Cold and flu viruses are extremely common, and most of us come down with something every now and again, especially in winter. It can be frustrating when you’re stuck with an infection that you know will eventually go away by itself, but there isn’t normally much you can do in the short term. However, we do have some tips on managing your symptoms and minimising your discomfort and risk levels.
Nine times out of ten, an unexplained cold is down to a viral infection. Bacterial infections that present similar symptoms are rather unusual, so taking antibiotics is hardly ever the right course of action unless your doctor prescribes them. If you look for clues that your infection is viral, and you know where it is in your body to begin with, you can figure out what to expect in the coming days.
That’s the next step, and it will help you stay on top of your illness. Headaches and an uncomfortable throat usually come first with a cold. In a couple of days a sore throat will usually get worse before easing off, and congestion normally becomes your main concern. After a few days you will probably reach your lowest level of energy as your body focuses on fighting the infection by producing mucus and coughing. Commonly the cough is the last thing to leave, and taking three weeks to get over it is not unusual.
You should never experiment with different medication to try and combat a cold. What you can normally try are different harmless remedies like herbal tea, lozenges and vitamins to help soothe your symptoms and boost your immune system. Resting is also key to conserve your energy and allow your immune system to function. It’s better to take one day out early on so you avoid getting struck down for longer next week when you fail to fight off the infection.
A great tip is to remember that other people don’t want to be ill either. For around a week a common cold will normally be contagious, so try to be considerate with where you cough and how often you wash your hands. Taking time off work will also help with this.
If your symptoms become more serious it could be necessary to contact your contact your healthcare provider and get checked out. If you cough up any blood, struggle to breathe, have a high temperature or you don’t recover after a couple of weeks, these are all signs you might need more specialised medical attention.