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Constantly sick? This will tell you whether there is an immune deficiency behind it

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Constantly sick?  This will tell you whether there is an immune deficiency behind it

Your nose is running, it hurts to swallow, your arms and legs feel heavy: that’s how many people feel right now. There is no one miracle cure for infections. But there are things we can do to get through a cold better.

I go from one infection to the next – do I have an immune deficiency?

According to Uwe Popert, the suspicion of an immune deficiency only arises when if more than twelve serious infections occur in a year. “More often, frequent respiratory infections are caused by an allergy to the nasal mucous membranes.”

According to Popert, anyone who often has a stuffy nose due to an allergy to house dust, mold or pollen is often more susceptible to respiratory infections. This could be a possible explanation as to why some people get it again and again.

According to “Lung Doctors on the Net”, symptoms of an allergy are as follows:


Allergic runny nose with urge to sneeze, swelling of the mucous membranes, stuffy or runny nose (especially in the morning hours)


Itching, redness, watery eyes, allergic conjunctivitis


Allergic cough, mucus congestion, allergic asthma and acute shortness of breath


Itching rash hives

I notice a scratchy throat. What’s the best thing I should do now?

If you get a cold, “then you should try to stay warm and get enough sleep,” advises Uwe Popert. He is the section spokesman for the family practice of the German Society for General Medicine and Family Medicine.

Maybe they also belong to the “Now get as many vitamins into your body as quickly as possible!” faction – in the hope of stopping the infection. “There are various studies that say whether a lot of vitamin C helps,” says Popert. “At least taking high-dose tablets doesn’t seem to be beneficial.” What never hurts: a balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables.

And even if we don’t like an infection at all, we have to accept that it’s there – and pay attention to the body’s signals. “If you feel exhausted, weak, tired, broken – then you shouldn’t just keep going, but rather slow down,” says Ivo Grebe, family doctor in Aachen.

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Can I tell whether it is a common cold, flu or corona infection that is paralyzing me?

It is hardly possible to make a clear distinction based solely on the symptoms – but there are some clues. If the infection also comes with gastrointestinal complaints and headaches, the Pirola coronavirus variant may be behind it. “And if there is a sudden onset – with a high fever, severe fatigue – this could be the beginning of an influenza infection,” says Uwe Popert. The flu is currently not playing a major role in the infection process – at the end of November. The flu epidemic usually begins in January.

Even though since the pandemic we have all become more interested in which virus our immune system is currently fighting: For doctors, this information is relatively irrelevant, as Popert says. Because: None of these viruses can be treated with medication.

The only exception: Antiviral medications, which can be used at the beginning of a corona infection in high-risk patients and are intended to prevent severe progression. However, their use must be carefully considered.

Otherwise: “All the remedies that are available against colds ultimately only serve to alleviate the subjective symptoms and impairments,” says Ivo Grebe. The lozenge ensures that the throat hurts less when swallowing. The painkiller relieves the pain in the limbs. “But this does not shorten the course of the disease,” explains the doctor.

What do I need to know if I do a Corona self-test now?

What to consider about kits that have spent many months in drawers: “They have an expiration date. And storage can also influence it: If the test was placed on a heater or in the sun, for example, I wouldn’t guarantee that the result is correct,” says Uwe Popert.

And of course the following still applies: the first time you scratch your throat, not enough virus components are excreted to color the second line on the test cassette. “You only get a positive self-test two or three days later,” says Popert.

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What helps against the annoying symptoms?

Waiting and drinking tea is a start. Or another drink. Providing the body with plenty of fluids is a must during an infection. For several reasons, as Ivo Grebe explains: “This reduces the viral load in the nasopharynx. In addition, the body is now more challenged and converts more fluid.”

If you have body aches, you can take painkillers. However, if you have stomach problems, it is better to avoid painkillers such as ibuprofen or ASS (acetylsalicylic acid). “Paracetamol puts less strain on the stomach,” says Uwe Popert.

Inhaling can be beneficial. According to Popert, there has not yet been sufficient research into which additives – essential oils, for example – help best. So if you lean over a pot of warm water with a towel over your head, it’s best to decide based on your personal preferences whether to add something and what. “If you find chamomile steam more pleasant than pure steam, you should definitely choose it.”

What makes us sleep better?

When you have a cold, many bedside tables have a nasal spray to help you get air through your nose at night. “However, I recommend a children’s nasal spray,” says Popert. Preparations for adults have higher doses. Although this clears the nose well, it causes more damage to the nasal mucosa if you use it for more than a week.

Otherwise, you can rinse your nose with a saline solution before going to bed. “If you make them yourself, please don’t make them saltier than sea water would be. Because that can cause nosebleeds,” warns Popert. If you dissolve one or two level teaspoons of table salt in a liter of water, you are on the safe side.

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And for the cough? “Hot milk with honey is actually a remedy that has been tested in studies and is not that bad at helping against coughs,” says Popert.

How do I protect myself from infections?

It’s probably not possible to completely avoid an infection – but there are things we can do to ensure that our immune system works as well as possible.

Taking a short walk through the forest or park every day in autumn is not only good for your mood – your immune system also benefits from it. And of course: eat a colorful and balanced diet. “If you can’t manage to eat so much fruit and vegetables, you can also dissolve a multivitamin tablet in water,” says Ivo Grebe. The doctor also recommends considering a flu vaccination. It protects against severe flu.

When do I have to see a doctor?

If a fever of at least 38.5 degrees persists for three days, this may be a reason to go to the doctor if you have an infection. The family doctor Ivo Grebe draws attention to this. “Or even a persistent cough that doesn’t seem to get better at all – in which the urge to cough remains without anything going away,” says the internist from Aachen.

And of course your general health plays a role in this question. “If you’re lying flat in bed and can’t get up, you should contact your doctor,” says Grebe.

Uwe Popert recommends using shortness of breath – for example when climbing stairs – as an opportunity to see a doctor. “This could be related to a corona infection, and then the question arises as to whether it is due to pneumonia or something to do with the heart.”

And: “If an infection has gotten better and then gets significantly worse again, then there may be an additional bacterial infection behind it,” says Popert. It should also be examined and, if necessary, treated with antibiotics.

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