Anyone else have a weird head cold lately?
September 2, 2021 4:50 PM   Subscribe

I'm currently suffering with the first head cold I've had since the pandemic started, and I've never experienced one quite like it. It's definitely not COVID. If this has happened to you recently, how long did it last and what helped you feel better?

I'm 99% certain this is a cold, since I got sick a day or two after spending time with a family in which multiple members were getting over one. I've had two COVID tests and both were negative.

What's strange about this cold is that the main symptoms are fatigue and a persistent low-grade fever. I'll be congested for a few hours, but then it goes away. Or, I'll have a morning of sneezing, but then it's over. No sore throat, no cough. But I'm just. so. tired. During a typical cold, I'm very tired and achy at the beginning, then it gives way to lots of nose blowing and so forth. I feel like I've been stuck on day 1-2 of a cold for over two weeks -- this is day 16 of feeling ill. Sometimes I feel better for a day or two, and then I have to take a few hours of sick time because I can't get through the day without a nap.

Most concerning to me is the low-grade fever, although a nurse at my clinic assures me it's not a big deal. My typical body temperature is typically on the low side, but I've been hitting 99.0 - 99.5 almost every day for the last 10 days or so. The higher temp usually seems to coincide with feeling really tired and run down.

Has anyone else experienced anything like this lately? Is this because my immune system did nothing for almost 18 months and is now freaked out at the first sign of a germ? (Although it DID get quite the work out after my second Pfizer vax.)

If you've had a similar illness, how long did it take to resolve?! I'm coming up on one of the busiest work weeks of my year and I'm not sure how I'm going to feel up to tackling it.
posted by leftover_scrabble_rack to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's important not to exert yourself while your body is busy fighting something. You should let them know you're sick now & take the time off if it all possible.
posted by bleep at 4:59 PM on September 2, 2021

Best answer: I did have a run like this, and I'm pretty sure it was full-body pandemic burnout depression with maybe a sprinkling of allergies making it worse and slightly more cold-like. But yes to the low fever, the fatigue but no real body aches. I kept saying it felt like a cold, except basically none of my cold systems. I think my body just didn't feel good.

It took a while to register that this has happened before several times in the past year and a half, and happened a few weeks before the first US lockdowns after I'd had two deaths in the family and my body was not having it.

It took a ton of sleep, and I had to take sleeping pills (I take a half or a third of doxylamine succinate, about the mildest sleep med there is) every night for...well, I still am, about a month later, to get really good deep sleep every night. Water and electrolytes, staying on top of them over the full course of the day. Magnesium with dinner, for better sleep. Watching my fiber as I also was having digestive discontent (nothing drastic, but definitely signs that the machine was not running very well).

Self-care, basically.

I haven't seen any people since June so that's definitely not a factor, but for you the stress of seeing people and maybe vaguely upsetting your immune system with their cold (or general existence) pathogens might be a factor, but honestly: are you burned out?
posted by Lyn Never at 5:03 PM on September 2, 2021 [5 favorites]

Yep. Had the exact same thing after a vacation in June. Two negative tests, and the exact same symptoms. Mine cleared up super fast, though. Like, 2.5 days all in all.
posted by hwyengr at 5:25 PM on September 2, 2021

Best answer: I had this exact thing recently (complete with negative rapid and PCR tests) but kicked it in about 5 days (though total time til I was working out again was 10 days)….by taking a few days off work at its peak and prioritizing sleep, hydration, diet, and keeping unnecessary physical exertion to a minimum. If you’re fortunate enough to have the ability to use some time off (or to at least build in some lighter days) at work and at home, please do…trying to “power through” isn’t going to do you any favors.
posted by blue suede stockings at 5:25 PM on September 2, 2021

Might just be some weird virus stressing your immune system. Try to take the old advice of eating right, and getting plenty of rest. Consider also the possibility of allergies, and maybe try taking some Allegra or Claritin and see if that helps.
posted by gudrun at 5:26 PM on September 2, 2021

Are you me? I had the exact same symptoms last week. I couldn't sleep and was convinced I had covid, even though I'm double vaxxed. Got the Covid test and it came back negative.

