- What’s the difference between a cold and the flu?
- How can I prevent a cold?
- Your Day-by-Day Guide to the Common Cold
- Coping With Colds
- How to Fight Through the 5 Stages of a Cold
- Clinical Features
- What exactly is a cold?
- How are colds spread?
- How long does a cold last?
- What to watch out for
- The cure for the common cold
- 1. Drink, Drink, Drink!
- 2. Up your Vitamin C
- 3. Boil some bones
- 4. Use a supplement
- 5. Step Outside
- 6. Stock up on Zinc
- 7. Go Natural
- 8. Take it easy!
- 9. Sleep
- 10. Add moisture to the air
- Stages of The Common Cold
- The Step-By-Step Stages of a Cold—Plus How to Recover Fast
- How do I catch a cold, and what are the most common cold symptoms?
- How long does a cold last, and what are the stages of a cold?
- 2 to 3 Days After Infection: The Climb
- 4 to 6 Days After Infection: The Mountain Top
- 7 to 10 Days After Infection: The Descent
- Are there any tricks to recover from a cold more quickly?
- How can I prevent a cold next time?
- Health and Wellness Blog
- Stop a Cold at the First Sign With These 5 Tips
- Is It a Cold? Early Warning Signs
- How to Fight a Cold
- Cold Got You Down? Head to RediClinic
What’s the difference between a cold and the flu?
Although colds and flus are often confused, they are actually quite different. The flu is caused by very different virus types than the ones that cause the common cold. This is why a diagnosed cold caused specifically by a cold virus cannot “morph” into the flu. What’s more, flu symptoms tend to be worse than cold symptoms, and they come on suddenly (cold symptoms tend to arrive gradually). When you’re hit with the flu, you know it. You can expect to be faced with a fever, chills, and aching muscles and joints. Colds, on the other hand, are usually associated with a sore throat and runny nose. Colds are much more common than the flu.
How can I prevent a cold?
The best way to prevent a cold is to avoid touching your face. The reason? Cold viruses travel through small liquid drops when someone with a cold sneezes or coughs. These particles can land on surfaces like doorknobs and computer keyboards and spread to your hands when you touch them. If you then touch your face, the virus has a good chance of entering your eyes, nose or mouth. You should also avoid sharing drinking cups or tissues with anyone who has a cold. It’s also a good idea to frequently wash your hands with soap and water to keep from catching a cold. Scrub them for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Your Day-by-Day Guide to the Common Cold
The common cold is referred to as common for a reason. “There are actually hundreds of different viruses that can cause a cold; however, most of these viruses cause very similar cold symptoms,” says Aaron E. Glatt, MD, infectious diseases and infection control consultant at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, New York.
Cold symptoms can be different for everyone, but they typically appear about one to three days after exposure to a cold-causing virus, peak around day four, and taper off around day seven. The most common cold symptoms include sore or scratchy throat, nasal congestion or stuffiness, a runny nose, and a cough. You may also experience sneezing, low-grade fever, or fatigue.
The full life cycle of a cold is usually between seven and 10 days. According to Dr. Glatt, a cold may last longer or be more severe in people who have immune problems or other underlying health issues. Also keep in mind that your contagious period has its own lifespan, usually starting a couple days before cold symptoms kick in and continuing for the first few days afterwards.
Coping With Colds
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What’s a Cold?
A cold is an infection of the upper respiratory system. This means it can affect the nose, throat, and sinuses. A cold virus gets inside your body and makes you sick.
Most teens get between two and four colds a year. That’s not surprising — colds are the most common infectious disease in the United States, and cause more school absences than any other illness.
What Causes Colds?
Most colds are caused by viruses (called rhinoviruses) that are in invisible droplets in the air you breathe or on things you touch. If one of these viruses gets through the protective lining of the nose and throat, it triggers an immune system reaction. This can cause a sore throat and headache, and make it hard to breathe.
