In the thick of cold and flu season, getting sick can come with an odorous side effect: bad breath.
It’s already difficult to detect your own foul breath, and when your nose becomes clogged, it becomes even trickier. However, I have talked to a handful of spouses who can tell that their loved one is getting sick based on the stench of their exhalations.
There are several ways breath gets fouled by a cold. Most of the time, the culprit is a combination of post-nasal drip and cough, according to experts at the Colgate Oral and Dental Health Resource Center. When an individual catches a cold, the body quickly begins to expel foreign matter – in this case, bacteria or viruses – through mucus production. The yellowish mucus, which normally runs out the front of your nose in the form of runny nose, now thickens and drips down the back of the throat. With this mucus building in the back of the throat, the mouth becomes a breeding ground for halitosis.
Congestion can also spur another issue. When we have a stuffy nose, we tend to sleep with our mouth open, which severely dries the palate and causes repugnant morning breath. Doctors point out that inhaling and exhaling this zaps the mouth of saliva - typically a natural cleaning agent – and makes your breath susceptible to odor-causing sulfuric bacteria. During colds, a dry mouth harbors these smelly bacteria on the tongue, gums and cheek.
Furthermore, a cough complicates cold-related halitosis. Since the reflex occurs when the throat and lungs are exposed to irritants, post-nasal drip can play a role in triggering it. Coughing not only drags up stale, ammonia-smelling air from the lungs, but also continues to parch the throat, mouth and palate.
Other incidental aspects of being sick can worsen halitosis. Drinking thick, syrupy cough medicine can leave breath smelling bitter. Constantly eating savory foods, like chicken noodle soup, may create a film of oil on the teeth, which can result in more odor-causing bacteria.