapid heart rate, confusion, or bluish lips or nails, it may signify a more severe respiratory condition or infection, such as pneumonia, and should prompt immediate medical attention. It’s really important to trust your instincts; if the chest discomfort feels unusually intense or is associated with any other distressing symptoms, err on the side of caution and seek medical help promptly.

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Stomach Issues

The body diverts resources and energy to fight off the infection, potentially affecting the digestive system. Inflammation triggered by the infection can lead to ongoing gastrointestinal discomfort, such as diarrhea or stomach cramps. Medications taken to manage flu or cold symptoms, such as antibiotics, can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria, leading to digestive issues. Prolonged dehydration resulting from fever and flu-related symptoms can also impact gastrointestinal function. Stress and anxiety associated with illness can affect the gut, as there is a strong connection between the brain and the digestive system.

Ginger, in various forms such as ginger tea or ginger candies, can help soothe stomach discomfort and nausea. Peppermint tea is another natural remedy that can aid digestion and alleviate stomach upset. Consuming small, bland meals and avoiding spicy, greasy, or heavy foods can ease the digestive process. Probiotic-rich foods like yogurt or kefir can help restore a healthy balance of gut bacteria and promote better digestion. Chamomile tea, with its anti-inflammatory properties, can be beneficial in calming an upset stomach.

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Changes in Mood

The physical discomfort and symptoms associated with a cold or flu can also contribute to mood fluctuations, as they often result in disrupted sleep patterns and discomfort. Moreover, the stress of being unwell and the impact of illness on daily routines can cause emotional distress. Prolonged recovery periods or lingering symptoms can further exacerbate mood changes, potentially leading to feelings of frustration, irritability, or even sadness. While these mood changes are generally temporary, recognizing and addressing them should be a priority for recovery, as it’s essential to prioritize mental and emotional health during and after an illness.

Practicing relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, or mindfulness can reduce stress and anxiety, fostering a more positive outlook. Maintaining social connections and seeking support from friends and loved ones can provide emotional comfort and a sense of belonging. Finally, setting achievable goals, finding purpose in daily activities, and participating in hobbies or activities that bring joy can all contribute to a more positive mood.

 

Where Do We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects/index.html

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/immune-system#:~:text=The%20immune%20system%20is%20a,it%20enters%20the%20body%20again.

https://www.webmd.com/covid/news/20230118/can-radical-rest-help-long-covid-symptoms

https://www.webmd.com/allergies/postnasal-drip

https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/best-natural-cough-remedies#:~:text=Honey%20and%20saltwater%20gargles%20are,but%20more%20evidence%20is%20needed.

https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/symptoms/stuffy-or-runny-nose-adult

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538318/#:~:text=Rhinitis%20medicamentosa%20(RM)%2C%20also%20known%20as%20’rebound%20congestion,subset%20of%20drug-induced%20rhinitis.

https://www.goodrx.com/health-topic/throat/salt-water-gargle-for-sore-throat#:~:text=Gargling%20with%20salt%20water%20has,water%20%E2%80%94%20for%20salt%20water%20gargles.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/strep-throat/symptoms-causes/syc-20350338

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/medication-overuse-headache/symptoms-causes/syc-20377083#:~:text=Overview,week%2C%20they%20may%20trigger%20headaches.

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/stretches-for-headaches

https://www.bangkokhospital.com/en/content/brain-fog-syndrome

https://www.uclahealth.org/news/what-are-adaptogens-and-should-you-be-taking-them#:~:text=Adaptogens%20are%20herbs%2C%20roots%20and,soups%2C%20smoothies%20and%20other%20foods.

https://abscent.org/learn-us/smell-training

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease-(copd)#:~:text=Overview,damaged%20or%20clogged%20with%20phlegm.

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/pneumonia#:~:text=Pneumonia%20is%20an%20infection%20that,or%20fungi%20may%20cause%20pneumonia.

https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-gut-brain-connection

https://cookieandkate.com/fresh-ginger-tea-recipe/

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0004867413503718

https://www.mindful.org/how-to-meditate/

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