No one knows exactly why people become infected with colds at certain times. But no matter what you hear, sitting or sleeping in a draft, not dressing warmly when it’s chilly, or going outside with wet hair will not cause someone to catch a cold.
Dry air — indoors or outside — can lower resistance to infection by viruses. So can allergies, lack of sleep, stress, not eating properly, or being around someone who smokes. And smokers are more likely to catch colds than people who don’t smoke. Their symptoms will probably be worse, last longer, and be more likely to lead to bronchitis or even pneumonia.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Cold?
The first symptoms of a cold are often a tickle in the throat, a runny or stuffy nose, and sneezing. You also might feel very tired and have a sore throat, cough, headache, mild fever, muscle aches, and loss of appetite. Mucus from your nose may become thick yellow or green.
Are Colds Contagious?
Yes. Rhinoviruses can stay alive as droplets in the air or on surfaces for as long as 3 hours or even more. So if you touch your mouth or nose after touching someone or something that’s been contaminated by one of these viruses, you’ll probably catch a cold (unless you’re already immune to the particular virus from having been exposed to it before).
If you already have a cold, you’re more likely to spread it to others if you don’t wash your hands after you cough or sneeze. Going to school or doing normal activities probably won’t make you feel any worse. But it will make it more likely that your cold will spread to classmates or friends.
How Long Do Colds Last?
Cold symptoms usually start 2 or 3 days after a person has been exposed to the virus. People with colds are most contagious for the first 3 or 4 days after the symptoms begin and can be contagious for up to 3 weeks. Although some colds can linger for as long as 2 weeks, most clear up within a week.
How Are Colds Treated?
Over-the-counter (OTC) cold medicines can’t prevent a cold, but some people think these ease symptoms. They won’t help you get better faster, though. And sometimes OTC cold medicines can cause stomach upset or make someone feel dizzy, tired, or unable to sleep. If your nose feels really stuffy, try saline (saltwater) drops to help clear it.
Ask your parents (who can talk with a doctor or pharmacist) what medicine you should take, if any. Most doctors recommend acetaminophen for aches, pains, and fever. If you have a cold, you should not take aspirin or any medicine that contains aspirin, unless your doctor says it’s OK. Use of aspirin by teens with colds or other viral illness may increase the risk of developing Reye syndrome, a rare but serious condition that can be fatal.
Your doctor can let you know if it’s OK to take an antihistamine or decongestant, but there is little evidence that these really make a difference.
How Can I Feel Better?
Like all viruses, those that cause colds have to run their course. Getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of fluids can do as much good as medicine as far as helping someone with a cold feel better.
Whether you feel like sleeping around the clock or just taking things a bit easier, pay attention to what your body is telling you when you have a cold. A warm bath or heating pad can soothe aches and pains, and the steam from a hot shower can help you breathe more easily.
Don’t worry about whether to feed a cold or starve a fever. Just eat when you’re hungry. And you might have heard that chicken soup can cure a cold. There’s no real proof of this, but sick people have been swearing by it for more than 800 years.
When Should I Go to the Doctor?
Teens who catch colds usually don’t get very sick or need medical attention. But talk to a doctor if any of these things happen to you:
- Your cold symptoms last for more than a week or appear at the same time every year or whenever you’re exposed to pollen, dust, animals, or some other substance (you could have an allergy).
- You have trouble breathing or wheeze when you catch a cold (you could have asthma).
- Your symptoms get worse after 3 days or so instead of better (this might mean strep throat, sinusitis, bronchitis, or some other bacterial infection, especially if you smoke).
You should see your doctor if you think you might have more than a cold or if you’re getting worse instead of getting better.
