Being struck down with an awful, phlegmy cold is never a pleasant occurrence.
However, it’s even worse when you appear to be suffering from symptoms that are far more severe than those of your peers.
According to researchers at the University of Virginia, there’s a scientific reason why this may be, and it all bottles down to the bacteria that exists in your nose.
Dr Ronald Turner, a paediatric infectious disease specialist, led a study at the university to investigate how the mix of bacteria found inside your nose can correspond with the severity of your cold symptoms.
In the study, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers came to the conclusion that people whose noses contain more Staphylococcus bacteria are likely to have cold symptoms that are more acute in comparison to people whose noses contain less.
While the cold itself is caused by a virus, the organisms living inside your nose may exacerbate your symptoms by affecting how much of the virus you’re able to expel from your nasal passage.
Dr Turner and his team of researchers carried out their study with 152 participants, testing their nasal microbiomes before and after they’d been infected with a cold virus.
They were able to place the participants into six different “buckets” according to the types of bacteria found in their noses.
Dr Turner and his colleagues found the association between the organisms found in the nose and the severity of cold symptoms very intriguing.
“The first surprise was that you can kind of identify these different buckets that people kind of fit into, and then the fact that the buckets seem to have some impact on how you respond to the virus and how sick you get was also interesting,” he says.
“There were effects on virus load and how much virus you shed in your nasal secretions.
“So the background microbiome, the background bacterial pattern in your nose, had influences on the way that you reacted to the virus and how sick you got.”
While the researchers found a positive correlation between the nasal microbiomes and the severity of cold symptoms, they did state that other factors may also play a part.
“What we’re reporting is an association, so it’s entirely possible that the fact that you have staph in your nose and you have more symptoms is not directly related,” Dr Turner says.
“It may well be that there’s some underlying host characteristic that makes you likely to have staph in your nose and also makes you more likely to become ill.”
Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish whether or not you’re suffering from a cold or the flu.
While both are respiratory illnesses, flu symptoms are often far more severe.