I slept better after the test and am feeling better overall, but I do still feel a bit run down. I'm with Lyn that this is likely stress/anxiety related.
posted by kaefer at 5:28 PM on September 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Yep, my 18yo kid had it + is vaccinated + had negative rapid & PCR tests. Took about 5-7 days for it to pass completely. Keep yourself hydrated and don't push yourself.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:43 PM on September 2, 2021

I have this right now. Including a gut-ache. Took ibuprofen this morning and slept like the dead for a coupla hours, ending at 1PM. I went to let my xaughters dogs out. Flopped on the couch, too tired to turn off the overhead fan, then I got up and did it. Flopped back down, needed ibuprofen too tired, then I did it. Conked out. I have something, but I am too lame to do anything about it except take care.
posted by Oyéah at 5:45 PM on September 2, 2021

Right after we finally actually saw people again this summer, I got the worst cold I've had in years. No fever, no aches, nothing, just really horrible congestion for a couple weeks. It just had to run its course. Lots of tea, lots of Sudafed (I'm allergic to DayQuil and NyQuil, it sucks), and lots of Mucinex.

I mean, most of us have had way less people contact for the last couple years than we normally do; it make sense that we're going to come down with all manner of nonsense that isn't Covid when we see people again.
posted by joycehealy at 5:52 PM on September 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I’ve had random viruses or infections like that in the past, and sometimes I don't really notice them until I start feeling better. I think we’re more likely to be aware of them now because of being on alert for covid + not being sick for 18 months thanks to covid precautions.
posted by songs about trains at 5:53 PM on September 2, 2021

I started coming down with cold symptoms on Aug 17. No fever, but runny nose, lots of sneezing, coughing, and so tired. The feeling of having an active head cold subsided after about 10 days, but I'm still coughing periodically. Not so much the congested-lung kind, just a maddening throat tickle that comes on suddenly and won't let up until I've dry-hacked for a couple of minutes.

The tiredness is still hitting me off and on. Last Saturday I was up for a few hours in the morning, then went back to bed at noon and didn't get up again until 8 pm. I'm also needing naps to get through the day, more than the normal for me.

Someone suggested to me that the coughing and tiredness could be allergy symptoms, apparently it's a bad time for allergies around here for anyone who is prone. So I started taking loratadine (the non-drowsy stuff) a couple of days ago. Not sure if it's helping, although I do seem to have a bit less post-nasal drainage so there's that.

So yeah, I'm at just over two weeks of feeling run down with this, whatever it is.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:07 PM on September 2, 2021

Similar symptoms. We're vaccinated, except for the granddaughter, and have all either had Covid or definitely been exposed and asymptomatic. Recurrent but intermittent light drainage, occasional cough I think as a result, intermittent sore throat, believe intermittent low-grade fevers but haven't caught them on thermometer, more tiredness in the two of us that haven't been constantly tired since having Covid in December... (I'm still dealing with constant sleepiness myself - it's gotten worse again, after being measureably better during April-June.)

This is not a time of year I normally get allergies, and this has been going on for the better part of a couple of months for me, but lasted 2-4 weeks for the others. Granddaughter is a couple weeks into it. Several other people I know, both vaxxed and unvaxxed, have mentioned similar extended "colds" just in the last two months.

In other words, I don't know what exactly is going around, but I'm absolutely convinced something is, and it's not normal allergies or normal seasonal colds for this time of year.

The aftereffects of this pandemic are going to keep scientists busy for decades, I think.
posted by stormyteal at 6:33 PM on September 2, 2021 [3 favorites]

After a career of getting every virus that came down the pike (I taught elementary and then middle school), the pandemic meant that I didn't get anything for quite a while until I got a cold in the first part of the summer. It was quite unpleasant, and I wonder if not having regular colds made me more vulnerable when I finally did get one.
posted by Peach at 6:45 PM on September 2, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I had that, and my housemate did too - exact same symptoms, about a month ago. Like you, my temp generally runs low (I'm usually around 97-97.5) and my highest temp was 100.1. The fever wasn't constant; mostly it came on mid-day or late night. I kept thinking I was over it in the morning because my temp would be normal and I'd feel fine, until later in the day. I also kept waiting for the cough, it never came. Kept waiting for it to descend into my chest like every other cold I ever had, and it never did.

We got tested for COVID and the tests were negative. We've both been fully vaccinated since February. We both were fully recovered after 3-4 days. But we rested hard for that entire time -- and hydrated hard, too. We're usually "work through it" people - this was possibly the most well-tended cold ever to cross our threshold, and I suspect that's we got better so quickly.
posted by invincible summer at 6:57 PM on September 2, 2021

I take a half or a third of doxylamine succinate

This is just to say that I am also quite fond of doxylamine for recovery purposes, much more so than other equivalent drugs, so if you need a sleep aid consider this one. Everyone is different, and some people prefer diphenhydramine (or more serious things), but if you've bounced off sleep aids before maybe give doxylamine a try.