Other signs that it’s time to call your doctor include:
- coughing that lasts for more than 2–3 weeks
- inability to keep food or liquids down
- increasing headache or facial or throat pain
- severely painful sore throat
- fever of 103°F (39.3°C) or higher, or a fever of 102°F (38.9°C) that lasts for more than a day
- chest or stomach pain
- swollen glands (lymph nodes)
A doctor won’t be able to identify which specific virus is causing a cold. But your doctor can check your throat and ears and possibly also take a throat culture to make sure your symptoms due to another condition. A throat culture is a simple procedure that involves brushing the inside of the throat with a long cotton swab. Examining the germs on the swab will help determine whether you have strep throat and need treatment with antibiotics.
If your doctor does prescribe antibiotics, be sure to take them exactly as directed. If you stop taking them too soon — even if you’re feeling better — the infection may not go away and you can develop other problems
Can Colds Be Prevented?
Sooner or later everybody catches a cold. But you can strengthen your immune system’s infection-fighting ability by exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough rest.
Although some people recommend alternative treatments for colds (such as zinc and vitamin C in large doses, or herbal products such as echinacea), none of these is proven to prevent or effectively treat colds. Because herbal products can have negative side effects, lots of doctors don’t recommend them.
Reviewed by: Patricia Solo-Josephson, MD Date reviewed: June 2017
How to Fight Through the 5 Stages of a Cold
By Sarah Parker Ward
For as common as colds are, it’s rare that we stop and think about their actual progression. Yet understanding the early warning signs of a cold can help you take steps toward relief sooner and accurately identifying when a cold is truly waning can help keep you from jumping back into work before your body is really ready.
So, here are the five stages of a cold you should know and the related remedies to consider that can help get you through – and of course, be sure to talk to your healthcare professional if you have any questions.
Stage 1: Onset
It’s roughly 1-3 days since you came into contact with a cold virus and your body is starting to show mild symptoms like mild fatigue, runny or stuffy nose, and a sore throat. Even though you’re busy, try not to ignore these warning signs! Get ample rest and stay especially well hydrated.
Stage 2: Progression
Your cold is really settling in, as is the cough and congestion. Now’s the time to make a full on TLC Kit stocked with chicken soup, tea, honey, cough drops, soft tissues and lip balm. Zinc is a staple of a balanced and healthy immune system, so stock up on zinc-rich foods like eggs, garbanzo beans, pumpkin seeds and whole grains.
Stage 3: Peak
Your cold is in full swing and you’re feeling knocked out. Body aches and a low-grade fever are normal, but double up on your liquids – water, broth and juices – to stay hydrated. To relieve congestion and sinus pressure, use hot, steamy showers and humidifiers and consider an over-the-counter nasal decongestant.
For faster relief of some of your most frustrating symptoms, try TYLENOL® Cold or TYLENOL® Sinus. Have a child under the weather with a cold? TYLENOL® offers helpful treatments for them, too.
Stage 4: Remission
As your fever breaks and your aches start to subside, you know you’ve turned the corner toward wellness. As you gain back your strength, take the time to nix persistent germs by disinfecting surfaces in your home, car and office. Throw all bedding and clothes into the wash for a good scrubbing, and don’t forget to sterilize personal items like toothbrushes and cell phones that could also harbor and spread germs.
Stage 5: Recovery
Finally, you’re on your feet and feeling back to normal! Treat any minor, lingering symptoms like a cough or runny nose, with the appropriate over-the-counter medicine and stick to an especially healthy, balanced diet as your body reboots.
Remember, cold weather isn’t the source of a cold – hence many of us come down with it in the summer, too! Rather, viruses transmitted through miniscule droplets are the cause. So the best prevention method is to disinfect the spaces around you regularly and wash hands for a full 20 seconds at least five times a day.
Want more information? Try these common cold and flu prevention tips, or these nine things you should know about the common cold.
©Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 2019
There are three stages to clinical course of pertussis:
Pertussis symptoms usually develop within 5 to 10 days after exposure, but sometimes not for as long as 3 weeks. Pertussis has an insidious onset with catarrhal symptoms that are indistinguishable from those of minor respiratory tract infections. The cough, which is initially intermittent, can become paroxysmal. In typical cases, paroxysms terminate with “inspiratory whoop” and posttussive vomiting can follow. The illness can be milder and the characteristic paroxysmal cough and “whoop” may be absent in children, adolescents, and adults who were previously vaccinated.
