Between the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the start of flu season and seemingly never-ending allergy season, these days it’s likely a runny nose or slight tickle in your throat, similar to cold symptoms, raises a bit of concern. While you definitely want to make sure you take your health seriously, it is always possible you’re just dealing with a common cold. But how long does the common cold last before you suspect that it’s Covid? Here’s how to identify if that’s what you’re dealing with.
Symptoms of the common cold
According to Soma Mandal, MD, a board-certified internist at Summit Medical Group in Berkeley Heights, biaxin pneumonia New Jersey, the first one to two days of the common cold (AKA a viral upper respiratory infection) typically start off with the following symptoms:
After that, the next three to five days of your common cold usually consists of coughing and more nasal congestion. “Coughing may occur due to postnasal drip, so drinking plenty of fluids and decongestants can help ease symptoms,” she explains.
Since Covid-19 has many similar symptoms to a common cold, (such as a cough and sore throat) and can appear anywhere from two to 14 days after infection, the CDC recommends getting tested as a precaution.
How long a common cold should last
When you’re sick with one, chances are you view it as “just a cold,” even as mild symptoms show up as a nuisance for what seems like a never-ending few days. According to Dr. Mandal, this is normal, since a common cold should last about seven to 10 days.
“But be aware, it can sometimes take up to six weeks for a post nasal drip to fully resolve, so even if the viral cold is over, post nasal drip can continue in the body’s repair process of damaged tissues from the virus,” she explains.
What to do if your cold lasts longer than 10 days
If your symptoms persist beyond that typical seven to 10-day lifespan, we don’t blame you for feeling concerned, as cold symptoms sometimes seem to be almost identical to more serious conditions.
“Sometimes, a common cold can also turn into a sinus infection, so if after a week, you are noting worsening sinus pressure, yellowish/greenish nasal discharge, fatigue or fever, then consulting with a medical professional is best advised,” Dr. Mandal adds. “If, after a week or so, you are experiencing fever, difficulty breathing, or chest pressure, then making sure to get evaluated for possible pneumonia is also important.”
Cold symptoms are also not too different from those of the flu and Covid-19, and while it may end up being “just a cold,” with the ongoing pandemic, now’s not the time to mess around — if you think you’ve been exposed to someone who’s infected, get tested ASAP, and schedule yourself to get vaccinated if you haven’t already done so.
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