10 Crazy Common Cold Symptoms You Probably Didn’t Know About

A runny nose is a sure tell-tale sign that a cold is imminent, but there are also many less obvious symptoms of the common cold.

I'm having crazy dreams

Girl-SleepingAfrica Studio/Shutterstock
Most dreams happen during REM (rapid eye movement), the deepest stage of sleep, and when we are sick and have a fever, our minds can be more active than usual during REM. "Fever can bring on crazy dreams and bizarre thoughts," says Gina Lynem, MD, a physician at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Usually, with a cold, your fever doesn't get above 100 degrees, she explains, but with the flu, it can spike to 100 degrees or higher. While research shows a link between vivid dreams and nightmares and having the cold and flu, treatments to help alleviate common cold and flu symptoms such as over-the-counter cold medications with antihistamines may also alter REM sleep and increase the chance for having crazy dreams. Check out these 10 other health conditions that can affect your sleep.

My morning coffee tastes strange


Anywhere from 75 to 95 percent of our taste is related to smell, so in order to fully appreciate the flavor of foods, we have to be able to smell them. Because the nose plays such an important part in what we taste, when it is stuffed up with mucus, we can temporarily lose our sense of smell and taste. "When you have a cold, your body is trying to fight off the virus," says Dr. Lynem. "The tissue in your nasal passages and throat become inflamed and obstructed and because of this, you lose your sense of smell and taste." Here are eight medical reasons why we lose our sense of smell.

I'm craving junk food

PretzelMarie C Fields/Shutterstock

When we are sick we just want to feel better, which means we often turn to comfort foods, says Dr. Lynem. "But instead of reaching for the junk food, the best thing to do is to increase your intake of vitamin C—oranges and orange juice." While craving salty foods may indicate that you are dehydrated, rather than reach for the chips, Dr. Lynem suggests having something that is more soothing and hydrating such as warm apple juice, chicken soup, or hot tea with honey, as honey has natural anti-inflammatory properties. Gargling with salt and warm water is also recommended as it can help decrease the inflammation in your throat, says Dr. Lynem. Here are the top foods to eat when you have a cold.

I can't concentrate at work

WorkJacob Lund/Shutterstock
When you have a cold or the flu, you feel fatigued, your stamina is reduced, and it makes it hard to concentrate, explains Dr. Lynem. "When you can't focus on what you need to be doing, we recommend staying home." In addition to not spreading your germs to your co-workers, you need to get your rest, says Dr. Lynem. "Resting for one to two days will boost your immune system so you can get back to being productive." If your common cold symptoms don't improve after 10 days or if you have chest pain or shortness of breath, you need to go to the doctor. Here are seven rules for when to call in sick for work.

Content continues below ad

I'm thirsty all the time

WaterAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

When you have a cold, you cough, sneeze, and sniffle, causing your body to lose fluids through nasal drainage, says Dr. Lynem. A low-grade fever (100 degrees or less) is also a symptom of a common cold, causing you to sweat and lose body fluids. The loss of body fluids, along with the fact that your mouth may be dry because you can't breathe through your nose, makes us thirstier than usual, says Dr. Lynem. Drinking warm liquids such as chicken soup can help with hydration and have been proven to help with congestion by thinning down the mucus. While staying hydrated is important, don't overdo it--too much fluid can lead to over-hydration, which can be dangerous. Check out these six signs of electrolyte imbalance.

My head hurts when I brush my hair

Hair-brush9dream studio/Shutterstock

Muscle aches and pains are common cold symptoms and can affect all parts of the body, even the muscles of the face and scalp, says Dr. Lynem. "But when you have pain that radiates to the head from the face, that can be a symptom of sinusitis," she says. Sinusitis (an inflammation or swelling of the tissue lining the sinuses), often a result of the common cold, along with dermatitis, migraines, and shingles are all symptoms of scalp sensitivity. If the pain lasts more than 10 days, you should see a doctor, says Dr. Lynem. Here are 10 more symptoms of shingles you might be ignoring.

I don't feel like talking to anyone

girl-on-couch4 PM production/Shutterstock
According to research, illnesses such as the common cold and flu can not only make you feel lethargic, they can mimic and cause symptoms of depression. "When you are not feeling well, you don't want to be bothered," says Dr. Lynem. The lack of socialization may also be associated with the weather. "Not only are we more likely to get colds in the winter, we may also be affected by seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which makes us feel sad and lethargic, says Dr. Lynem. Depending on the severity of your cold, one can improve their mood by getting outside. "We need sunshine," says Dr. Lynem. "Going outside for a 15-minute walk can boost your mood and your immune system, but don't overdo it." Read about these eight silent signs of seasonal affective disorder.

Working out makes me feel better

treadmillFilipe Frazao/Shutterstock

While exercising when you have a fever or chest congestion is not advised, mild to moderate physical activity is usually OK when you have a common cold. (And, in fact, regular exercise is one of the 23 daily habits of people who never get sick.) According to The Mayo Clinic, exercising when you have a cold may help you feel better by opening your nasal passages and temporarily relieving nasal congestion. Exercising also boosts endorphins, which can make you feel better. While some research has shown that regular, moderate-intensity exercise may have an effect on the prevention of the common cold, when you have a cold it is better to take it easy and modify your exercise routine. "When you are sick you don't want to overexpose yourself to the elements, become drenched with sweat, or workout too strenuously," says Dr. Lynem."The best thing you can do is rest."

Content continues below ad

I need to wear my darkest sunglasses

SunglassesVladimir Trynkalo/Shutterstock

When you have a cold or the flu, your eyes can become red, inflamed, and irritated, making them more sensitive to light, says Dr. Lynem. Headaches caused by blocked sinuses can also contribute to making our eyes extra sensitive to light. Another condition associated with the common cold is viral conjunctivitis (pink eye), which can cause our eyes to itch and burn, become red, and discharge mucus. "When your eyes are sensitive, wearing sunglasses when it is sunny (or not) is recommended," she says. "Cold compresses, which can help reduce inflammation and pain, are also recommended." Check out these 39 simple habits to protect your eyes.

I'm hungrier than usual

Dinner-PlateJuly Prokopiv/Shutterstock
When you are sick and are suffering from symptoms of the common cold, you may feel hungrier because your body is trying to build up its immune system and fight off the virus, explains Dr. Lynem. "The saying 'feed a cold, starve a fever' is an old wives tale—you always want to get proper nutrition, especially when you are sick." When you have a cold and your body is asking for food, you should eat as much as you can but stick to a softer diet, she explains. Homemade chicken soup is a good option because it offers vitamins, protein, and is hydrating. Other foods to eat when you have a cold include clear broths, garlic, salmon, oatmeal, and hot tea. "Add honey or ginger to your hot tea—both help with inflammation," says Dr. Lynem. Check out these nine clear signs that a cold is coming and how to stop it.

View as Slideshow

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.