The miseries tied to a common cold – sore throat, stuffy head, drippy nose – are no fun. Yet these uncomfortable symptoms are far from the worst of it. Catching a cold could set you up for a deadly super infection.
Pneumonia, strep, asthma, acute bacterial sinusitis are just a few of the potentially serious illnesses you can develop on top of a little cold. And while the common cold lasts only about 3-7 days, debilitating super infections can last for weeks, sometimes months, and in some cases, they can even be fatal.
What is a Super Infection?
A super infection is a secondary illness that strikes when your body is still busy fighting off an initial bug like a cold.
There are at least 200 cold viruses that can worm their way into your system, infiltrating your healthy cells. In defense, your body’s immune system sends out an army of white blood cells, including B and T cells, to conquer invaders. But while these troops are busy fighting off the relatively harmless cold virus, you become more susceptible to stronger, nastier germs – a super infection.
A Bad Cold Vs. a Super Infection
Whenever you have a cold or the flu, you run through symptoms then start to feel better. In the case of a super infection, you may feel as if you’ve recovered before a second wave of symptoms suddenly hits.
People with chronic health conditions like diabetes, obesity or even cardiovascular disease are more susceptible to super infections. But virulent strains of virus such as the 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak can cause super infections even in healthy young people.
To determine if your cold has turned into a super infection, you need to know where these nasty invaders are most likely to strike.
Your Body’s Danger Zones
Your lungs are vulnerable to perhaps the deadliest super infection: pneumonia.
Warning signs include fever above 101F, chest pain, cough, difficulty breathing and shaking chills. See your doctor immediately if you think you have pneumonia. A bluish discoloration to your lips means you may not be getting enough oxygen. If this occurs, call 911 and get to the ER right away.
It’s very common for a super infection to settle in your throat and strep (streptococcal infection) ranks as the most classic case. Symptoms to watch for include throat pain, difficulty swallowing, fever, headache and swollen lymph nodes. Click here for more info on strep.
Acute bacterial sinusitis – the super infection that most commonly affects sinuses – presents with symptoms of green nasal discharge; headaches, especially when you lean foreword or have pressure against your forehead; and fever. You’ll need antibiotics to cure a case of acute bacterial sinusitis. Click here for more on sinus infections.
To prevent a cold and its potentially deadly follow up – the super infection – beef up your body’s resistance with Dr. Oz’s Super-Immunity Checklist.
Dr. Oz’s Super-Immunity Checklist
Avoid Too Much Sugar
The average American consumes a whopping 22 teaspoons of sugar per day. Research shows that sugar can interfere with your white blood cells’ response to invading bacteria. Consume no more than 4 teaspoons of sugar each day.
Maintain a Healthy Body Mass Index (BMI)
People with a body mass index (BMI) above 40 tend to get sick most often from colds or the flu. That’s because extra weight throws off the hormonal balance critical to healthy immune function. Click here to calculate your BMI, and here to lose 10 pounds with Dr. Oz’s Just 10 Challenge.
Too much stress wages war on your immune system. People under pressure are 75% more likely to get a cold. Symptoms include headache, trouble sleeping, irritability and feeling out of control. Click here for to assess your stress level and here to take Dr. Oz’s Stress-Proof Your Life Challenge.
Prevent Dry Nose
A drippy, runny nose is a good thing. Wet, clear nasal mucous helps trap and flush out germs, whereas, a dry nose can signal suppressed immunity. To keep sinuses moist, run a humidifier in your bedroom at night, or try a Neti pot to cleanse the nasal passages.
Dose Yourself with Vitamin C
By taking vitamin C, you can reduce the length of time you’re suffering from a cold by up to 2 days, making it harder for a super infection to strike. Try Dr. Oz’s Super- Immunity Vitamin C Smoothie.
Wash Your Hands Often
You know frequent hand washing keeps cold germs at bay. Remember to wash them with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds or longer. Dry hands thoroughly afterward since germs can thrive on wet palms. Use paper towels to dry hands thoroughly; a hand dryer steals moisture from skin and rubbing your hands together can spread more germs around.