Effects of Colds on Adult ADHD

March 31, 2014 Elizabeth Prager

Yesterday, I attended a really cool event run by the Maryland Branch of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) all about sports physical therapy and orthopedic surgery. A few times when I stood up my brain felt pretty wobbly. I was watching Doc Martin in the evening and noticed a bit of a tickle in my throat. Now, I have a full fledged cold and it definitely has an interaction with my typical adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity (ADHD) symptoms.
Common colds can have effects on adult ADHD symptoms and can make life more difficult. Here is how my cold affects my adult ADHD.How can a cold affect your adult ADHD, you ask? Well, let's quickly go over some common adult ADHD symptoms:

  • Inattention
  • Chronic boredom
  • Low motivation
  • Low frustration threshold

Effects of Colds on Adult ADHD

Right now, having this cold, I can tell you four things. I am currently quite inattentive, am feeling rather bored, have low motivation to leave my bed and am rather easily frustrated. It's true, I'm only one person and this is only anecdotal information, but that's what blogs are all about anyway.

The increased inattention with colds makes a whole lot of sense. We are constantly bombarded with images and voices and smartphones that we need to filter. When we're feeling fine, we're able to do an okay job at filtering (especially with the help of ADHD medications for some of us). When we're sick, though, it gives us another layer that we need to filter.

I have an annoyingly subtle, but painful, headache right now. My throat hurts each and every time I swallow. And, I am fairly certain, I snored all last night and got pretty crummy sleep. All of these things added up with the addition of my firm adult ADHD diagnosis leave me open to all sorts of inattention and other symptoms.

Combating the Effects that Colds Have on Adult ADHD

How best to combat these issues? Well, talk to your doctor, first off, if they're so bad that they make it hard to cope with every day life. I like to drink some Emergen-C a few times a day and that seems to make it better for me, whether it be due to the placebo effect or an actual effect. Get plenty of sleep, drink plenty of fluids and wait for the cold to be over. Seems like it's the same advice you'd give to a non-adult ADHDer with a cold, save the suggestion to chat with your doc if the issues are super severe.

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APA Reference
Prager, E. (2014, March 31). Effects of Colds on Adult ADHD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Elizabeth Prager

June, 9 2023 at 5:31 pm

Hi - interesting article. I’m in the position where I have a virus. And doctors orders go home and rest. Hah little does he know that telling me to do something like that, especially with my past experiences with doctors. To prove them wrong - is now coming to haunt me - so I went home and typical to my adhd in me I went home but I didn’t rest. I just couldn’t. I’m now too scared to get out of my bed this morning for fear of doing it all over again and running myself into the ground again. Oh the agony- all I want to do is to do something besides rest. But on the days I don’t want to do something I do want to rest. What’s wrong with me. ☹️ I’m sick of feeling like this.

September, 5 2022 at 8:48 am

I came across this article to see if there are others who feel like I do. For me, when I’m extremely sick like today, I feel antsy and I constantly have to move and touch things. I definitely don’t want to be out of bed, so I’m sitting up a lot and touching my husband feels like I’m doing something I guess. I usually just pat him or lightly poke at him, maybe mess with his hair. If he’s not around I’m messing with all of the pillows.
I’m anemic so I get sick fairly often but being this sick, just makes me feel extremely off, kind of delusional, though I have no fever or anything flu like that would make me like that.

April, 2 2022 at 5:43 am

This was so helpful to read! To read something so well explained which makes me understand my feelings better and feel less alone and not being overdramatic feeling that it’s especially horrible for me with adult ADHD having the flu. This post just stated exactly how I feel and helps me deal with my intense frustration over this! Thank you!!

November, 13 2021 at 10:44 am

I have ADHD and I do get colds more often than the average person. I think anytime something is due or a lot is going on it’s likely that I will get sick. Like right now, deep cleaning for Thanksgiving and Christmas,
and getting whole family organized and ready for holidays. Making arrangements for child to fly home from college for Thanksgiving and making all the appointments he needs to squeeze in during that weekend, getting my father packed and ready to move on December 1st, in addition to all the regular stuff. It’s most likely I will get sick.
I do get headaches many days a week too. I often wear waxy ear plugs to muffle some environmental noise so I can concentrate and decrease headaches.

Gary Styger
May, 27 2019 at 12:51 am

Hi Elizabeth,
Thanks for great article.
If I may ask do you sick often, what I mean is a cold, a stomach issue, headaches?
I also have ADHD and am currently on anti-depressant but no other meds. I am getting a bit worried that I get sick probably every 6 weeks. Probable too much stress I suppose.

May, 31 2019 at 1:09 pm

Hi Gary! I am the current blogger for Living with Adult ADHD, so I'm afraid I can't answer for Elizabeth--but I would say that I do not get sick more often than I used to while on one stimulant and one antidepressant. However, I have definitely struggled with sleep and stress most of my life, which certainly can continue to physical health issues. Can you talk to a doctor about the issue? Thank you for reaching out.

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