A person may feel gassy when they have a cold due to swallowed air, immune system function that is lower than usual, or stress-related symptoms.

The common cold is a viral infection affecting the upper respiratory tract: the nose or nostrils, nasal cavity, voice box (larynx), mouth, and throat.

Though many different viruses can cause a cold, the majority of them are due to rhinoviruses and coronaviruses, though not the same kind of coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The body is unable to develop an immune resistance to all cold-causing viruses, which is why colds are so common. This is also why they often go away and then return. Colds can spread through touching germ-bearing surfaces or breathing in airborne droplets.

Although significant research on feeling gassy when sick with a cold is lacking, some evidence suggests that multiple factors may cause it to happen.

Read on to learn why someone might feel gassy when they have a cold, other cold symptoms, and how to treat a cold.

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Sometimes, cold and gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms can occur due to the same underlying cause, such as a virus, or the same stimulus can cause or worsen both types of symptoms.

Stress-induced symptoms

An older study from 2011 detailing a clinical trial of supplementation to reduce exam stress in a group of 427 students found that psychological stress due to upcoming exams related directly to symptoms of both cold or flu and GI dysfunction.

The study found that stress related to GI symptoms including:

It also showed a relationship between stress, the percentage of days with cold or flu, and the average daily cold or flu symptom intensity score. This is when people self-report their symptom severity, rating it from mild to severe.

People may breathe more through the mouth than the nose when they have a cold due to nasal congestion. Breathing through the mouth can cause swallowed air, which can also cause abdominal bloating due to trapped gas. Other symptoms of swallowed air include:

  • bloating
  • belching
  • passing gas
  • growling stomach (borborygmi)
  • abdominal pain and discomfort
  • distended abdomen

Cold symptoms will typically peak around 2–3 days and include:

  • sneezing
  • watering eyes
  • nasal congestion
  • runny nose
  • sore throat
  • cough
  • postnasal drip
  • fever, though less commonly

Certain cold symptoms, such as cough, nasal congestion, or runny nose, can last up to 10–14 days.

The common cold has no known cure. However, treatment can help someone manage their symptoms and recover faster. Popular remedies for colds include:

  • staying hydrated by consuming plenty of fluids
  • getting plenty of rest
  • using a clean humidifier or cool mist vaporizer
  • using saline nasal spray or drops
  • breathing in steam from a bowl of hot water, a specialized steam inhaler, or a shower
  • taking throat lozenges or cough drops (for adults and children over 4 years old)
  • consuming honey to relieve cough (for adults and children age 12 months and up)
  • taking over-the-counter medications to manage pain and discomfort
  • gargling with salt water to relieve sore throat

Home remedies

As a natural home remedy for colds, a person may wish to try consuming:

Learn about home remedies for colds.

The following are some questions people frequently ask about colds.

What are signs your cold is getting better?

Signs a person’s cold is improving include increased energy levels, more restful sleep, and changes to mucus color. Mucus tends to become clearer as the infection clears.

What are the 5 stages of cold?

The stages of a cold include:

  • Incubation period: This refers to the time between contracting the virus and experiencing cold symptoms. It typically lasts between 12 hours and 3 days.
  • Symptomatic period: This is the stage when symptoms typically begin to appear. Generally, symptoms peak in 1–3 days.
  • Remission: This is the stage when symptoms begin to lessen. This typically occurs between 3 and 10 days after contracting the virus.
  • Recovery: This is the final stage of a cold, when a person may have only a few lingering symptoms. Symptoms may linger for up to 2 weeks.

Can a cold cause diarrhea and gas?

Yes, the viruses that cause the common cold can potentially cause diarrhea or gas, or a person might develop these symptoms due to swallowing air as a result of nasal congestion.

People do not frequently associate colds with GI symptoms such as feeling gassy. However, these symptoms can occur together as a result of stress, which also worsens and prolongs colds. They can also occur together as a result of swallowed air due to breathing through the mouth.

Most colds resolve without medical treatment in 7–10 days. However, sometimes symptoms may last up to 14 days or longer. A person can treat a cold with OTC medications and home remedies such as honey, inhaling steam, or taking oregano oil supplements.