Paroxysms of cough, which may occur more at night, usually increase in frequency and severity as the illness progresses. The cough typically persists for 1 to 6 weeks or more. After paroxysms subside, a nonparoxysmal cough can continue for 2 to 6 weeks or longer.
Unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated infants younger than 12 months of age have the highest risk for severe complications and death. In infants, apnea may be the only symptom and the cough may be minimal or absent. There is increasing awareness and recognition of pertussis as a disease that affects adolescents and adults. However, clinicians often overlook pertussis in the differential diagnosis of cough illness in this population. Illness is generally less severe, and the typical “whoop” less frequently seen in adolescents and adults.
It is important to educate parents to consider pertussis when their child has a cough. Let them know that it can be a severe illness, especially for infants, and they should seek immediate treatment.
What exactly is a cold?
The common cold is caused by a virus. In fact, there may be as many as 200 viruses that cause common cold symptoms, with rhinovirus being the most common, according to Megha Tewari, MD, a family practice and geriatrics physician with Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center in Houston, Texas. Common colds are the main reason your kids miss school and you miss work. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) reports that millions of people get the common cold every year in this country, with adults averaging two to three per year. Children average even more than that, and children under the age of six are especially susceptible. (These everyday mistakes will raise your risk of catching a cold.)
How are colds spread?
Forget what your mom said about catching a cold from going outside with wet hair—it’s not true. Dr. Tewari explains that cold viruses spread through the air, through bodily fluids, and from touching surfaces on which virus particles have settled. That said, your mom wasn’t completely wrong: Weather or temperature changes and being inappropriately dressed for the cold weather stresses the body’s immune system, rendering you less capable of fighting off a cold virus. “Any kind of stress can make you more susceptible to catching a cold,” Dr. Tewari points out. (Find out the surprising ways your body responds to the common cold.)
How long does a cold last?
Most people fully recover within seven to 10 days, but Dr. Tewari breaks down the length based on your symptoms:
- sore throat: usually runs its course within the first day or so
- mild headache: usually resolves within a few days
- mild body ache: usually resolves within a few days
- low-grade fever: usually resolves within a few days
- fatigue: may linger for the first week to 10 days
- nasal congestion: may continue for one to two weeks
- coughing: may continue for one to two weeks
If you’re a smoker or exposed to second-hand smoke, your cold symptoms could last even longer. In addition, people with weakened immune systems, asthma, or conditions that affect the lungs and breathing passages may develop more serious conditions in addition to the cold (such as pneumonia and bronchitis). And this is what it could mean if your cold is lingering.
What to watch out for
The discharge from your nose may become thicker and yellow or green in color as a common cold runs its course, but this shouldn’t be cause for alarm. However, you should see your doctor if you experience any of the following:
- a temperature higher than 100.4° F
- symptoms that last more than 10 days
- symptoms that are severe or unusual
The cure for the common cold
Sorry, there’s still no cure. Antibiotics won’t make it better, and there’s no vaccine. All you can really do, according to Dr. Tewari, is to rest and hydrate, and once your immediate symptoms pass, she says, you should be able to return to work. Don’t miss these rules for calling in sick to the office.
To protect yourself from getting a cold in the first place, keep your hands clean and away from your eyes, nose, and mouth, and steer clear of people who seem like they have colds. To protect others from getting your cold, stay home for as long as you can while you’re symptomatic, and make sure to use proper etiquette while sneezing—blow into a tissue, or your elbow, not your hand!
Here are the steps doctors take to avoid catching a cold.
