Can common cold or flu cause neck pain?

Neck pain might be a regular symptom of common cold or flu or other conditions including meningitis. This symptom might be an indication of a dangerous condition that necessitates immediate medical care.

Causes of neck pain

There are various causes of neck pain if linked with common cold or other similar conditions. Generally, flu and common cold viruses can make the muscles sore and achy.

Some of the lymph nodes in the neck can become tender and swollen with illness. These lymph nodes can make the neck stiff. In some cases, they can become swollen that they feel like bumps in the neck.

Stiffness of the neck is a characteristic indication of meningitis but it is different from a usual sore neck. Remember that meningitis can be contagious, thus it is vital to rule out the condition if the individual has neck pain.

How to manage neck pain linked with common cold or flu

Over-the-counter pain medications

Neck pain

The over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can relieve the neck pain, but a doctor should be consulted if he/she is currently using other medications since they might react badly.

The over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can relieve the neck pain, but a doctor should be consulted if he/she is currently using other medications since they might react badly.

Various cold and cough preparations already include these medications, thus doubling up can result to overdose. Carefully read the ingredients in any cold medication used before adding a pain medication to the regimen. Naproxen sodium can be used by some individuals but it is quite similar to ibuprofen. It is not recommended to combine naproxen and ibuprofen.

In some cases, relief to the neck pain can be provided by over-the-counter topical ointments that work by relieving muscle aches. These include those that contain menthol, capsaicin and salicylates.

Cold and warm packs for neck pain

An easy yet effective measure to relieve neck pain from flu or common cold is to utilize an ice pack or heating pad. Heat works by relaxing the tense neck muscles while cold reduces the inflammation.

When an ice pack or heating pad is used, always following the safety guidelines such as the following:

  • Do not apply directly on the skin. The ice pack or heating pad should be wrapped with a clean towel or cloth that serves as a barrier in between.
  • An ice pack should not be left on the affected area for more than 20 minutes before taking a break.
  • Make sure that the individual does not fall asleep with an ice pack or heating pad in place.
  • Remove the ice pack or heating pad if there are any changes in the skin color or if they become comfortable.
  • Be careful when warming up a heating pad using a microwave since it often heats in an uneven manner or can become too hot.

When to consult a doctor

A common cold or flu can last for about 3 weeks. In case the neck pain lasts longer than 3 weeks or there are lumps in the neck that do not subside, a doctor should be consulted.

If meningitis is suspected, a doctor should be consulted right away especially if there is abrupt onset of fever and stiff neck.

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