General anesthesia for a cold

What is general anesthesia?

General anesthesia is called general anesthesia. General anesthesia is a procedure in which the patient is put into an artificial deep sleep and consciousness and many natural reactions of the body are switched off.

Independent breathing is also suppressed, so that the patient has to be artificially ventilated. In addition, the sensation of pain is switched off so that major surgical interventions can be carried out.

The alternative to general anesthesia is local anesthesia, in which only the area to be operated on is anesthetized.


General anesthesia can be initiated in two ways. This is done using anesthetic gas or an anesthetic that is injected into a vein and thus brought directly into the bloodstream. Different drugs (anesthetics) are administered on both routes to perform the various tasks of anesthesia. These can be divided into three groups.

  1. Loss of consciousness: So-called hypnotics cause signals to be passed on in the brain that lead to deep sleep.

  2. Pain suppression: Very strong painkillers (e.g. opioids) ensure that the surgical procedure can be carried out painlessly. In addition, the pain relievers lead to reduced memory (amnesia).

  3. Muscle relaxation: so-called muscle relaxants induce paralysis, which disappears after the anesthesia has ended. However, these drugs have no effect on the central nervous system.

What are the risks?

Before general anesthesia, the current health status is determined in addition to existing allergies, i.e. the patient is asked whether he is currently suffering from an illness such as Suffers from flu or cold. In the case of a severe cold and flu, general anesthesia would be avoided and, if possible, the procedure would be performed with another anesthetic method or the procedure would be canceled completely.

The reason why it is important to consider whether or not to use general anesthesia with a severe cold is because the lining of the nose and throat swell during a cold (the reason there is a lot of mucus in the nose and nose how is clogged). With general anesthesia, where breathing must be ensured, swelling of the mucous membrane in this area would mean an additional risk, which one would like to avoid. The obstruction of the respiratory tract during anesthesia is a serious complication of anesthesia and requires further drug treatment with decongestant measures.

Another risk factor with a cold is that the body is in a state of illness, so the immune system is working at full speed. However, the immune system is 100% required during an operation in order to maintain the necessary defense reactions. The risk of developing an infection during and after the procedure is higher if the immune system is at full capacity.

Read more on the topic:

  • Complications in anesthesia
  • General anesthesia risks

General anesthesia in adults during a cold

A cold typically includes a cough and runny nose. Both affect the airways. When sniffing (Rhinitis) the mucous membranes of the airways are inflamed and swollen, causing a blocked nose.

As a general rule, general anesthesia is best performed on a healthy patient. However, if an adult has a slight cold, anesthesia is usually not foregone and nowadays that is no longer a problem.

However, there is a risk that during the insertion or removal of the ventilation tube (Tube) a spasm of the airways (Bronchospasm) or the glottis (Laryngospasm) is triggered. This means that the bronchi contract very strongly, so that not enough air can flow through them. Not enough air can be inhaled and the organs cannot be adequately supplied with oxygen. This is a life-threatening situation for the body.

However, this happens extremely rarely. The risk of anesthesia is increased during a cold, as the tube has increased contact with the mucous membranes of the airways when it is introduced or withdrawn, which is swollen during a cold. Patients with previous illnesses such as bronchial asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) are particularly at risk of developing bronchospasm, as their airways are narrowed from the start.

If, however, a fever occurs before the planned operation, the operation should definitely be postponed. This is because the central nervous system plays a crucial role in the development of the fever. The drugs that are used in general anesthesia to suppress pain and to cloud the consciousness also work on the brain. This could lead to complications.

So if it is not an emergency operation, the surgical procedure should be postponed in the event of a cold to be on the safe side in order to avoid unnecessary risks. Local anesthesia is usually still feasible as it has no effect on the central nervous system.

General anesthesia for a mild cold

Performing general anesthesia for a mild cold is essential quite possiblebecause swelling of the mucous membrane of the nasopharynx is relatively minor. It should be noted, however, that the weighing up of whether an operation is carried out for a mild cold or not including the Size and severity of the procedure should be carried out. In the case of long and difficult intestinal or heart operations, even with mild colds, the procedure should be avoided. Emergency operations can be performed in any case.

General anesthesia for coughs

While a mild cold usually does not pose a risk of anesthesia, in the case of a cough it must be clarified precisely whether there is a risk. A cough without sputum and without severe swelling is not critical in most cases.

Read more on the topic: Side effects of general anesthesia

As soon as the person concerned has swelling in the throat, for example on the tonsils, the anesthetist must decide whether the swelling can lead to ventilation problems. Coughing with mucous sputum can also represent an increased risk of anesthesia, as there is greater resistance in the bronchi during ventilation.

In each case, decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, in which the increased risk must be weighed against the necessity of the operation.

You might also be interested in this topic: Exercise for coughs

General anesthesia for fever

Fever is a body reaction that indicates that the immune system is fighting a pathogen. A slight increase in body temperature does not have to postpone the operation, but an attempt should be made to find the reason for the increased temperature. Since an infection is already stressful for the body and general anesthesia is always a very stressful situation, it must be carefully considered whether the operation must necessarily be carried out directly. Again, these are individual decisions in which the risk and benefit are compared.

Read more on the topic: Postoperative Complications - What Are There?

General anesthesia in children during a cold

Children are more often given general anesthesia than local anesthesia, as they often do not understand the circumstances and become restless in the unfamiliar situation. Basically, there are the same risks of general anesthesia for children as for adults. However, the risk of complications affecting the respiratory tract is higher for children than for adults because their airways are very sensitive.

It is therefore particularly important to ensure that the child is free from infections. This includes a cough or runny nose. If the child suffers from a cold, the operation should be postponed, because more often than in adults there is a convulsive state of the airwaysLaryngospasm, bronchospasm). The surgeon should therefore be informed immediately if a cold occurs near the operation.

Read more on the topic: General anesthesia in children

Caesarean section possible despite a cold?

If a caesarean section (planned or unplanned) is imminent, the form of anesthesia should definitely be considered. If the patient suffers from a cold, there is an increased risk of complications from general anesthesia. If the airways were to swell during the procedure, the adequate oxygen supply for mother and child is not guaranteed. This can have lifelong consequences for the child.

To avoid this danger, spinal anesthesia should be performed. This has no influence on the central nervous system, but only works in one area. Therefore the patient's respiratory center does not have to be inhibited by medication and artificial ventilation can be dispensed with. This is the safer method for both mother and child in the event of a cold.

Taking medication before general anesthesia

If medication is taken for a cold, it is imperative to inform the anesthetist about it. It is particularly important to mention the intake of aspirin (e.g. for a cold-related headache), as this drug has a blood-thinning effect and poses a significant surgical risk. This leads to increased bleeding when taking aspirin.

Also through other drugs, e.g.The doctor should know about antibiotics that should be taken in the event of a bacterial infection and must decide whether the operation can be carried out either by himself or in consultation with other doctors.

Long-term medication, such as Marcumar for blood thinning, should definitely be considered.