The common cold can be quite uncomfortable. If you have one, you may experience a combo of miserable symptoms like a sore throat, stuffy nose, and body aches that can feel like they go on forever.
While many of us managed to avoid some pesky insects in the past few years due to restrictions like wearing masks and social distancing, that is no longer the case. More and more people are getting sick with non-COVID illnesses, sometimes spreading for weeks.
“Colds usually last three to ten days, but in some cases, you may experience symptoms for three to four weeks,” Dr. R.K. said Peter Mans, an otolaryngologist Yale Medicine,
While it’s completely normal for a cold to last longer than two weeks, there are a few things you should be aware of to make sure prolonged symptoms aren’t a sign of something more serious. Here’s what to expect if your illness just won’t go away:
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First, get tested to make sure your cold isn’t a sign of another illness.
“Covid-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) all spread in similar ways and have symptoms that overlap with those of the common cold,” Dr. John SwartzbergA clinical professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health.
Mains said that by the time people reach their teenage years, they get a feel for what the common cold is like. However, the symptoms can be associated with other diseases such as COVID. It’s always best to test to see what you’ve got.
While most people are familiar with at-home Covid tests, there is an alternative Demand kit at home Where you send your sample to the lab to be tested for flu and RSV along with COVID-19. You can also visit your doctor, who can do the test for you.
pay attention to your symptoms
If you’ve ruled out other infections, but your symptoms are getting progressively worse, it may not be related to your cold, experts said.
For example, symptoms such as prolonged shortness of breath, wheezing or chest pain are not associated with a cold. “These It can be a sign of an asthma attack, pneumonia or chest pain, even a heart attack. If you have any of these signs, it’s important not to ignore them and get medical help right away.
Even though the common cold is caused by a virus, another possibility is that you have a Bacterial infections — such as pneumonia or sinusitis — after your viral infection can leave the body momentarily weakened by a cold, said Dr. Marwan Azar, an infectious disease physician. Yale Medicine,
Individuals who have a decreased immunity are more likely to develop a secondary bacterial infection after getting over a cold. Azar suggested seeing a doctor if you have any symptoms associated with a bacterial infection, such as a cough with thick phlegm, severe facial pain or swelling.
Long-lasting inflammation can lead to colds
“If you have cold symptoms, such as a recurring cough or sore throat for more than two weeks, it is usually not caused by a persistent infection, but by inflammation that results from a cleared infection, especially form postnasal drip,” Azar said.
Postnasal drip occurs when your body produces mucus in the nasal and sinus cavities during a head cold and it drips down the back of your throat, causing a tickle that prompts a cough. It takes time for your immune system to clear out all the mucus, so you may experience a persistent congestion for a few days or a week, even after the virus is no longer in your system.
Azar said it may be worse at night because mucus can trickle down more easily when in a horizontal position.
You may not be giving yourself enough time to recover
Your symptoms may not go away if you don’t give them a chance to resolve. Following your normal, busy schedule — filled with long work hours, housework, exercise or social activities — may exacerbate your symptoms. Make sure you are getting enough rest, hydrating, getting enough sleep and more.
If it’s a struggle for you, find one thing you can cross off your to-do list, like finishing your weekly workout or skipping some errands to make up for the extra hour of sleep. You can also try over-the-counter medicines to help ease your symptoms so you can give yourself the best chance for recovery.
If you are still not improving see your doctor as soon as possible
If you’re treating your cold properly and your symptoms don’t improve after three weeks, see a doctor.
Symptoms such as wheezing with shortness of breath, prolonged high fever, severe sore throat, and cough that brings up a lot of mucus, if experienced for an extended period of time, could be a sign of something serious That’s why it’s important to seek medical attention, Swartzberg said.
Your doctor will be able to test for other diseases (if you haven’t already) and conduct a physical exam to gauge the severity of your symptoms. If left untreated, your symptoms could lead to further complications and infection, so you’ll want to get it checked out.