Cold/flu exacerbating MS symptoms


I recently caught the cold/flu from my mum, it’s definitely not covid as I have a runny nose, sore throat, aches and pains and a fever.

What I noticed is becoming dizzy, my balance went all over the show and my walking wasn’t great, I started steering towards my right as I walked. Also when I looked left and right, I would feel very dizzy, it’s hard to explain like everything was moving very fast.

I previously experienced dizzy spells and my vision became double, also my balance went funny too during a relapse last year. It’s the second day now and I feel so much better in myself with regards to my MS symptoms, I was wondering whether this was a flare up of previous symptoms? Has anyone else experienced this before?

Hi, I havent heard that flu makes MS symptoms ease off…sounds like a good benefit to me!



Yes, i have asked this question of my neuro before and seen a few posts about it. A cold or the flu can exacerbate systems as it effectively switches on your immune system. When the cold settles, hopefully the symptoms calm down as well. Fortunately, this seems to be the case for you


Yes, any virus or infection can make MS symptoms flare up. Kind of a pseudo-relapse.

Any autoimmune disease is affected by stray viruses and bacterial infections. Your immune system is supposed to fight against ‘enemy invaders’. When the fighter cells within the immune system see invasion from outside the body, cells that aren’t supposed to be there, eg a cold virus, they get fired up to kill the invaders. With an autoimmune condition, the fighter cells also attack healthy ‘self’ cells by mistake. That’s what causes relapses (with RRMS) or ongoing disease progression (with PPMS or SPMS).

Which cells exactly are attacked by immune fighter cells depends on the type of autoimmune condition you have. With MS, it’s the myelin which is attacked. Myelin is the covering to the nerves in the brain and the spine. If you think of myelin as being like the plastic that covers electrical wiring, our nerves are the wires; when the myelin is attacked or damaged, the nerve signal is impaired.

So when there really are enemies invading the body, such as a virus (eg flu or a cold), or an infection (eg a UTI), our fighter cells in the immune system attack the real enemies, but also can get carried away and attack our myelin.

This is one of the reasons to ensure a relapse is a genuine MS relapse rather than an infection or virus. It’s easy to tell that we have a cold or flu. Often though, it’s less easy to identify a UTI. This is the reason we should always check for a UTI before deciding that a relapse is genuine, and taking steroids for a relapse. Steroids work on nullifying the immune response. So if we have a genuine infection or virus, a depleted immune response is the last thing we need.

I once had a very nasty cold, it gave me a serious case of hives, such that my whole face swelled up, I couldn’t see through my swollen eye lids. So I went to the hospital where they gave me steroids - not quite the dose we might have for an MS relapse, but sufficient to make the hives dissipate and for the cold to go into overdrive. Quite the worst cold as a result that I’ve ever had.

So you can imagine what high dose steroids might do to a UTI!