Surely this is a long time for a cold
October 30, 2010 8:48 AM   Subscribe

Month-long cold: looking for advice and words of encouragement.

I came down with a very ordinary cold 32 days ago. Each Monday I thought I was better, so I started exercising again until around Thursday I was exhausted and went back to resting. I also had 3 weekends of travel planned (weddings and seeing distant friends) so I didn't get the rest I wanted. No surprise I stayed sick.

What's troubling is the past 12 days. When it turned into a very sore throat I went to a CVS clinic and the NP gave me 10 days of amoxicillin. I also stopped travelling, stopped all caffeine and alcohol (I wasn't consuming much of either anyway), and started eschewing all activity in favor of sleeping 9 hours per night.

The sore throat is mostly gone, but I still wake up every day feeling sick and feel tired throughout the day. I don't feel comfortable exercising. I still sleep 9 hours nightly and feel bad. I went to a doctor who said my nasal cavities are inflamed, but he's disinclined to try more antibiotics after the amoxicillin. He gave me a nasal steroid. I have year-round allergies that have always been well-controlled by Claritin-D.

I'm bored, tired, missing out on life, unable to exercise, and my condition hasn't improved since I stopped the amoxocillin. Since I'm not getting worse, my doctor doesn't want to do anything yet. Does anyone have ideas about what I can do now to just get over this?

tl;dr: my cold has lasted for a month, and hasn't improved since I stopped antibiotics. What's my next step if my doctor only gave me a nasal steroid and wants to wait & see?
posted by Tehhund to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Colds are caused by viruses.

Why are you taking antibiotics?

Go to a doctor. Maybe you have a sinus infection.
posted by dfriedman at 8:56 AM on October 30, 2010

IANAD, and nasal congestion isn't a symptom, but have you been tested for mono?
posted by oinopaponton at 9:06 AM on October 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's also possible that you've actually had more than one cold (and an infection) in a row. You were traveling AND at events with a lot of people AND exhausted, so your immune system was extra-vulnerable.
posted by camyram at 9:23 AM on October 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Good call on the mono test.

tehhund - one possible clue is in your own description. Every time you feel better, you dive right back in (to vigorous exercise, etc.). How about taking 2-3 days off from work, spend it in a malarial haze of blankets in bed, with as much intermittent sleep as you can muster. Then, if you're feeling better, continue to coddle yourself for a few days past the point where you feel 100% better? No exercise, lots of sleep, eating right and never skipping meals...i.e. not doing anything depletive.

dfriedman: Colds are viruses, yes, but when they go on this long they often weaken the body to the point where infections have a much easier foothold. I'm not sure that's the case here, but it's reasonable.
posted by Quisp Lover at 9:25 AM on October 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

The same thing happened to me a couple of years ago and it turned out that I had a massive sinus infection. In fact, a doctor who was disinclined to try more antibiotics also gave me a steroid to cut back on the inflammation; that particular call wrecked my Christmas that year because it turned out that what I needed were stronger antibiotics. Once I got started on those I finally began to get better.

Don't wait until you actually collapse at the Urgent Care and have to be removed in a wheelchair because you're too ill to walk. (Ask me how I know!) Get your doctor to listen to you or find another one (Urgent Care was actually quite helpful in getting me what I needed). I totally understand that doctors are cautious about over-prescribing antibiotics but it sounds like your doctor isn't listening to you. (FYI, amoxicillin isn't very strong.)
posted by corey flood at 9:35 AM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've been prone to sinus/upper respiratory infections for as long as I can remember so I've tried all kinds of medications and treatments to just feel better. Over the last 10 years I've relied more and more on vitamins to help my body work through the sickness. Now, I'm no hippie and don't believe vitamins cure all, but when it comes to respiratory issues, they really do provide a boost to your body.

Make sure you're getting lots (I mean LOTS) of vitamin D. Like 2,000 IU per day. If you're sick and not out and about, you're probably not under the sun much to make your own vitamin D. Vitamin D is a central nutrient in all sorts of bodily functions and it's still not well understood, but in my own anecdotal experience (and those of my friends for whom I've recommended this) boosting vitamin D during prolonged sickness seems to help speed things along.

It also doesn't hurt to add in some B vitamins to counter sicktime sadness and vitamin C as an energy and immune booster. Get some Emergen-C packets and drink it every morning.

Finally, NETI POT. I know it's scary looking but it really will help flush out your sinuses. Use it every day while you take a hot shower; it seems to help loosen things up and help the saline push through. I use it in the morning and night. You can buy them at CVS in a box with hundreds of little saline packets that you mix with warm tap water. There is also a squirty water bottle version and saline nasal sprays but in my experience, nothing really gets up there and pushes nasty stuff out better than the neti.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:45 AM on October 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

I had exactly the same a few months ago. Same situation to a T. Only mine lasted 13 weeks. And the nasal steroid cleared it up within about a week. Hang in there.
posted by pootler at 9:56 AM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing hang in there. My live-in fiance and I have had symptoms for several weeks also. He was diagnosed with pneumonia, and steroids and antibiotics helped him feel almost normal within 36 hours. When I thought mine was going the same way, the doctor did blood tests and said I had a garden variety respiratory infection (could be viral, could be bacterial), gave me nothing, and ordered more fluids and more rest. It's now been a week that I haven't felt like I have mono (have already had it), and am back at work and at the gym. But I still have a sore throat upon waking every morning, and buckets upon buckets of phlegm.

