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The Common Cold – Prevention, Timeline & Treatment


A ‘common cold’ can be a real annoyance for a few days. Headache, runny nose, temperature. It’s not pleasant but we get over it in a few days.

A dose of the cold is something most of us have to deal with at least once a year. But we are often not prepared for it and forget how to deal with it, even though it is a semi-regular guest in our lives.

Let’s look at what to expect with the common cold, the timeline of symptoms,  and how to treat the cold.

The Common Cold, an all too common illness that affects young and old, especially in the winter months.

Common Cold Prevention

We can’t completely prevent getting a cold, some years you’ll get none, other years you could have two or three. We all know that obnoxious person who proudly boasts that they ‘don’t get colds’. Well maybe this year will be their year! And then they can pipe down and get on with it like the rest of us!

Fortunately there are a few things we mortals can do to limit our chances of getting the cold.

Avoiding people who already have the cold is a good start.  Watch out for the snifflers, sneezers and runny nosed.  This is not always possible when they are family or work colleagues.

Whether you get the cold that’s doing the rounds of the office depends on the variant of the cold virus and your immune system.

If your immune system has encountered this particular cold before, or one very similar to it, it should know how to deal with it. Virus-killing white blood cells will be produced which snuff out the cold before it takes hold.

The health of your immune system can also be a factor. If you are rundown, exhausted, undernourished, your immune system may be running at less than optimal levels, making it less effective at fighting the cold virus.

So any method of topping up your immune system will increase your likelihood of fighting off the cold quickly. So make sure you are eating well and getting a good nights sleep regularly.

Taking vitamins can help but only if you are not already eating a decent balanced diet. ‘Boosting’ your system with more vitamins that your body needs will have no positive effects.

Echinacea drops taken in water have been shown in some cases to reduce the chances of getting a cold by encouraging the immune system, but effects will vary from person to person, the variant of the cold virus and even the type of Echinacea taken.

Timeline and Treatment of the Common Cold

Over the years you will get used to the normal pattern of your symptoms with a common cold.

But as we often forget when we are in the midst of feeling horrible, here’s what to expect.

By the time you begin to experience symptoms of the cold it has probably already been a day or two since you were infected.  We’ll ignore this pre-symptomatic phase and jump straight to Mr Sneezy.

Day 1

Symptoms will probably start with sneezing unexpectedly from time to time. When you sneeze, you will recognise that smell in your nose that’s always associated with a cold. Later in the day, your nose will start to run.

Now is the time to go to the shops or chemist and stock up on cold treatments and the things you will need.

Lemsip, Beechams or that kind of cold & flu remedy containing paracetamol to treat headaches and a temperature, and a decongestant to help clear the nose.

Vaporub, if you like that sort of thing, to rub on your chest at night to help clear your breathing.

Tissues, lots of them, preferably as soft as possible with a balsam to stop your nose from turning red from all the nose blowing.

Throat losenges for a few days time when you get a scratchy throat.

Cough mixture for the inevitable cough that will hang around when all other symptoms have gone.

Day 2

By now you are fully in the grip of cold symptoms and feeling downright horrible.

Your nose will be running constantly and uncontrollably.  You’ll be blowing your nose the whole day so make sure those tissues are handy at all times.

For hygiene reasons, dispose of your used tissues in a bin straightaway.

You’ll have a temperature and a fuzzy, slightly sore head and generally feeling woosy from time to time. You will probably want to take a Lemsip or equivalent a few times today. Remember to read the label and stay within the recommended maximum daily dosage limits and allow at least 4 hours between doses.

Keep well hydrated, drinking lots of hot drinks but particularly lots of water.

Eat well at mealtimes. If you have to feel awful from having the cold, don’t make it worse by sticking to a silly diet. Today is not the day for that!

You’re going to feel pretty awful today. But know that it’s probably the worst day, symptom-wise, so try to get through it and maybe try to get an early night.

Day 3

By now your nose will have stopped running, thankfully, or if not then it will very soon.

Your head will be a little clearer but you will probably still need a couple of cold & flu remedies throughtout the day, but not as much as yesterday.

You might notice your voice a little choked up or croaky. Keep taking the hot drinks and loads of water. Throat losenges may help the croaking. You might need to clear your throat more often.

Your nose, although not running now, may be a little stuffed up and not completely clear yet. The outside of your nose may be a little raw from all the nose blowing but this will pass in a day or so.

Day 4

Generally with the common cold and a fairly healthy immune system you are now out the other side, past the worse and back to feeling mostly normal. Your head is clear and you are breathing clearly.

It’s around now that you might notice a cough. Depending on the severity of the cold and the person, this can hang around for a day or two, or in worse cases weeks.

Take throat losenges and cough mixtures and be patient. This will pass eventually too.




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