Chronic Cold - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Prevention & Treatment

Chronic Cold

Dr.Aashish A Kadakia profile Authored by Dr.Aashish A Kadakia on 12 Dec 2014 - 15:16.

Chronic cold is not exactly a disease by itself, but it's definitely more than just an irritation. It can be persistent (with or without cough) that may last for 365 days of a year, irrespective of a season (not restricted to only winter or monsoon).However, a common cold and cough is normal which happens with weather change. Chronic cold may disturb one's sleep and daily activities by causing depression, runny nose, and severe cough thereby leading to vomiting. It may last for several years of your life, until the underlying cause is treated.

Prolonged cold may be caused due to several underlying conditions. Following are some most notable causes that accounts (alone or in combination) for more than 90% of chronic cold and cough cases.

Various upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs)

  • Asthma
  • Allergy to dust or pollen grains
  • Exposure to cold air
  • Sinus infection

Other rare or less common causes could be:

  • Various bacterial, viral (influenza flu), or fungal infections
  • Several medications Ex. Anti-hypertensive drugs
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Aspiration
  • Lung diseases, especially cancer
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Gastric esophageal reflux disorder (GERD)

Some common signs and symptoms of chronic cold are:

  • Itching, inflammation and irritation of the nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat, causing irritation
  • A runny nose
  • Shortness of breath
  • Low grade fever
  • Altered quality of voice
  • Difficulty in speaking         
  • Altered taste in mouth
  • Reddish eyes

The most prominent sign or symptom of chronic cold – One may have temporary relief by taking certain suppressant medicine, the flare ups of chronic cold can occur at the slight dust entering the nose, or exposure to extreme environment especially, cold air, or long-term exposure to sun.

When to see a doctor?

Do not skip to make an appointment if you have cold lasting for several weeks and disturbing your normal life. A doctor’s consultation is a must if you have severe cold.

Assessment of medical history and physical examination may be sufficient for the diagnosis of chronic cold. However, a series of tests and assessments may be required if chronic cold is accompanied by chronic cough. These may include:

Physical examination and assessment of medical history – To look for probable cause for further investigation.

Imaging tests: X-ray may be done rule out diseases like cancer, pneumonia, sinus or any other.

Lung function tests and/ or asthma challenge tests are done to detect asthma if any.

Mucus assessment: An excreted mucus sample may be assessed for any bacterial infection.

Scope of tests: To look for rare cases like acellular abnormalities, when all other diagnostic tests fail to reveal the cause.

Risk of chronic cough/cold is higher among people with:

  • Weakened immunity
  • Immune disorders
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Taking high risk medications
  • Underlying high risk conditions (mentioned in causes)


Common complications associated with chronic cold may include:

  • Disturbed sleep
  • A continuous sneezing and cough can be exhausting
  • Headache
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Rib fracture

Treatment of chronic cold aims to treat the probable underlying condition/s. Following are the approaches to treat chronic cold/cough:

Drugs and medications: Several pain relieving and fever encountering drugs may be prescribed to treat body ache, headache, low grade fever, inflammation and so on. Other medications may be prescribed, including anti-allergic drugs, medicines to treat asthma, antibiotics (to treat bacterial infection), cough suppressants, acid blockers, etc.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), over-the-counter cough and cold medicines are not effective in treating children younger than 2 years suffering with cold and cough. Rather it may have potential side effects like increased heart beats and convulsions.

If drugs like ACE inhibitors (angiotensin converting enzyme) are aggravating, the doctor may switch to other medicines to treat your blood pressure. (Note: Donot stop medications on your own, as it may cause severe hypertension putting you at much higher risk.)

Lifestyle interventions and home remedies:

Following changes in lifestyle and home remedies may offer significant relief for those suffering from chronic cold.

  • Do not smoke
  • Avoid exposure to cough triggering factors like cold air, allergens, rain, etc.
  • Follow certain measures to reduce acid reflux. Example. Eat in portions, but frequently, keep your head elevated during the night, etc.
  • Drink lots of fluids
  • Cleanse your throat by gargling with warm salt water.

Alternative medicine

Various alternative approaches may add on benefits in coping with chronic cold. Following are some common alternative approaches:

  • Take pure honey with grape juice or hot tea
  • Take ginger tea
  • Herbal medicines: Herbs such as eucalyptus, mint, tulsi (basil leaves), etc.
  • Prefer herbal tea over normal tea
  • Spices like clove, cinnamon, turmeric and ginger may help.

Home made preparations:

  • A paste of ginger juice+ pepper powder+ turmeric powder + honey can be prepared and taken at least thrice a day.
  • Prepare decotion of peppercorns+ cumin + jiggery. Cool itand drink it for better relief from choking throat.
  • Prepare mixture of the juice of betel leaves (2 tabs) + 1 tbs of honey and consume it twice a day after meals.

Diet and supplement recommendations:

Following are the diet and supplement recommendations to cope with chronic cold.

  • Supplements containing vitamin C, vitamin A,  Zinc, selenium, magnesium, Echinacea and so forth may be helpful
  • Include whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet
  • Consume foods rich in antioxidants
  • Eat fish if you are non-vegetarian
  • Avoid simple sugar
  • Avoid food allergens like cow’s milk.

Following measures may help in preventing the onset or the progression of chronic cold/cough:

  • Maintain personal hygiene by washing hands frequently.
  • Keep your surroundings clean.                                                       
  • Cover your mouth while sneezing or while another person is sneezing.
  • Don’t share cups or plate with a person suffering from cold.
  • Avoid close contact with a person having bronchitis, or pneumonia.
*Disclaimer This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.