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How Long Does a Cold Last?


Updated May 15, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: How Long Does a Cold Last?
Pretty much as soon as any of us gets sick, the first thought is, "when will I feel like myself again?" While colds certainly aren't the worst of the common illnesses out there, no one wants to get one — and when you have one, you just want to feel better.

Luckily, colds are typically fairly short-lived, and most of us recover from them without any real treatment.

But how long should you expect those annoying symptoms to last?

Most colds last between 7 and 10 days but can last anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks.

After you are exposed to a cold virus, symptoms usually start to appear 2 to 3 days later. This is called the incubation period.

Cold Symptoms

When you get a cold, you will likely have several symptoms that come and go, meaning you won't have all of them all at the same time. Symptoms you might experience when you get a cold include:

  • Congestion
  • Cough
  • Sore Throat
  • Watery Eyes
  • Itching Eyes, Face, Nose or Throat
  • Headache
  • Fatigue or Feeling Tired
  • Fever - more common in kids than adults

While we don't all get all of these symptoms every time we get a cold, we will experience some of them.

Cold Treatments

There is no cure for the common cold, so treatment really consists of relieving your symptoms. There are hundreds of medications out there that claim to relieve your cold symptoms. Some of them may help and others won't.

Figuring out which one is right for you can be tricky when there are so many options. It's best to take medications that treat only the symptoms you have, so you aren't taking medication that you don't need, which can cause unnecessary side effects.

If you don't want to take medications or you are looking for other ways to feel better, there are plenty of things you can do that don't involve swallowing a pill.


Common Cold MedlinePlus 17 Jun 13. US National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health. 24 Jun 13.

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