Is Feeling Sick Before Your Period Normal? A Deep Dive Into ‘Period Colds’

Teen experiencing flu-like symptoms during their period? Feeling nauseous or fatigued before their monthly cycle? They might have period sickness - learn more here.

Your teen might be familiar with some of the less-than-glamorous symptoms that can come along with their period – the cramping, the bloating – their bodies are working hard! But what about other symptoms like nausea, a stuffy nose, or even a fever? Is it normal to get sick right before your period? As it turns out, period colds are totally common – let’s talk about it!

What is a period cold?

Period colds look different for everyone who menstruates. Just like how a regular cold or flu doesn’t look the same for everyone, people experience a huge variety of symptoms before and during their periods. In addition to what you might think of as the “typical” period symptoms – cramps, bloating, muscle and headaches, acne breakouts, and the all too familiar period poops – it’s not uncommon to also experience cold- and flu-like symptoms in the week or so leading up to a period. Things like nausea, headaches, a runny nose, excessive fatigue, a sore throat, dizziness, or even a slight fever might point to a period cold. 

Pro-tip: Period underwear is the best solution to keep your teen leak-free and feeling confident and comfy throughout their period. Stock up now! 

Why does your teen feel sick before their period?

It’s complicated, but let’s break it down. Most of us know about PMS (AKA premenstrual syndrome) as the hormonal changes that can sometimes cause people to feel extra emotional or irritable in the week or so leading up to their period. Believe it or not, those same hormonal changes can cause period colds. The scientists aren’t all in agreement (we need way more women in STEM looking into period science), but there are a couple reasons why this might happen.

Some research suggests that, during PMS, the immune system may temporarily decline. There are these compounds in your body called prostaglandins that are released every month to prep the body for its period. Unfortunately, prostaglandins can wreak total havoc – they’re the same thing that cause cramps and diarrhea during periods – and sometimes they can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting and body aches.

Other scientists say that period colds may not always be a result of hormonal changes themselves, but that preexisting allergies may simply be exacerbated by PMS. 

How can I tell the difference between a period cold and COVID-19?

While we know that period colds aren’t usually caused by viruses, like the common cold or COVID-19, the symptoms can look pretty similar. COVID symptoms, as outlined by the CDC can include fever, chills, cough, fatigue, headaches, a runny nose, and more – sound familiar?

The best thing to do if you think you might have COVID-19, even if it’s around the time when you usually get your period, is to take a COVID test, and to make sure you’re being safe by social distancing and wearing a mask until you’re sure.

Should I be worried about my period cold symptoms?

While it’s perfectly normal for your teen to sometimes feel a little sick before or during their period, if they're getting a period cold every month, if they're reaching a fever of over 100 degrees, or if any of their symptoms are bad enough that they're out of commission for even a day or two, you should check in with a doctor. Either your family doctor, or an OBGYN specialist can help figure out if there may be something else going on, like a hormonal imbalance or a nutrient deficiency. 

The bottom line is, you and your teen know their body best. There’s no need to freak out over a period cold, but if something feels off, it’s always best to check in with a doctor to get them back to feeling their best. Just because period colds and other nasty symptoms can be common doesn’t mean your teen doesn't deserve support to help them feel comfy. 

How can I prevent and treat a period cold?

Making healthy lifestyle choices can help to keep the body feeling its best and keep that immune system in check. Of course, drinking lots of water, eating balanced meals, and movement are the best things your teen can do to ward off any illness, but it’s not always as easily said as done. We all get sick sometimes, so here are a couple things you can try next time a period cold knocks your teen out:

  1. Keep some water and ibuprofen on hand for your teen to flush out those headaches and muscle pains, and to inhibit the creation of more of those pesky prostaglandins
  2. Try vitamin supplements like vitamin C, zinc, probiotics and vitamin D to boost the immune system and help with fatigue
  3. Consider chatting with your doctor about birth control as an option for your teen – it’s not just for when they're sexually active, and it can be a huge help with regulating the hormone levels that might be causing issues before and during their period. But going on the pill can have its own downsides, so take time to think about whether it’s the right choice for your teen.  

When it comes down to it, be gentle with your teen and encourage them to give their body the care it needs. To learn more about what changes their body undergoes during the menstrual cycle, download our Free Period Guide today. 

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