• Medical

How Long Does a Cold Last?

11.30.21

BY: DR. KYON HOOD, MD

Having a cold is no fun. While being sick does offer you a chance to rest, recover and press pause on your busy life, the common cold often pays a visit at inopportune times. If you're stuck at home sick and are wondering how long your cold will last, keep reading – we'll cover that and more.

common cold often pays a visit at inopportune times.

If you're stuck at home sick and are wondering how long your cold will last, keep reading – we'll cover that and more.

What Causes a Cold?

The common cold is a viral infection. That means it's passed from person to person through several means:

  • Hand-to-hand direct contact. If you shake hands with someone sick with a cold, you are more likely to catch the same bug. This is especially true if you touch your face afterward without thoroughly washing your hands since you made physical contact with the other person.
  • Airborne respiratory droplets. If someone coughs, sneezes, or even talks near you while sick, they're expelling germs out of their mouth towards you. These germs can then get into your body, making you sick.
  • Touching contaminated surfaces. Germs can linger on certain surfaces, including fabrics, door handles, counters, electronics, and more. One of the biggest sources of germs is high-traffic surfaces – think a handrail on an escalator, the buttons on an elevator, or the handle on the office door.

What Are the Symptoms of the Common Cold?

Colds mainly cause respiratory symptoms, but they can affect your entire body as well (known as systemic symptoms). Below are some of the most common symptoms of the common cold.

Runny Nose and Congestion

When you have a cold, your immune system starts producing increased amounts of a chemical called histamine, which is responsible for inflammatory responses within your body.

The tiredness and swelling caused by histamine can increase the amount of mucus that is produced in your nasal passages.

Why does your immune system increase mucus production when you're sick? Here are a few reasons.

  • Mucus acts as a barrier between the tissue that lines your nasal passages and viruses and bacteria. In addition, the extra mucus can effectively drain out bacteria and other germs from your system, helping to prevent infection.
  • By working to prevent infection, mucus is essentially there to stop your cold from turning into something worse. So, next time you're frustrated about how much you need to blow your nose when you have a cold, take a minute and thank your mucus for having your back.

Sore Throat

A sore throat (i.e. pharyngitis) occurs due to swelling in between your tonsils and your voice box. This swelling can cause pain and discomfort, making it harder than normal to swallow.

Sneezing

When your nasal passages are inflamed, you may find yourself needing to sneeze more often.

Cough

As your respiratory system is irritated, you may find yourself coughing more often. Coughing can be caused by different irritants, and there are even different types of coughs — however, coughing associated with the common cold is usually a wet cough where you cough up mucus.

Low-Grade Fever

While it's uncommon to suffer from a high-grade fever when you have a cold (anything above 99.9 degrees F), you may run a low temperature while fighting off a bug.

A fever is a sign that your immune system is working hard at fighting an illness, so you may run a temperature at any point due to being sick.

If you are suffering from a fever, over-the-counter meds like ibuprofen and Tylenol can help you get your body temperature back to normal (though the purpose of a fever is your body trying to kill invading germs).

However, if your temperature is over 100 degrees, it may be necessary to visit your doctor.

Body Aches

Whether you have a common cold, the flu, or another type of bug, you're likely to experience some body aches. These might include headaches, muscle pain, and a feeling of overall weakness.

Body aches can also be signs that you might be suffering from COVID-19. However, feeling achy doesn't necessarily mean that you've caught coronavirus.

While aches and pains are hallmark symptoms of COVID, they're also associated with colds and the flu.

Can You Treat the Common Cold?

The best way to make a speedy recovery when you have a cold is to get plenty of rest. There's no "cure" for a cold, but there are plenty of ways to manage your symptoms and take good care of yourself while you're sick.

Below are some of the best recovery strategies for making a fast recovery from a cold.

Drink Fluids

Being dehydrated is a surefire way to make your cold symptoms worse. When your body doesn't have enough fluids, you're likely to start feeling sluggish, irritable, and exhausted. On the other hand, drinking lots of fluids helps restore your body's hydration levels, giving you the energy that you need to recover quickly.

Some of the best drinks to try against the cold virus are water, juice, and sports drinks that contain electrolytes.

You can also get relief from making chicken soup — drinking the broth helps to hydrate you with a nourishing liquid. Broth contains a high concentration of nutrients, and it's warm and soothing, which helps to open up your nasal passages when dealing with congestion.

Stay Warm

When you have a cold, your immune system can fight off the virus more easily when you keep warm. When your body temperature drops, germs can thrive more quickly and more of your body’s resources are being spent trying to keep you warm, making it harder to fight off the cold.

So, bundle up and drink something hot – it'll help you feel better faster!

