How come, when people are sick with a usual virus (cold etc), they can feel better during the day but it gets worse in the evening?
Great question! Interestingly, lots of illnesses can be worse at night (like asthma, some types of arthritis, and GERD–and strokes and heart attacks more commonly happen in the wee hours of the morning too).
There are several explanations for this:
1. At night you are horizontal. All the snot and goop has nowhere to go so it just sits in your sinuses and makes you feel more clogged. Or it pools in your throat and tickles and makes you cough all night.
2. You’re not drinking at night. Thus you may get a little dry and mucus thickens and becomes harder to clear. Or maybe the air in your house is dry and the same thing happens.
3. Fevers. They tend to be cyclic with viruses and generally happen at night. When you’re febrile, your muscle aches and malaise is usually worse.
4. Circadian rhythm. Your body goes into mini-hibernation at night, and even your immune defenses don’t work at full speed when it’s dark outside. Cortisol, a stress hormone, is lower at night and first thing in the morning, so your body isn’t getting as many “help me, I’m stressed out!” signals at night.
5. The meds you took at dinnertime are wearing off. Twelve hours, schmelve hours.
Ways to fight this phenomenon?
1. Prop yourself up. Let gravity help you. Sleep in a recliner or up on 2-3 pillows.
2. Drink a big glass of water before you go to bed. And when you wake up at 2 am to pee, drink another one.
3. Have Tylenol or Ibuprofen available to treat your fevers at night. And get a dang thermometer. Probably 90% of my patients don’t have thermometers.
4. Ask your doc or a pharmacist which cough & cold meds are best for your nighttime symptoms and take them right before bed. (And check to see if they contain acetominophen or ibuprofen –you don’t need to double or triple up on that stuff).
5. Use a humidifier.And turn your fan on. Cool, humidified air can help you breathe easier at night. But please keep the humidifier properly cleaned. We don’t need you getting fungal infections on top of your virus.
If you had a flu shot last fall or winter, you might have learned the
hard way that the vaccine didn’t work as well as usual. Now, researchers
think they know why: a mutation that enabled some flu viruses to beat
The vaccine conferred only 19% protection, versus as much as 60% in other years.
…flu viruses continually evolve new versions of hemagglutinin that the antibodies don’t recognize.
…scientists with the World Health Organization (WHO) survey the virus
strains that are on the loose and then try to forecast which ones will
be making people sick when flu season hits
…“It’s very hard to predict what [viral strains] will be circulating the
next season,” says viral immunologist Scott Hensley of the Wistar
Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “It’s a bit of a guessing
…“We are hopeful that this year’s outcome will be better.”