Last modified on Oct 10, 2019 12:39 BST Hello Cold remedies: find out how to get rid of a cold quickly. Supplements and drinks that may help ease cold symptoms
When the nights draw in and the weather turns, it can seem like getting a cold is just an inevitability. The good news is, if you find yourself in this situation, there’s no need to despair – colds don’t have to last as long as you think they do. Here, Nutritionist Sarah Flower shares her top tips to help you ensure you stay one step ahead and combat it in just 24 hours.
1. Drink, Drink, Drink!
Keeping hydrated is absolutely vital to help ‘flush’ out the cold, as well as to break down congestion and keep your throat lubricated. Try to avoid sugary or milky drinks, especially if you have a lot of mucus as this can often make it worse. Instead opt for water (sparkling water with lemon can be very refreshing), or soothing warm herbal, or fruit teas. Herbal teas such as sage, ginger, lemon, camomile, liquorice root, slippery elm and green tea can also help ease a sore, nose or throat problems. For those suffering from inflammation of the mucus membranes, fresh turmeric tea is perfect as an anti-inflammatory.
READ MORE: You should do this every time you wash your hands
2. Up your Vitamin C
This well-known vitamin is extremely helpful when fighting infection, so at the first sign of a cold be sure to increase your intake by eating plenty of berries, citrus fruits, papayas, broccoli and red peppers which will help keep you protected.
3. Boil some bones
Bone stock is packed full of nutrients, including gelatine, collagen and a whole host of vitamin and minerals to help heal and get you back on your feet. Add some garlic for its powerful anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-catarrhal properties, and some chilli, which acts as a natural decongestant. Turmeric, cinnamon and a dash of fresh ginger can also be added and will help to speed up your metabolism.
RELATED: All you need to know about the winter flu vaccine
4. Use a supplement
A melt-in-the-mouth supplement such as New Era Q can help to ward off symptoms of catarrh and sinus disorders, while New Era J can help those suffering with more general cold symptoms. When taken together, they promise to offer the ultimate protection from colds and flu. (Available to buy from powerhealth.co.uk for £8.79 each).
5. Step Outside
When it comes to combating a cold Vitamin D is essential in helping to regulate immune response. During the colder months many people become deficient in Vitamin D because they stay inside avoiding the weather but you need to make sure you expose yourself to the sun’s UVB rays by going outside for at least 15 minutes per day – even if it’s chilly. For those unable to do so, a great alternative is opting for vitamin D3 supplements. Taking one daily not only boosts the immune system and fights infection but can also help with depression, bone and joint and heart health.
READ MORE: See the latest health and fitness stories here
6. Stock up on Zinc
Try to incorporate plenty of zinc-rich foods in your diet, including pumpkin seeds, spinach, beef, wheat germ and cocoa. This is because the zinc will decrease the time period of the symptoms you are experiencing. You can also take a good quality supplement such as a Zinc Citrate daily.
7. Go Natural
Pelargonium is a herbal remedy which can help with respiratory infections, sore throats and general cold and flu symptoms. Take this remedy as soon as you begin to feel the onset of illness and continue until you see signs of improvement.
8. Take it easy!
We all think we are invincible and push forward no matter what but when feeling under the weather ensure you take some time out, turn off the Wi-Fi, grab the duvet, relax and de-stress. This not only feels good but can also boost your immune system. The perfect excuse for a lazy day!
But, don’t just think you’re resting because you’re chilling out. Getting actual sleep is key as it will help your body to restore faster and fight off infection. This is your free pass to take multiple naps in addition to having a fair few early nights.
10. Add moisture to the air
Winter is radiation season which means your house can become really dry leading to throat irritation. Of course, it’s probably too cold to turn it off altogether but counter it by adding a humidifier to introduce some moisture into the air too. It could really help loosen up your congestion.