Gargle Salt Water

When your cold has caused a sore throat, gargling warm water mixed with salt can help you get some relief. When you gargle that salty water, you're also drawing out the fluids from your throat tissues, lubricating your throat, and flushing out some of the irritants that are causing soreness.

While gargling salt water can help you feel better, it's not a full-on cure for a sore throat. You may find that making a saltwater gargle several times a day can keep throat irritation to a minimum, but the only way to make a full recovery is to rest up and let time pass.

Use Saline Drops

Nasal saline drops are unique decongestants that lubricate your nasal passages and reduce swelling and inflammation in your sinuses. These drops are beneficial when you're suffering from a sinus infection, which often develops when a cold persists for longer than a week.

Another type of liquid decongestant that is worth trying is a saline nasal spray. Sprays made with antihistamines and other medication can help you get relief from nasal congestion, and they're also helpful for allergy prevention.

Take Supplements

While conventional cold medicine can be a big help when you're sick, taking supplements can also be beneficial. Lemon, echinacea, honey, zinc, vitamin C, and more are either all-natural relievers of cold symptoms or they can provide your immune system with a helpful boost.

You can take these supplements alongside medicines like aspirin, Tylenol (acetaminophen), and ibuprofen (Motrin) to tackle your cold symptoms from all avenues.

Is It a Cold or COVID?

At the age of COVID-19, it’s easy to wonder if you are sick with the coronavirus any time you start feeling symptoms. While it is true that COVID-19 and the common cold have some similar symptoms, there are some key differences between the coronavirus and a cold.

If you’re not sure whether you’re sick with COVID or a cold, keep an eye out for these symptoms:

Loss of Taste or Smell

Losing the ability to smell and taste is a telltale sign that you are dealing with COVID-19 rather than a cold. While nasal congestion can sometimes hamper your sense of smell, it’s unlikely that you’ll lose the ability to smell or taste entirely with just a cold.

If you notice these senses fading, it’s a good idea to schedule a COVID-19 test and quarantine until you know your results.

Difficulty Breathing

Colds can cause your breathing to get a little difficult, but not as much as COVID-19. Many sufferers of the virus report bouts of uncontrollable coughing and wheezing, which is uncommon with a standard cold.

Gastrointestinal Distress

In some cases, the coronavirus can cause nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and other GI issues. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s unlikely that the common cold may cause them.

Severe Fatigue and Body Aches

While a cold can make you feel a bit weak and achy, the aches and pains that you’ll experience with COVID are typically far worse. COVID-related body aches are likely to feel more like having a bad case of the flu than a run-of-the-mill cold.

If You Think You Have COVID…

Getting tested as soon as possible is the way to go. Whether negative or positive, getting tested allows you to know if and how to proceed with the recovery process in the safest way possible.

For both your sake and the sake of others, don’t hesitate to get tested!

How Long Will I Have a Cold?

Colds typically don't last longer than ten days. If your cold persists past this point, it's possible that you are suffering from a sinus infection, the flu, or a more severe type of sickness.

Long-lasting cold symptoms are a good reason to pay a visit to your doctor. Since a cold usually goes away on its own without the need for medical intervention, persistent symptoms often indicate that something else is wrong.

Your doctor can help you get a clearer sense of what's going on when your cold won't go away, giving you peace of mind and a treatment strategy that will help you recover.

In some cases, a bacterial infection can develop as a result of your cold symptoms. In this case, the best source of relief and the quickest way to recover is often taking antibiotics. Antibiotics target bacteria and help your immune system fight off an infection, which may not go away on its own if left untreated.

Conclusion

Colds are uncomfortable, irritating, and frustrating to deal with. Luckily, you will get better with time (and some rest) almost every time. A cold, like many viruses, typically goes away on its own, so the best thing to do is lie low and stay home when you’re sick to avoid passing on what you have to others.

If you’re struggling to bounce back when you have a cold, ivee is here to help.

The Illness Remedy IV therapy has exactly what your body needs when you’re sick. Specially formulated to help you fight illness effectively, The Illness Remedy contains a hydrating LR or Saline Solution, B-Complex vitamins, Vitamin C, Zinc, Magnesium, and L-Glutathione.

When you book a treatment with us, we’ll send a Registered Nurse straight to your location to administer the treatment, wherever you may be. That means you can keep resting and recovering from a cold while we help give you the boost that you need to make a quick recovery!

To see if our wellness solutions are available to you, check out the current locations we serve here, and let us help you kick your cold to the curb.

Seek professional medical advice if your symptoms persist or worsen. Speak to your doctor before adding new medications or supplements to your health and wellness routine.

Sources:

Common cold - symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic

All About That Mucus: How it keeps us healthy - Science in the News | Harvard

Vitamin C in the Prevention and Treatment of the Common Cold | NCBI

Warmer body temp puts the heat on the common cold | Yale

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