As anyone with Meniere’s disease knows, it’s not a fun disease to have at the best of times. But when you add a cold to the mix, it ranks somewhere on the awful scale between a paper cut in the eye, and being forced to watch every episode of the new Full House remake.
Most people with Meniere’s don’t give colds a second thought – until they catch their first one after being diagnosed. Then they get to experience attacks like they’ve never felt before, and when combined with the cold, it’s usually enough to knock them completely out of commission for a few days.
After receiving my diagnosis a few years back, I barely acknowledged the first time I started to get the sniffles. Like most men, I figured if I got a cold, I would just stoically lie on the couch and suffer in silence for a few days – even if my wife might not necessarily agree with my version of events.
Of course, the sniffles quickly morphed into brutal vertigo attacks, until it reached the point where I couldn’t function at all. And with every subsequent cold I’ve had over the years, those same attacks return. First comes the vertigo, and then my balance goes – it’s like I’ve been returned to the dark days of when I was first learning to cope with my illness.
But recently, I started to wonder why Meniere’s disease is affected so much by colds. If you talk to fellow sufferers, nearly every single one of them will agree colds are terrible to deal with when you have Meniere’s.
I decided to take this question to my amazing balance rehabilitation physiotherapist. He confirmed colds did incredibly nasty things to people with vestibular disorders, but he hadn’t read any research as to why. His theory was that the cold put pressure on the ear, which resulted in the out of control vertigo, loss of balance, and general desire to pull a van Gogh on your ear in a futile attempt to reduce the suffering.
Not quite satisfied with this response, I took the question to my ENT. He was a little more helpful, even though he wasn’t aware of any research on the subject either. But he said the consensus among ENTs, was that the cold affected the fluids in the ear – something that was already out of whack among Meniere’s sufferers.
Armed with this knowledge, I decided to research if there was any way to mitigate the suffering during a cold. Unfortunately, I should have listened to both my physiotherapist and ENT – there was virtually no information out there about Meniere’s disease and colds.
But after a few more colds and some trial and error, I did find that rigidly sticking to the hydrops diet did help a little bit. I found by reducing my salt intake (unfortunately, no chicken soup for me), cutting out all alcohol and caffeine, and by limiting my sugar, having a cold was somewhat tolerable.
Of course, even if you’re strictly following the diet, having a cold is still no picnic, but it does help. What also probably helps now, is that I’ve grown used to the vertigo, and my balance has been improved through years of balance rehabilitation.
So, does a cold affect your Meniere’s disease? Let me know in the comments below, and any tricks you learned for dealing with a cold when you have a vestibular disorder.