We are all familiar with the stages of catching a cold: paranoia, denial, anger & blame, wallowing in reluctant acceptance, and finally blessed relief. But, you know, scientifically, it’s a little different. Knowledge is power, of course, and although science is so far powerless to completely cure the common cold (we’re working on it!), knowing of the stages that the virus goes through can actually help you identify where you are and the best treatment and course of action to help you #GetWellFast. Keep in mind, there is some variation among sources regarding what the specific stages are, but here is an approximation that will certainly help! Ready? Let’s Go.
Stages of The Common Cold
Stage 1: Incubation Period (Days 1-4)
So you caught a virus. Inconvenient, painful, profoundly irritating, yet largely unavoidable at least a few times a year. It’s very likely a rhinovirus, but it could also be another 200 other kinds of viruses. The germs will usually get trapped inside your nasal passages, throat, or upper airway. It’ll attach itself to what are called Intercellular Adhesion Molecule 1 receptors (or ICAM-1 receptors, for short!) and begin to replicate (here’s a handy video describing the process!), but you probably won’t feel any symptoms for a few more days. You’re still contagious though; just one of the interesting reasons colds are so easy to spread!
Stage 2: First Signs (Days 2-5)
This is it. This is when your body starts giving you those tell-tale clues that something’s afoot. Try as we might to ignore the signs (denial is not just a river in Egypt, as they say!) this is the crucial moment where we should really pay attention. Fatigue, that throat tickle or soreness, body aches, sneezing — your body is starting to produce the antibodies to fight that virus. Now is the time to get as much rest as you possibly can, drink plenty of fluids, eat healthy foods and, of course, start taking Cold-EEZE to try and keep this as short and mild as possible. You’re also most contagious at this point, so if you have the luxury to take a sick day, do it!
Stage 3: The Worst of It (Days 3-6)
Now you’re really in it. Symptoms start to target the nasal region more, the sneezing has likely turned into a runny nose and congestion, the mucus may have become thicker and greener (owing to the lovely neutrophils, white blood cells working overtime to overcome the virus). You might get a cough or feel like you need to clear your throat a lot, because of post-nasal drip, which will often be quite persistent and last for a while after other symptoms have gone. Steam, decongestants and plenty of rest will help!
Stage 4: Home stretch (Days 5-7)
You’ll usually start to feel better about 3 or 4 days after you started noticing the first signs (so, 5-7 days after you were first infected). If your symptoms go on for longer than that or get worse, it’s possible that you have a bacterial infection, in which case it’s a good idea to go to the doctor and get tested to see if you should take antibiotics (they only work for bacterial infections, never viral infections, like most colds!).
Stage 5: Bye-bye cold (Days 7-10)
And there you have it. The virus has now been eliminated from your body through the wonders of the immune system. The good news is that the antibodies you produced to fight the cold mean you’re immune to that specific strain of virus (yay!), but there are hundreds more out there that could still infect you (boo).
The Step-By-Step Stages of a Cold—Plus How to Recover Fast
Hero Images / Getty Images
Ever wish you could tell that cold to just chill out? The average American is afflicted with two or three colds per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). While they’re frustratingly common-and contagious-this condition is a bit like a snowflake. No two are alike.
“There are no official stages of a cold. Each is individual and follows its own path. Some last for hours, others for days or even weeks,” says Adam Splaver, M.D., a cardiologist in Hollywood, FL.
But there are some general trends in cold symptoms, timelines, and treatment methods. From “how long does a cold last?” to “how do I feel better faster?” we spoke to medical experts for a complete guide to (fighting back against) the common cold.
How do I catch a cold, and what are the most common cold symptoms?
As many as half of all colds have an undetermined viral cause. Although as many as 200 viruses can trigger a cold, the most common culprits are strains of the rhinovirus. It’s the root cause for 24 to 52 percent of colds, according to research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Coronavirus is another strain that’s fairly common among adults in winter and early spring.
“Colds can be caused by many different viruses and can’t be cured with antibiotics. Contrary to some popular lore, they don’t turn into bacterial infections and don’t lead to sinus infections, pneumonia, or strep throat,” says Christopher McNulty, D.O., the urgent care medical director for DaVita Medical Group in Colorado Springs, CO.
