As if all the typical period side effects aren't bad enough, there are also a lot of us who face cold and flu-like symptoms during our periods.
Those of us who menstruate know that periods can come with some truly annoying side effects. They can make us bloated, mess with our skin, and even affect our moods. It ain't easy shedding that uterine wall lining, and the hard work sometimes takes a toll on us.
But as if all the typical period side effects aren't bad enough, there are also a lot of us who face cold and flu-like symptoms during our periods as well. It's like we've been hit with a nasty cold the week before our period arrives, complete with a slight fever, stuffy nose, and body aches.
Your period can result in a host of nasty symptoms, and many women are unaware of what constitutes ‘normal’.
Sometimes the flu-like ailments can be clearly explained, while other times they're a mystery. Then there is the small chance they are pointing to something more serious.
No matter what, if you've had a fever before on your period, or are wondering why you always seem to get a cold on your period, just know you're not the only one.
Continue reading to learn more on the reasons why you get those hard symptoms and how you can minimize your suffering from them.
A whole variety of symptoms
It’s true, period colds really are a thing. In the week or so leading up to your period, you may feel particularly under the weather, with a runny nose, body aches, nausea, and flu-like symptoms just before menstruation. While you might chalk this up to allergies or a funny coincidence, it could actually be linked to your monthly cycle.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say that, in addition to the typical afflictions, some women get a bad headache, body and muscle aches, and a runny nose around the time of their period.
They also may feel fatigued, especially in the late afternoon when the blood sugar drops, and then they're not able to perform daily tasks.
It's also not uncommon to hear women report nausea and vomiting leading up to and/or during their period. Other correlated symptoms include dizziness, loss of appetite, sensitivity to light, and irritability.
These are all typical symptoms of an everyday cold, and it’s not uncommon to experience cold symptoms during your period too.
All sorts of symptoms can present themselves, some nastier than others. Signs of a cold might not seem like the end of the world, but if your period leaves you feeling exhausted, achy and sniffly every month, it can be a real drag.
It's different for everyone, though, just like the flu doesn't look the same for every individual. Some women only experience one of the above problems, while others get slammed with a plethora of them.
That nasty PMS
There’s isn’t exactly a ton of research surrounding period sickness, but the research that does exist suggests your immune system temporarily declines in the week or two leading up to your period, thanks to PMS.
Pre-menstrual syndrome, or PMS, can be responsible for a vast number of nasty symptoms, and this could lie behind what you assume is a cold.
It’s not uncommon to encounter a runny nose, sore throat and serious fatigue thanks to PMS. Plus, women who suffer from PMS can also experience symptoms ranging from achy pains and headaches to nausea and vomiting – all of which can also be signs that they have the flu!
So, it can be hard to tell what lies at the root of your symptoms. However, if you suspect that your cold-like symptoms are down to PMS, then you can try keeping a symptoms diary for a few months.
This will enable you to pinpoint exactly what time of the month these symptoms tend to appear and whether they occur in a consistent pattern or at random.
If your symptoms seem to follow the same pattern every month, PMS could be at play. Visit your doctor and take your diary with you. They may recommend you try something which could help to alleviate PMS symptoms.
If you are taking some medications already, they might recommend a different method which works better for you.
Other possible reasons
Not all women health experts agree on the role of PMS in period colds. Some say that your body is especially susceptible to immune system cell changes during menstruation, which makes it especially likely that you could start feeling weak and sick close to your period.
If you have a pre-existing cold or allergies, the symptoms will also become more prominent in and around your menstrual cycle as a result of your period sickness. So it's possible you're not really, truly getting a cold. You're just experiencing whatever health issues you had before, only more aggravated. Awesome.
We know for sure that prostaglandins play a big role in the whole thing too. Prostaglandins are a fatty acid compound that affects the body much like hormones; when your body is preparing for a period, they are released from the uterus in order to make way for bleeding. But they can have a nasty effect on the rest of the body.
Some doctors think prostaglandins can find their way to the intestines, resulting in flu-like traits like vomiting, nausea, and "general achiness." Not fun.
Other research suggests that you may be more susceptible to catching a cold right before your period, as your levels of antibodies are reduced at this time.
It is thought that your immune system is affected by sex hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, which, as we know, prompt ovulation and prepare the womb for a fertilized egg. As these hormones fluctuate, your immune function is slightly reduced just before you menstruate, and it then increases again once your period starts.
So, you may be more prone to a cold right before your period starts! However, from the first day of your period until around day 14, women tend to have higher levels of antibodies, so may be better equipped to fight off these viruses.
Therefore, it seems like it may be a matter of luck and bad timing.
When to see your doctor
Whether your cold symptoms are due to PMS or not, they can leave you feeling run-down and exhausted, so what can you do to help?
Luckily, anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen and naproxen have been shown to combat some of this menstrual unpleasantness, especially the achiness. That said, keep in mind that according to the Food and Drug Administration, the maximum over-the-counter daily dose of ibuprofen is 1200 milligrams, and you should take the minimum amount you need to feel better.
If you've got a persistently nasty fever — over 102 degrees Fahrenheit — don't accept it as just another flu-like symptom you have to deal with on your period. Call your doctor immediately to schedule an appointment.
Although the chances are slim, you might be facing an infection or Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).
In fact, if any of these symptoms happen every single month for more than a few days at a time, and leave you debilitated for a day or two, have a chat with your OBGYN to see if there's something else going on.
If you always feel like you get a cold on your period, you could be facing a serious hormonal imbalance or nutrient deficiency. While there are a lot of women who get hit with these ailments, that doesn't mean it's completely normal — and it definitely doesn't mean you have to accept them lying down.
Of course, you shouldn't discount the possibility that you might actually have the flu or cold when you're also getting your period. And if a miserable period is getting in the way of you living your life, it's worth speaking with your doctor about more long-term ways to feel better, such as going on a form of medicine that can alleviate symptoms.