What’s the Connection Between Diarrhea and a Cold?

What’s the Connection Between Diarrhea and a Cold

Diarrhea and cold are viral diseases that are caused due to separate reasons. They may occur alone or simultaneously, depending upon the situation.

If you are having a cold with diarrhea, here’s all that you need to know!

Some viruses, like the influenza virus, commonly known as the flu virus, may cause gastrointestinal symptoms along with respiratory system problems. This article explores the causes of both the diseases and the link between them.

Diarrhea results from digestive system infections (1). These can be due to viruses like norovirus or rotavirus, bacterial infections like Salmonella or Escherichia coli, or parasites. The common symptoms of diarrhea are-

  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Loose and watery stool

While in the cold, different types of viruses infect the respiratory system. The common culprits behind are-

  • Coronavirus
  • influenza virus
  • human parainfluenza virus
  • respiratory syncytial virus
  • rhinovirus, etc. 

This infection due to these viruses primarily affects the respiratory system, causing symptoms like stuffed and runny nose, cough, sore throat, sneezing, body ache, tiredness, sinus pressure, and mild fever.

What Causes Colds with Diarrhea?

colds with diarrhea

Sometimes, strains of influenza virus and some types of adenoviruses can cause infections in both respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. Common symptoms of such infection are nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea.

This indicates that if a person is suffering from both cold with diarrhea symptoms, it could be from a single infection. 

In children, rotavirus infection may lead to vomiting and diarrhea. Such rotaviral infections are generally referred to as stomach flu. (1

Can a Cold Cause Diarrhea?

Cold is primarily caused by coronavirus, influenza virus, and rhinovirus. Yet, some strains of influenza and coronavirus can cause gastrointestinal infection, leading to diarrhea. Such infection is more common in children than adults.

Can Diarrhea Cause a Cold?

Having diarrhea cannot directly be a reason for a cold. However, the body’s reduced immunity during diarrhea may make a person susceptible to other infections, including respiratory infections like colds. 

Hence, diarrhea may indirectly cause colds by making a person vulnerable to other diseases.

Causes of Cold Symptoms and Diarrhea at the Same Time

If some experience both diarrhea and cold at the same time, it could be attributed to several reasons:

1. Co-infection: When someone has two infections simultaneously, one infection like norovirus, may cause gastrointestinal disease like diarrhea (2), while the other infection, like rhinovirus, may cause respiratory infections like cold. 

It is mostly observed in people who have a weak immune system and hence get easily affected by viral and bacterial infections simultaneously. 

2. Certain viral strains infection: Some viruses can cause both gastrointestinal and respiratory symptoms. These infections are prevalent in children.

3. Weak immune system: Sometimes stress, existing illness, or lack of sleep may also cause colds with diarrhea simultaneously. In such cases, people become susceptible to all the diseases, and their body’s fighting response slows down.

4. Non-infectious cause: Over-the-counter medications having a high content of zinc or vitamin C may cause gastrointestinal upset, leading to diarrhea.

5. Food sensitivities or allergies: For some people, a sore throat or runny nose could be a symptom of food allergy and not a respiratory infection. This may correspond with diarrhea caused by food intolerance.

6. Flu: The flu can cause both cold and diarrhea at the same time. Children suffer from flu more than adults.

7. COVID-19: People suffering from COVID-19 have flu-like symptoms. The person suffering from it might have a cold and diarrhea along with other symptoms (3).

8. Food poisoning: Food poisoning may cause diarrhea and vomiting. The body’s immune system may also make a person suffer from cold-like symptoms like body ache, chills, and fatigue.

9. Hay fever: Allergens like pollen, mold, and danger may cause allergies leading to runny nose, cough, sneezing, diarrhea etc. (4)

How to Treat for Cold with Diarrhea

The ideal way to treat a disease is first to get a proper diagnosis. The treatment for cold and diarrhea will depend largely on its underlying cause. Some common ways to get treated include:

  • Hydration: Drinking a lot of water is essential to treat both diarrhea and cold (5). You may drink warm water when suffering from cold. The body loses a lot of fluid during diarrhea. Drinking fluids like water and broth and oral rehydration will help to overcome the sickness soon. Also, try to avoid caffeine and alcohol as they lead to dehydration.
  • Rest: When the body is fighting viral and bacterial infection, it is important that you take sufficient rest. It helps to restore energy and manage the symptoms well.
  • Diet: A balanced diet intake is crucial to support the body’s fight against diseases. If suffering from diarrhea, a bland diet consisting of easily digestible food is important. Comforting foods like bananas, rice, and apples are good choices. During cold, it is vital that you eat food rich in vitamin C. Including a good portion of fruits and vegetables in the diet will help you to recover quickly. 
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines: For cold, OTC medicines like antihistamines, decongestants, and pain relievers can provide aid. For diarrhea, medications like loperamide can be taken. It is vital that you consult your doctor before taking any medicines.

When to Contact a Doctor?

If the symptoms of diarrhea and cold are very mild, they can be managed easily. But if someone has a cold and develops diarrhea or vice-versa, and both are severely persistent and accompanied by other symptoms like dehydration, blood in the stool, or high fever, the person needs to immediately seek medical consultation. This could be a sign of more serious disease or a different illness entirely.


Cold with diarrhea may occur due to separate infections at the same time. However, this does not rule out the possibility of one being the cause of the other. 

Sometimes, a third ailment might cause symptoms like cold and diarrhea. People experiencing both the diseases should seek advice from the healthcare professional if the symptoms occur for a longer time than expected.

Image Source : freepik

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