Mucinex and its generic equivalents can be a godsend. Also try a non-drowsy antihistamine like Zyrtec, and round-the-clock OTC painkillers. All these will help your head stay dry and your body be more free of achy, flu-like symptoms.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 10:07 AM on October 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you go back to a professional, get a culture done. It's cheap.

I know several people around here (including me) for whom the month-long cold or sinus infection turned out to be staph or strep. Doctors assumed we had colds.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 11:01 AM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just to give you encouragement, about this time of year I often come down with weird symptoms that linger on-and-off. Sometimes a cold, sometimes just fatigue. I think it's the seasonal change. Especially if you've been traveling a lot and been very busy, your body probably hasn't had the chance to fully recover, even after 12 days. So support your immune system with lots of fluids (water, orange juice, herbal tea), vitamins, rest, and a reasonable diet (not too much caffeine, sugar, or beer). At easy on the exercise. Your body needs time to recuperate. Also, I am pretty sure this tea I make with ginger, garlic, lemons and oranges is the thing that cured the last cold I felt coming I on (I drank a ton of it). I've also heard wonders about the NETI pot and am planning on getting one myself this year.
posted by Rocket26 at 11:15 AM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Having just gotten over a similar cold to the one you describe, I can honestly say that the prescription steroid made the difference for me, coupled with getting more rest than I thought I really needed. Take the time to relax, rest, eat well, and hydrate, and don't rush back into the gym or strenuous activity. As with many of these things, your body needs time to fight this off, so I would listen to your doctor's wait-and-see approach if things are not getting worse.
posted by galimatias at 12:35 PM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all - you're awesome as usual.

dfriedman, you raise a valid point about antibiotics. The NP thought I had a sinus infection, and when prescribed something I take it religiously. I use "cold" loosely - I've should say I had "cold-like symptoms" for a month.

oinopaponton, good question. The MD had me tested for mono and it came back negative. And while I'm tired, it isn't the soul-sucking exhaustion I've heard of from mono sufferers, so I think the negative test rules it out. I can get out of bed and take care of myself, I just can't do anything strenuous or focus for too long.

Everyone else, thanks for the thoughts - it's remarkable that every comment here is useful. It's especially helpful to hear that others are experience unusually long colds this year. I'll keep resting for the weekend and next week, and if nothing changes by Wednesday I'll call my MD again.
posted by Tehhund at 2:03 PM on October 30, 2010

Month-long cold? Make sure pneumonia is ruled out.
posted by ocherdraco at 2:13 PM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Me too on the month long cold; I haven't been able to run or do anything. I stayed in bed for two days earlier this week, I missed a day of work the week before last, I think a day the week before that, and now I'm better but with a cough that sounds like Keith Richards. I still have a sore throat all the time and my ear hurts.

I haven't taken antibiotics and I am getting better (I ran five miles this morning) but I can still feel that my lungs and body are burdened and I'm trying to get as much rest as possible. Now though at 7PM I don't feel exhausted, which is how I'd been feeling. And I'm hungry and interested in food and having a beer after work -- I didn't feel like any of those things earlier this week.

I brought a teapot to work so I could drink tea all day long. I don't know if it helped as much as made me feel like I was doing something. Ambien has helped, because I haven't wanted to mess around with sleep at all--it's really felt like the one effective thing.

You'll feel better. Feel free to get paranoid about bronchitis and pneumonia.

I have never been sick so long in my adult life but it's getting better, just don't stress your system out by staying up late or forcing yourself to exercise or running errands in the rain, at least, if it's anything like what I've got. You really need to hole up in a big blanket as much as possible.

Teaspoons of chicken bouillion dissolved in hot water is delicious.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:29 PM on October 30, 2010

MY husband had something very similar to this.
He got tested for mono among other things. Nada.
He was miserable for about 5 weeks (so I was too) but he got better a couple weeks ago.
He had such fatigue he was miserable.
Hopefully it's only the horrible bug he had.
posted by beccaj at 6:53 PM on October 30, 2010

Colds often turn into sinus infections, and sometimes the latter don't respond to the first antibiotic tried. I've been sick for a month like that before and it took a second round of a different antibiotic to finally lick it.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:45 PM on October 30, 2010

Oh, and consider rinsing out your sinuses with a neti pot every night.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:09 PM on October 30, 2010

I learned a lesson when I had pneumonia: if it's been a solid week and your cold is not even a tiny bit better/improved, GO TO THE DOCTOR. And I mean, call them on MONDAY. It's been a freaking month? Geez, they need to try other things, test you, something.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:06 PM on October 31, 2010

Response by poster: Following up in case someone else reads this for insight into their sinus issues. It turned out to be pretty run-of-the-mill sinusitis, probably secondary to a bacterial infection. It was confirmed by a head CT - and even I could see that there was lots of mucus where there should have been very little. A 20-day run of a new antibiotic plus a much higher dose of oral steroids got me back to 100% pretty quickly. I just needed to go to an ENT specialist who went a little more in depth.
posted by Tehhund at 6:13 PM on January 9, 2011

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