Lifecycle of a cold

Most people will have a cold this winter, says the NHS. Cold symptoms usually last four or five days, but you may feel poorly for longer, depending on the virus.

Unfortunately there’s no cure for the common cold. The good news is your local Careway pharmacist has plenty of advice to offer about looking after yourself while you’re feeling ill as well as which over-the-counter medicines you should use to treat your symptoms.

Here’s what happens from day to day when you have a cold, including what you can do to make yourself feel better:

Days 1-2: If you have a cold, you may not know you’ve been infected straight away. The virus is affecting your cells, but your symptoms won’t start to appear until day two.

Days 2-3: The first signs of a cold usually start on the second day. You may have a bit of a sore throat, which will get worse, and you may start coughing. You’ll also start sneezing and your nose will start to run. You’ll also feel tired and generally unwell, but unless the virus is a particularly nasty one you shouldn’t have a high temperature.

What should you do? Stay at home if you can, to prevent spreading the virus to others. Rest as much as possible, keep warm and drink lots of fluids to keep your body hydrated. If you have a bit of a temperature, you may want to take paracetamol or ibuprofen. If your throat is very sore, you could try using a soothing throat spray or suck a throat lozenge.

Days 3-5: Your nose may feel much more blocked up now because your mucous is thickening. You could also start to develop a chesty cough, and you may experience a sinus headache (pain in the forehead area and around and behind the eyes).

What should you do? At this stage, an over-the-counter decongestant or all-in-one cold and flu remedy could help you to breathe more freely, or you could try a steam inhalation. If you have a chesty cough, an expectorant cough medicine could help clear out the mucous that’s making you cough. Meanwhile, keep resting and drinking plenty of fluids, and use an extra pillow if you’re having difficulty breathing through your nose at night.

Days 5-14: Depending on the virus, your symptoms will start to ease as the virus dies off.

What should you do? It can take a while for the mucous to dry up completely, so keep taking decongestants if your nose is still blocked or a cough medicine if you still have a cough. It should, however, be fine for you to get back to your normal life and resume your daily activities.

Talk to your pharmacist about over-the-counter products that treat cold symptoms, including how they should be taken (always read the label). Your pharmacist can recommend the product that would suit you best. Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our online Pharmacy Finder.