Our Definitive Guide to Cold and Flu

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Our Definitive Guide to Cold and Flu

Our Definitive Guide to Cold and Flu

More than 90 percent of upper respiratory infections are caused by viruses. These infections create different symptoms at each stage. Most colds and flus go away in about a week, although some symptoms (like coughing) can take two or three weeks to go away completely.

Helen (Eleni) Xenos, a One Medical doctor in Chicago, describes the typical progression of the common cold:

  • Day 1: Fatigue, headache, sore or scratchy throat.
  • Day 2: Sore throat worsens, low fever, mild nasal congestion.
  • Day 3: Congestion worsens, sinus and ear pressure become very uncomfortable. It may be difficult to sleep.
  • Day 4: Mucus may turn yellow or green (this is normal). Sore throat improves, but coughing begins.
  • Days 5-7: Energy and congestion improve.
  • 1 week+: Cough usually tapers off after a week, but can take up to 3 weeks to fully resolve.

If your symptoms are much worse than these, such as coughing so hard you throw up, or coughing up bloody mucus, or if you have a fever over 102°F, you might have something more serious going on, like pertussis (whooping cough) or pneumonia.