• Peter

The life-cycle of the common cold

From that first tickle in your throat to the final splutter, the common cold is marked by waves of well-known symptoms as it runs its course. here is what you should expect during a cold - and how to minimise the symptoms day by day.


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


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 – 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.


Eating dinner? Stop reading now. Here’s the part where you’re bunged up and your nose runs like a tap – it’s snot nice as the colour changes from clear to thick greenish yellow. Nice. You might wish to try 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.


Because of your snotty situation 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…


Call off that doctors appointment if you haven’t been ill for a week. Most cold sufferers will get better with rest and over-the-counter remedies!

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? 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. Oh.

When should I go to the GP?

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 when should you seek medical advice?

  • 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 disorientated

  • 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

*Research carried out with 2,000 UK adults on behalf of the Treat Yourself Better Without Antibiotics campaign in October 2013.

Visit www.treatyourselfbetter.co.uk to learn more about the normal symptom duration of colds and flu, what symptoms to expect each day and what you can do to self-treat symptoms with pharmacy support to avoid a wasted trip to the GP

#cold #illness #flu #sick #doctor

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