The real reason you ache when you’re sick

The real reason you ache when you’re sick

Your nose is sniffly, there’s a tickle in your throat and your body aches. It’s cold and flu season so illness is expected, but why does your whole body hurt?

“When a foreign invader enters the body, like a virus or bacterial infection, the body signals our immune system to fight it off,” says Dr. Tony.Hampton, a family practice physician at Advocate Health Care. “That response often causes fever, swelling and inflammation of the muscles.”

We feel this inflammation because white blood cells travel through blood and fluid throughout the body causing pain, warmth in temperature, tenderness, or even discoloration.

“Over the counter pain medicine and rest can help ease aching muscles,” Dr. Hampton says. “Ice can also help if your muscles are inflamed or swollen.”

You should also contact your primary care doctor to find other solutions for your pain or to see if antibiotics are necessary.

To avoid sickness in the first place, it’s a good idea to boost your immunity. Dr. Hampton suggests:

  • Getting adequate amounts of vitamins D and C
  • Using supplements like zinc, elderberry syrup or extract, oregano oil or apple cider vinegar
  • Eating foods like garlic and turmeric

He also stresses having a balanced diet that is either plant-based, Mediterranean, or keto/ low-carb, all of which can reduce inflammation and aches. Processed, high-sugar or high-carb foods can worsen these symptoms.

“Having a strong, healthy body with a solid diet helps your body avoid or fight off infections,” says Dr. Hampton.

If your body aches are especially severe or come with other symptoms, like a high fever (more than 103°F), vomiting, extreme fluid loss, stiffness in the neck, or severe exhaustion, seek immediate medical attention.

Are you having back or neck problems? Take a free online quiz to learn more.

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