It can be tricky to tell the difference between a cold and the flu, since they tend to strike at about the same time of year-and your body doesn’t have an alert when the influenza virus enters. (If only!) The CDC says that flu symptoms are typically more severe, however, and may include chills and more extreme fatigue. (Related: Flu, Cold, or Winter Allergies: What’s Taking You Down?)
Both colds and flu viruses are spread by hand-to-hand contact with a virus or by breathing in air that’s been contaminated by droplets laced with the virus. So when an infected individual blows her nose, coughs or sneezes, then touches a doorknob or restaurant menu, for example, you can pick up the same virus. Those hardy rhinoviruses can hang on for about two days, continuing to infect more people who touch the same object.
From there, cold symptoms tend to pop up two or three days after the virus enters your body.
“A cold can start as a tickle in your nose, a scratchy throat, a subtle cough, a bothersome headache, or a feeling of utter exhaustion. The virus affects your mucosa, the linings of your airways, and alerts your immune system that something big is about to go down. Your immune system starts mounting an attack on these unwanted pests,” says Dr. Splaver.
Chemicals are secreted that activate the immune response, which leads to “the runny nose, cough, and all-too-pervasive snot and phlegm,” he adds.
While they can be pesky, remember that “many of the cold symptoms we experience are reactions the body takes to help itself get healthy again,” says Gustavo Ferrer, M.D., program director of the Aventura Pulmonary and Critical Care Fellowship in Aventura, FL. “Congestion and mucus production stop the foreign invaders, coughing and sneezing gets the contaminants out, and a fever helps certain immune cells function better.”
How long does a cold last, and what are the stages of a cold?
“How long the symptoms take to manifest, as well as how long they last, varies from person to person, depending on how well an individual takes care of oneself. Not all symptoms manifest in everyone. Some people are sick for a day, while others have a cold for a week or more, Dr. McNulty says. (So, in other words, you’re not imagining things! Your cold might actually be worse than everyone else’s.)
So while cold length, cold symptoms, and other factors can vary, the stages of a cold generally play out like this, explains Dr. McNulty:
2 to 3 Days After Infection: The Climb
The virus infects the mucous membranes in the upper respiratory tract, which stimulates inflammation in the form of heat, redness, pain, and swelling. You may notice more congestion and coughing as the body produces more mucus to protect the surface of the respiratory tract. This is also when you’re most contagious, so stay home from work or school and avoid large crowds, if possible.
4 to 6 Days After Infection: The Mountain Top
Cold symptoms move up to the nose. Swelling of the mucous membranes in the nose and sinuses intensifies. Blood vessels dilate, bringing white blood cells into the area to fight the infection. You may notice more nasal drainage or swelling, plus sneezing. Additional symptoms include a sore throat (caused by excess mucus draining down the throat), low-grade fever, dull headache, dry cough, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck. As the excess mucus works its way through the body, you may find some collecting in the ear tubes, slightly disrupting your hearing.
7 to 10 Days After Infection: The Descent
By the time you reach the final stages of a cold, antibodies are overpowering the virus and symptoms should begin to tame. You may still detect some minor congestion or fatigue. If cold symptoms persist beyond 10 days, see your doctor.
Are there any tricks to recover from a cold more quickly?
Mom’s Rx of chicken soup and rest was-and is-wise, Dr. McNulty says.
“Treating symptoms alone does not shorten the course of disease. An insufficient amount of research has been done on over-the-counter products to determine if they are effective in reducing the length and severity of a cold,” he says. “What’s most important is to rest, hydrate, and eat nutritious foods.” (Related: How to Get Rid of a Cold Lighting Fast)
Zinc (found in products such as Zicam), elderberries, aged garlic, and vitamins C and D have been proven in a few studies to help treat cold symptoms, but research is limited and none actually help prevent or fix the viral condition.
