Chronic Cold – Causes, Treatment

Chronic rhinitis

Around 15 percent of the German population will suffer from a chronic cold in their lifetime . Swelling of the nasal mucosa, the constant feeling of clearing one’s throat: Patients suffer from chronic colds, which – if the paranasal sinuses are also affected – can even lead to headaches .

What is chronic cold?

A chronic cold (also called chronic rhinitis) is a persistent inflammation or irritation of the nasal mucous membranes.

The nasal mucosa reacts to inflammation and irritation with a thickening (increase in volume) in the turbinate area.


A chronic cold (chronic rhinitis) can have a wide variety of causes. The main causes are regular infections caused by viruses or bacteria .

However, allergies to a wide variety of pollen, animal hair and other allergens can also be considered as a cause. Even irritants such as dust or chemical vapors, very high or very low temperatures, cigarette smoke or even spices (e.g. pepper) can lead to chronic rhinitis.

Rarely, benign growths of the nasal mucosa – the so-called nasal polyps – can also be considered as the cause of the “ blocked nose ”. Tumors or a deviated nasal septum can also promote a chronic cold. In addition, certain medications (e.g. antihypertensive drugs) cause swelling of the nasal mucous membranes.

Probably the most typical symptom of a chronic cold is obstructed breathing through the nose due to the swelling of the nasal mucous membranes. Chronic rhinitis is often accompanied by a mucous secretion that flows from the nose. Those affected feel that they have to constantly clear their throat, because the nasal secretion often runs into the throat with a chronic cold. If the mucous membranes in the paranasal sinuses are also affected, headaches can occur in addition to the symptoms.

diseases with this symptom

Diagnosis & History

In order to be able to make the diagnosis “chronic cold”, the doctor will first ask the patient specifically about their symptoms in order to find out the causes. Furthermore, the nasopharynx is examined and the lungs are listened to, which means that other diseases such as inflammation of the bronchi or the pharyngeal tonsils can be ruled out.

In addition to these examinations, a nasal reflection (rhinoscopy) is often carried out, which allows a closer look into the nasopharynx. In this way, the entire interior of the nose and the condition of the nasal mucosa can be well assessed. This allows the doctor to identify specific causes such as polyps, tumors or a deviated nasal septum .

When making a diagnosis, it is also important to take a smear test to determine whether bacteria are responsible for the chronic cold. If an allergy is suspected, an allergy test , which is carried out after the acute symptoms have subsided, makes sense.

Depending on the treatment of the chronic cold, the disease also progresses. Untreated, the common cold usually does not go away as easily as an acute common cold would. Appropriate therapy is therefore essential.

↳ Further information: Home remedies for colds

When should you go to the doctor?

In general, chronic complaints require clarification by a doctor. In the case of chronic colds, a specialist should be consulted after about a week.

But even regularly recurring colds, which stop in the meantime and come back after some time, should be clarified by the doctor. Another indication for consulting a specialist are various accompanying symptoms. If the cold is characterized by a yellowish or even purulent secretion, this means that bacteria are involved. Here, taking an antibiotic may be necessary to eliminate the bacteria.

Accompanying symptoms such as headaches, fever, tonsil pain and a feeling of pressure in the head when bending over must also be clarified by a doctor. There can be chronic inflammation of the paranasal sinuses or the entire respiratory system. If this is not treated in time, widespread inflammation can result. Bacteria in the paranasal sinuses can also cross the blood-brain barrier and lead to meningitis.

In children with chronic colds, the pediatrician should be consulted after five days.

The first thing you can do is ask your family doctor for advice. Often he can already make a diagnosis. However, the right contact person for a persistent cold is the ear, nose and throat specialist . He can clarify the exact causes and, if necessary, initiate a suitable therapy.

Treatment & Therapy

The treatment of a chronic cold is primarily about eliminating the cause that contributes to the disease. If allergies are present, the triggering substance should be avoided and the allergy treated with appropriate medication. If the chronic rhinitis is the result of a deviated nasal septum or polyps, a nose operation is often carried out.

Salt water rinses are the simplest and also cheapest means of choice to relieve the symptoms and support the damaged nasal mucous membranes. The slimy secretion becomes thinner and can be better transported away via the cilia in the nose. Pollutants are also washed away in this way. Expectorant and anti-inflammatory steam baths with chamomile blossoms that are not too hot if possible also contribute to relief. If nasal breathing is only possible with great difficulty, a decongestant nasal spray before the steam band can also help.

Especially in the acute phase of chronic colds, decongestants in the form of sprays, drops or gels are recommended. They help to decongest the nasal mucous membranes and allow the mucus to drain, which means that the paranasal sinuses are well ventilated. It is important that decongestants are only used for a short period of time, because the active ingredients dry out the nasal mucosa, which means that those affected continue to use the sprays more and more often. This leads to a dry nose and permanent damage to the nasal mucosa.

Outlook & Forecasts

A chronic cold usually indicates an allergy, so that without any treatment or with appropriate medication, there is no significant improvement in sight. Only with appropriate medication can an allergy be alleviated to such an extent that the affected person does not have to accept any restrictions in their everyday life.

However, a chronic cold does not always have to be caused by an allergy; it can also be caused by a completely normal infection. In such a case, however, medical treatment is required. If such a cold has already existed for several weeks, there is no improvement in sight. In such a case, the nasal mucous membranes are permanently damaged, so that a full recovery can only be guaranteed with the right medication.

In addition, a chronic cold can also lead to various side effects. These include headaches , an elevated temperature or even chills . Under certain circumstances, a severe flu infection can develop without any treatment, which should be treated medically, especially in children. Otherwise there is even a risk of permanent consequential damage.


You can hardly prevent a chronic cold. However, patients with acute colds are advised to only use decongestants for a short period of time. Steam baths or nasal rinses are always much better suited for treatment.

If there is an allergy, the chronic cold can be prevented with appropriate treatment. It is important to consult an ENT doctor at the first small signs of chronic rhinitis , because if treatment is not given, it can also lead to an inflammation of the middle ear or the paranasal sinuses .

You can do that yourself

Constant colds are not painful, but they limit the quality of life. Numerous home remedies and, if necessary, changes in lifestyle can help against chronic colds. In every second case, an allergy is the reason for a long runny nose. It is always useful to strengthen the immune system. This includes a healthy diet as well as sufficient sleep and exercise in the fresh air. Although the allergic reaction can be suppressed with medication, it makes more sense to find the trigger and avoid it. Desensitization may help. In the case of animal and house dust allergies , the apartment must be cleaned thoroughly. Contact with animals is to be kept to a minimum.

Some medications have nasal congestion as a side effect, such as aspirin . Decongestant nasal sprays are also very often the cause of a long runny nose because they damage the mucous membrane. If you stop using the spray, you will get better quickly. Stress , anxiety , and grief can also lead to chronic colds. It is worth rethinking your life situation and starting here, because eliminating the causes can lead to a speedy recovery.

Moistening the nasal mucous membranes with saline solution is one of the most effective and natural remedies for colds. This strengthens the mucous membranes and facilitates the drainage of secretion. This method, which has no side effects, is particularly useful for children. Drinking a lot, steam baths, infrared radiation and inhalation also help.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.