["Unisom" is a US brand that has doxylamine formulations -- BUT IT ALSO has diphenhydramine formulations, so be sure you know what you're getting]
posted by aramaic at 7:27 PM on September 2, 2021 [4 favorites]

I got a very similar cold in mid August. I think in my case it was a combo of "immune system out of practice" and "no longer used to having a cold and didn't remember how unpleasant it is" with a little dash of "toddler hadn't had a cold since she was three months old and kept me up all night whining".
posted by potrzebie at 10:48 PM on September 2, 2021

It is fascinating that so many other people have the same thing. Add me to the list. Weirdly and utterly exhausted despite sleeping, allergy-type symptoms, stuffy nose.
posted by EllaEm at 6:04 AM on September 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Piling on. About a month ago I cautiously agreed to participate in an interview for work - I was double-masked, N95 for almost whole time except for the actual presentation itself, but unfortunately most others were not masked. Four days later I started experiencing some of these symptoms (fatigue, periodic spiking of a mild fever, sore throat), freaked out, but tested negative on day 5 after exposure. It went away after a few days of rest.
posted by Preserver at 7:22 AM on September 3, 2021

I am reminded, in case it helps anybody else, that around the time I had my cold-whatever-thing last month and was already taking daily cetirizine for allergies (they have no pattern in Los Angeles, it's just sometimes allergy time and sometimes not) and I read in an AskMe a passing reference to cetirizine worsening depression symptoms. Internet research suggested that yeah, maybe, for some people that's a thing. My partner switched to flonase and I switched to loratidine and we're both noticing less of that crushing fatigue, which for both of us is also a primary serious depression symptom.

We're both getting through entire workweeks without afternoon naps now, which is a marked difference to how we were at the time.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:05 AM on September 3, 2021

Yep, I had something last week that was weird / not a normal cold. I'm Team Moderna.
I've noticed that the sky is not a clear blue these days, no doubt due to wildfires back west. I put some of this galloping crud onto seasonal allergies and unusual levels of air pollution this summer.
Warm showers are good, particularly if you can just sit in the shower and take your time breathing in the steam and letting yourself air dry.
Get some rest, stay hydrated, and be gentle with yourself.
posted by TrishaU at 9:30 AM on September 3, 2021

Best answer: My doctor told me that she's been seeing a ton of this. Her hypothesis is that after 18 months of a lot less exposure to germs, all of our bodies are a little less used to fighting off germs, and we're all mentally a lot less used to sort of catching minor illnesses every now and again, and so we're all freaking out both mentally and physically at stuff that we used to just brush off as normal, because we've all forgotten that that's normal. I felt better after 4-5 days of feeling crummy.
posted by decathecting at 10:07 AM on September 3, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks for weighing in, everyone! So interesting to know that others have been having similar experiences. My sympathy to those of you who are/were feeling crummy. I marked a few best answers but everyone's feedback was really helpful.

When I read Lyn Never's question about being burned out, I burst out laughing. YUP, FEELING TOTALLY CALM AND RELAXED OVER HERE. My guess is that I got a cold from friends, and while in Normal Times it would have resolved in a week or whatever, I've got a perfect storm of an out-of-practice immune system, environmental factors (allergies, wildfire smoke), a body that's been stressed by 18 months of ::gestures wearily at America at large::, and an inability to fully devote myself to rest/hydration/healing because I've been juggling work, errands, chores, etc. I'm going to try and hunker down this weekend and make rest a priority.
posted by leftover_scrabble_rack at 1:59 PM on September 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Not sure this makes much practical difference, but when I read the question and saw long-lasting and exhausting, the first thing I thought was weird flu rather than weird cold.
Feel better!
posted by trig at 4:07 PM on September 3, 2021

My husband and I have had two bouts of Pure Exhaustion--no fever--for a full week twice, the first time after seeing a group of friends for the first time in 18 months, and the second time after going back to work on campus. We assume our bodies were fighting off viruses we hadn't been exposed to in a year and a half. But it might be psychological. Who knows?
posted by telophase at 12:42 PM on September 7, 2021

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