And since the viral causes vary, it’s unlikely we’ll have a cold vaccine any time soon, Dr. Splaver adds, “so for the time being, we just have to grin, bear it, and cough it out. It will eventually go away.”
As you wait it out, Dr. Ferrer is a big proponent of a little tidy-up treatment. “Cleaning your nose and sinuses-the main entryways when germs invade the body-can assist in the natural defenses. A natural nasal spray with xylitol, such as Xlear Sinus Care, washes the nose and opens the airway from congestion without the uncomfortable burning sensation people experience with saline alone. Clinical studies show that xylitol also breaks up bacterial colonies and prevents bacteria from sticking to tissue, allowing the body to wash them out effectively,” Dr. Ferrer says. (Here, 10 home remedies to fight back against cold symptoms and feel better fast.)
How can I prevent a cold next time?
Dr. Ferrer has a top five list for how to keep future colds at bay. (Here, more tips on how to avoid getting sick during cold and flu season.)
Wash your hands often throughout the day, especially in public places.
Drink plenty of water, since it’s a crucial factor to aid in the body’s defense tactics.
Eat a healthy diet full of protective vitamins and nutrients. These 12 foods are proven to boost your immune system.
Avoid big crowds if there are a high number of flu cases in your area.
Cough and sneeze hygienically into a tissue, then throw it away. Or cough and sneeze into your upper shirt sleeve to completely cover your mouth and nose.
Above all else, remember that “sharing is not caring when it comes to colds,” Dr. Splaver says. “It’s best to be courteous when you are sick and refrain from shaking hands and spreading the love. Stay at home for a day or two. It does your body good and keeps the virus from spreading.”
- By By Karla Walsh
Health and Wellness Blog
Stop a Cold at the First Sign With These 5 Tips
While there is no vaccine for the common cold, there are a number of helpful steps you can take when you experience that first sniffle, sneeze or cough. Read on to understand how to stop a cold at the first sign.
Is It a Cold? Early Warning Signs
Colds and flu are easy to confuse because the illnesses share many of the same symptoms, such as cough, sore throat, runny nose, and head and body aches. However, one of the primary differences between a cold and the flu is the onset of symptoms: with a cold, symptoms tend to come on gradually while flu symptoms often appear suddenly. If you notice any of the following, it could be a sign that you’re coming down with a cold.
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Coughing and sneezing
- Watery eyes
How to Fight a Cold
The gradual onset of symptoms of a cold gives you time to help your body amp up to better fight the infection. Here are some things you can do during the course of the illness.
- Stay hydrated. As soon as you suspect a cold, focus on staying hydrated. Drinking enough water will help your immune system fight off the infection, replace fluids lost from fever and blowing your nose, and loosen up congestion in your airways.
- Eat well. A vital defense against illness is giving your body the nutrients it needs to stay strong and ward off infection – those found in fruits, vegetables and lean protein. Learn more about superfoods that fight colds.
- Avoid stress. Chronic stress suppresses the immune system, making it have a weaker reaction to infection. In 2004, researchers reviewed nearly 300 studies on stress and concluded that stress of any significant duration negatively influences all aspects of immunity.
- Get plenty of rest. When you don’t get enough sleep, you are more likely to get sick. If you’re an adult, getting the recommended 7-9 hours per night gives your body time to repair and heal itself and ward off infections.
- Keep exercising, in moderation. Sticking with a moderate exercise routine has been proven to stimulate white blood cells that fight off viruses – but don’t overdo it. Strenuous exercise actually increases your chances of getting sick.
Cold Got You Down? Head to RediClinic
RediClinic’s board-certified clinicians can determine whether you have a cold or the flu. They will properly diagnose your symptoms and prescribe a treatment and management plan to help you get healthy. RediClinic is open seven days a week, with online appointments available and walk-ins welcome. Feel better today!
Learn more about how to stop the spread of colds and other illnesses.
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