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Colds and Chronic Medical Conditions

The common cold makes most people feel miserable for a few days, but then goes away on its own. However, for people with chronic medical conditions, catching a cold is more likely to lead to serious health problems. Here's a look at some of those conditions and how they can be aggravated by a cold.


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Asthma and Colds

Asthma, a chronic lung disease, affects an estimated 25 million Americans. The common cold can worsen asthma symptoms, making it more difficult to breathe. In addition, certain medications, such as antihistamines, can thicken mucus, making it harder to cough up for those with asthma.

For in-depth information, see WebMD's Asthma and Colds.

Heart Disease and Colds

For people with heart disease, catching a cold poses a potential danger. While the cold itself usually isn't a danger, cold complications such as lung infections make it difficult to take in oxygen as efficiently as a person should. This makes the heart work even harder to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. This extra demand on the heart can be quite serious for those with heart disease and colds.

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

Diabetes and Colds

Diabetes makes it more difficult to ward off cold viruses. In addition, colds add extra stress to the body, which can affect blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Keeping blood sugar levels balanced is important for staying well with diabetes.

For in-depth information, see WebMD's Diabetes and Colds.

Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis and Colds

Emphysema and chronic bronchitis affect about 15 million adults in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control. Both medical conditions, which are usually caused by long-term smoking, are marked by obstruction to airflow that interferes with breathing. Symptoms of emphysema and chronic bronchitis worsen with the common cold.

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

HIV/AIDS and Colds

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) kills or damages cells in the body's immune system, making it more difficult to fight infections such as the cold virus. People with HIV/AIDS are also more likely to get cold complications such as pneumonia.

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

Cold Prevention and Chronic Medical Conditions

While it's sometimes hard to avoid catching a cold, particularly when those around you have colds, there are certain cold prevention steps you can take. Consider the following:

  • Wash your hands. Most cold viruses are spread by direct contact. Keeping your hands clean by washing them frequently can help break up most cold germs.
  • Don't touch your face. Cold viruses enter your body through the eyes, nose, or mouth. Keep your hands away from your face to avoid spreading the cold virus.
  • Exercise regularly. Aerobic exercise helps increase the body's natural virus-killing cells and helps you fight off the cold virus. For people with chronic medical conditions, it's important to talk to your doctor before engaging in an exercise program.
  • Eat nutrient-rich foods. Nutrient-rich foods are those that provide you with the most nutrients for the calories (more bang for the buck!). Some nutrient-dense foods include dark green, red, and yellow vegetables and fruits. Equally important is eating a balanced diet with enough lean protein, good fats, and complex carbohydrates to maintain a healthy immune system.
  • Don't smoke. Statistics show that heavy smokers get more severe colds and more frequent ones. Even being around smoke profoundly zaps the body's ability to fight off the cold virus.
  • Cut alcohol consumption. Heavy drinkers are more prone to initial infections as well as complications from respiratory infections.
  • De-stress. There's some evidence that when you put your relaxation skills into action, your immune system gets stronger. Take time to learn how to relax, and then use what you learn frequently throughout your day.


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