woman standing outside blowing her nose

With Chronic Conditions, It's Never 'Just a Cold'


I miss those days. I truly do.

I miss the days in which a cold was merely a cold. Mucus, coughs, fever, headache and in 10-12 days it was gone.

But when you live with one or more chronic conditions, a cold is so much more than a cold. It triggers all your symptoms, and besides fighting the common cold things, you are also being constantly reminded of how you have asthma too, and arthritis, and fibromyalgia, and dermatitis.

Because once you start feeling the cold in your system, it’s like the rest of your body activates and wants to participate in the party.

I remember when I first got arthritis. It was after I had a horrible bacteria in my throat. And all of the sudden, I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t stand up. My body was bent in a 90 degree position, and it was this new type of pain… Like when you have had one limb in a determinate position for too long, and then you move it. It aches, it feels numb and you don’t know which is worse: to keep it still or to move it, because either way it is way too uncomfortable.

Now, let’s talk about my long-life friend: asthma. I always laugh at this meme which says, “Asthma: Because all of the things I could suck at, I suck at breathing.” So, so real. I’ve had it for 19 years now, so eventually you get used to it. You understand you are constantly feeling short of breath, that every activity requiring effort will end up with you looking like you need an oxygen supply ASAP, that when the weather is bad and it’s been a cold night, you wake up gasping for air. Normal. Common. Usual. Life goes on.

Now, for example, let’s unite these two conditions with a common flu. I have it right now, and I cannot stop coughing. Like with every flu. But I’m really short of breath, and every time I breathe a whistle sounds. Besides that, I have a horrific chest pain in the side. So I don’t know if it’s a lung or if it’s a rib. (Yep, when you have fibromyalgia and arthritis, rib pain is a real thing.)

And what can you do? As you always do with a chronic condition, you wait and have patient and palliative care.

Colds will always be a part of anyone’s life. I know. I have accepted it. I just wanted to say out loud that having a cold while having chronic conditions sucks! And it’s twice as painful, and yes: it can make you stay in bed for days, it can make you cry from the pain, it can make you feel miserable. And yes, it’s just a cold. For those who can sense it that way, congratulations – you don’t know how jealous that makes me. Because meanwhile, I’m stuck in bed with every joint in pain, swollen muscles and shortness of breath, just because I got wet a couple of days ago and I caught a cold. How I wish I could say it’s “just a cold.” But it’s not.

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Thinkstock photo via bowie15.

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