Help! My Head Cold has Affected my Brain

foggy silhouette to illustrate impaired cognitive function with a cold

All morning I’ve sat in front of my computer trying to write without much success.  There’s a box of tissues close at hand and a fog in my brain so thick I’m surprised I’m able to compose this sentence.

Head Cold Brain Fog

‘I can’t think straight,’ I complained to my partner earlier. ‘I’m trying to write and I can’t put together an argument, I can’t concentrate, I don’t know what I’m trying to say.’

‘It’s because you’re ill,’ she replied, trying to make me see sense.

Before you start worrying, let me assure you that I am suffering from a mere head cold, nothing major in the illness stakes, but it is taking its toll.

For the last three days, besides sneezing and blowing my nose, I’ve been unable to do much besides sit quietly and read and sleep.  I can’t face emails, I can’t face work, and I sure as hell can’t think. My mood is very low and I just want to hide away from the world until I’m better.  But there’s this other part of me that’s telling me to get a move on, get back to work, do something productive for God’s sake.

I was wondering if I was perhaps over-reacting to having a cold when I decided to go online to do some research.

Head Colds Do Affect Cognitive Ability

It turns out I’m not a hypochondriac after all.  My cold is definitely affecting my brain’s ability to function.

According to a study conducted by Professor Andrew P. Smith of Cardiff University and published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity, participants with colds reported ‘lower alertness, a more negative mood, and psychomotor slowing.

They were also slower at encoding new information and slower on the verbal reasoning and semantic processing tasks.’

The sort of cognitive impairment you see from a common cold is in the same ballpark with the consumption of alcohol, working at night or working for prolonged hours.’ Andrew P. Smith PhD

Unfortunately, the study doesn’t say how long I can expect these symptoms to go on for. But at least I can rest assured that what I am experiencing is perfectly ‘normal’.

So, there seems no point in pushing myself to do anything that is going to require verbal reasoning or semantic processing. Maybe today is a good day to listen to some of those health podcasts I like so much.

For now, I’m just relieved that I’ve managed to write approximately 400 words.  I just hope they make sense. If they don’t, I’ll obviously be the last person to know.

Photo: Thanks to butler.corey on

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10 Responses to Help! My Head Cold has Affected my Brain

  1. Nat March 22, 2017 at 8:34 pm #

    Oh god yes! I got a cold & oh my brain isn’t working. I was fine early today but now I am worrying about relationships & cang concentrate on my work at all! It’s horrible I don’t feel right. I just want to sleep all the time! It’s cold weather too and that’s making me worse! Can’t even concentrate on favourite tv shows. I usually watch them and work on my design & do chores in between! So I’m feeling the same! Good to know that it’s my cold doing this to me! Hope it passes soon! Early night for me! Lol.

    • Angie Macdonald April 4, 2017 at 7:22 pm #

      Hi Nat. Hope you’ve got over your cold by now. I have another one, my second in 2 months! I’ve read that it’s normal to feel tired and depressed while having a cold – it’s nature’s way of keeping you at home away from other people who may infect you with other harmful bugs and also prevents you from infecting them. The good news is, it will pass.

  2. Anne April 12, 2015 at 3:20 am #

    This makes perfect sense. I’ve had a cold for the past five days and because of it – and my currently horrible life circumstances – I’ve been rather foggy and depressed.

  3. shahzaib January 25, 2015 at 4:09 pm #

    I think I am having the same cold. My eyes are blurring, head hurts, when I read something I get dizzy feeling. Is there anything wrong? what is the treatment and home remedies?

    • Angie Macdonald January 26, 2015 at 4:02 pm #

      Hi Shahzaib. Unfortunately, there’s no cure for the common cold. All you can do is rest, drink lots of fluids and make sure you don’t pass on your cold to others by staying at home if you are sneezing and not feeling well and washing your hands often. Zinc is good to take to help the immune system (no more than 15mg a day). If your sinuses are blocked then a steam bath with a bowl of hot water and about 10 drops of eucalyptus oil is very good for relieving the pressure. Put a towel over your head to prevent the steam escaping and breathe deeply. Do this for about 10 minutes or as long as the steam keeps on rising. I hope you feel better soon.

  4. Blake October 7, 2014 at 5:30 am #

    I have to agree. I have a cold right now and I haven’t been able to study properly at all. I have a job that requires a lot of thinking on the go, and I had to leave work simply because of my inability to do my job.

    • Angie Macdonald October 7, 2014 at 11:55 am #

      Sorry to hear that, Blake. Hope you feel better soon.

  5. Angela August 7, 2014 at 3:02 am #

    Every single time I catch a cold I feel like my brain is literally melting and dripping through my nose. My ability to think is heavily affected and I can’t find the words I need to express a thought even if what I want to say is something as simple as ….( I literally couldn’t think of an example there).
    It feels good to know that this situation is actually normal and I am not really wiping my brains off my nose.

    • Don December 13, 2016 at 11:32 am #

      To me, it feels like I’m stoned without taking any drugs of medication. It like a natural dopy high drug feeling

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