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Colds and Chronic Medical Conditions

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For most folks, the misery of a cold is a short-term affair. Sure, you feel sneezy and drippy now, but you feel confident you'll be out of the woods a few days, maybe a few weeks at most. If you have an ongoing medical condition, though, you need to take extra precautions. Getting sick can make your health problems worse.


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It's a "chronic," or long-term, lung disease that affects about 25 million Americans. If you have it, a cold can make your symptoms worse. You might find it harder to breathe.

Also, some medications, like antihistamines, can thicken mucus, making it harder to cough up when you have asthma.

For in-depth information, see Asthma and Colds.

Heart Disease

If you have complications from your cold, such as lung infections, it makes it hard to take in oxygen efficiently.

When that happens, your heart works even harder to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.

For in-depth information, see Heart Disease and Colds.


It makes it harder for you to ward off a cold virus. Also, when you get sick, it adds extra stress to your body. This can affect your blood sugar levels, so it's important to take steps to keep them balanced.

For in-depth information, see Diabetes and Colds.

Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis

Emphysema and chronic bronchitis affect about 15 million adults in the U.S. In both conditions, which are usually caused by long-term smoking, there's an airflow blockage that gets in the way of breathing.

The symptoms of both conditions get worse when you have a cold.

For in-depth information, see Emphysema, Chronic Bronchitis, and Colds.

HIV/AIDS and Colds

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, kills or damages cells in the immune system, your body's defense against germs. This makes it more difficult to fight infections like a cold. When you get sick, you're also more likely to get complications such as pneumonia.

For in-depth information, see HIV/AIDS and Colds.

Cold Prevention and Chronic Medical Conditions

It's sometimes hard to avoid catching a cold, but there steps you can take to cut your risk:

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