Feeling Sick On Your Period? 5 Questions About "Period Colds," Answered

We've got plenty to worry about when it comes to feeling sick on our periods — mind-numbing cramps, heavy bleeding, constipation, bloating, etc. 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 slight fever, stuffy nose, and body aches.

I know I've been there — more than once. I remember lying in bed nauseous, clutching a tissue box and a hot water bottle, wondering why menstruating has to be so damn hard sometimes. Well, it doesn't necessarily have to be that difficult all the time. The more we know, the more we can sometimes mitigate the symptoms. Sometimes the flu-like ailments can be clearly explained, while other times they're a mystery. Then there's 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.

Here are five questions about getting sick on your period, answered.

1. What Symptoms Are Normal Before And During Your Period?

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Let's start with the basics. Pretty much every human being who has ever menstruated has encountered cramps. Dr. Susan Haas, associate professor of OBGYN at Boston University, told the Huffington Post that the uterus is a powerful muscle that squeezes really hard, which will result in discomfort at some point. You've also dealt with bloating, heightened sensitivity to pain, and feeling really tired.

Then there's the heavy bleeding, which 10 million American women experience at some point in their menstruating lifetime. Mood swings, constipation and diarrhea, and sore breasts are also among the common side effects of shedding the uterine lining. None of these symptoms should alarm you, unless they're putting you in extreme, miserable discomfort, of course.

2. What Are The Cold And Flu-Like PMS Symptoms?

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. 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.

3. Why Do You Seem More Likely To Get A Cold When You're PMSing Or On Your Period?

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While there's not a great deal of science behind this phenomenon (thanks guys!), some research suggests that your immune system temporarily declines when you're PMSing. The United States National Library of Medicine agrees, noting that the body goes through immune system cell changes, and you're especially susceptible to feeling under the weather.

We know for sure that prostaglandins play a big role in the whole thing too. Prostaglandins are a fatty acid compound that affect 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. Dr. Molly O'Shea, a pediatrician in Oakland County, Michigan, says prostaglandins can find their way to the intestines, resulting in flu-like traits like vomiting, nausea, and "general achiness." Not fun.

Not all experts are in agreement, though. Dr. Steven R. Goldstein, OBGYN professor at New York University School of Medicine, told Cosmopolitan that women are confusing cold symptoms — runny nose, sore throat, etc. — with preexisting allergies or similar conditions that are simply exacerbated by the hormonal changes of your period. 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.

4. When Should You Be Worried About These Symptoms?

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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.

5. What Can You Do To Prevent Feeling Sick?

For starters, make sure you're living a healthy, well-rounded life. Eat plenty of protein, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables, while staying away from processed foods. Drink lots and lots of water as well. Exercise regularly and, most importantly of all, sleep — especially on the days leading up to your period.

Look into supplements too, such as vitamin B-6, folic acid, magnesium, and vitamin D. Nutrients like this will keep you from getting too fatigued, and they'll boost your immune system, helping you get through the day. (Talk to your doctor first, though, before you decide on a supplement cocktail.) Also, keep ibuprofen handy, as it can help with the negative effects of prostaglandins in your system.

Above all else, establish a good relationship with an OBGYN you trust. They will be able to guide you through every twist and turn of your period. At the end of the day, it's comforting to know they're the expert, so you don't have to face your period alone and unprepared.

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