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6 Reasons Why Your Cold Lingers

Why Your Cold Won't Go Away, and What to Do About it

4. Treating the Wrong Illness continued...

One possible reason why your cold symptoms may be lingering is that you have a sinus infection, a common development in people who have had a cold for some time. Katona says it’s the mucus trapped in your nasal passages and not draining for a period of time -- whether because of a cold or allergies - that leads to infections in the sinuses. 

Sinus infections can be difficult to diagnose, particularly in the early stages of infection. There are some telling signs, however, if you know what to look for.

With a sinus infection, you’re more likely to experience facial pain, a headache, fever, and green or yellow nasal discharge as opposed to clear. "That’s usually when an antibiotic is needed," Rogg says.

5. Relying on Herbal Remedies

We’ve all heard the claims about some of the more popular herbal remedies for colds: Drink this and you’ll never get sick again. Take that and your cold symptoms will be shortened by three days. Many of these claims don’t hold water, and it’s important to remember that just because the bottle says "herbal" doesn’t mean it can’t harm you. 

“I’d be careful about health food store remedies because very few have any actual benefit and we have no idea what their harm potential is,” Katona says. He notes that echinacea has been touted as helping a cold, but two studies funded by the National Institutes of Health didn’t find a benefit of using echinacea for colds. Other research findings have been mixed.

In addition, counting too heavily on supplements like vitamins C and D to speed you through your cold is likely to leave you disappointed.

"There was a great interest in vitamin C for colds," Katona says. "But it has never really been documented that it works. There are no good studies to show [its effectiveness], and it’s been looked at pretty carefully over the last 20 or 30 years."

Today, the focus is more heavily on vitamin D and its potential to shield us from illness. "There is a study on vitamin D that found that having low levels increased rates of the common cold," Rogg says. "But they haven’t determined if taking extra vitamin D can shorten the duration or prevent the cold."

6. Exercising Too Hard

It's hard to imagine that in the midst of suffering with a stuffy nose and scratchy throat people are eager to pump iron, yet many don’t want to stop exercising just because they feel sick.

"People ask me all the time, 'Should I exercise when I have a cold?'" Katona says. "My answer is usually yes, but do it at a lower level. If you do it at a high level, you may be interfering with your own immunity."

So, what does Katona consider low level? "Taking a walk, not running five miles."

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Reviewed on October 07, 2009

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