Stages of a cold - Women's Health UK

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From that first tickle in your throat to the final splutter, you often overlook the stages of a cold as general grogginess and leave them untreated. Too often, you act the hero when you’re feeling severely worse for wear. So what are the common cold stages and how should you treat them?
A UK study showed that 40% of people who visited their GP for a cold went within 1-6 days. The recommended time to seek medical advice is 10 days plus. So how long do the stages of a cold last—and when should you seek medical advice?

WH asked pharmacist Raj Patel what you should expect during the stages of a cold and exactly how to minimise the common cold stages day by day.1-2: Incubation

There are no symptoms to warn you’ve been infected. Watch this space…

COLD SYMPTOMS

So you think you feel those groggy cold symptoms coming on but can’t figure out whether it’s the full blown flu? Watch out for the following symptoms:

  • High fever – You have a high temperature above 39°C that does not come down even if you take ibuprofen and/or paracetamol
  • Effect on day to day life – You are confused or disoriented
  • Pain in chest – You notice a sharp pain in your chest
  • Breathing – You are experiencing difficulty in breathing
  • Fluids – You cough up blood-stained phlegm (thick mucus)
  • Swollen glands – You notice a swelling of the glands in your neck and/or armpits
  • Duration – Your symptoms last longer than 3 weeks
 

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Nov 28, 2017 at 7:11am PST

STAGES OF A COLD

COMMON COLD STAGES: Days 1-2

Days one to two and you don’t even think to Google ‘Common Cold stages’ as you feel absolutely fine. In the first few days of a common cold, there are no symptoms to warn you’ve been infected. But the progression of a cold day by day is coming…

COMMON COLD STAGES: Days 2-3 

Come days two and three, you’ll start to feel a bit tired and sneezy, your body may ache and you’ll likely have an odd tickle or soreness in your throat that you just can’t shift. Progression of a cold can be quick and if you’re experiencing these symptoms, it looks like you’ve got the bug (literally). Get straight into bed to try to try to prevent your symptoms progressing onto the next stage… Tea and toast for one.

COMMON COLD STAGES: Days 3-4

Eating dinner? Stop reading now. Days three to four are the part where you’re bunged up and your nose runs like a tap – it’s not nice as the colour changes from clear to thick greenish yellow. Nice. Whilst progression of a cold day by day is hard to pinpoint, Patel advises trying an over-the-counter decongestant to help open up your blocked airways. Warm steam inhalation (like in a hot shower) can also ease nasal congestion. It can feel like it’ll never break through but clearing your airways can ultimately help prevent a sinus infection.

COMMON COLD STAGES: Days 4-6

Common cold symptoms mean that, because of your snotty situation, come days four to six you may also develop a mild cough. Due to inflammation around the airways, the cough may persist after your other symptoms are long gone. Annoying, but don’t worry because…

COMMON COLD STAGES AND SIGNS YOUR COLD IS GETTING BETTER: Day 7

Day seven and it’s time to call off that doctors appointment if you haven’t been ill for a week. This is one of the sure fire signs your cold is getting better. Most cold sufferers will get better with rest and over-the-counter remedies, says Mr Patel.

The good news? Around two weeks after the infection you will start to produce antibodies that prevent you from catching that particular cold virus again.

The bad news? According to research on behalf of the Treat Yourself Better Without Antibiotics campaign, there are around another 199 strains of cold virus, so you can pick up another one that you haven’t had yet – and that could happen straight away—so keep the life cycle of a cold in mind, just in case.

Still feeling bunged up? Read our guide to how to get rid of a cold (hey, who knew air purifying plants might just help).

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