A cold typically resolves after about a week, although congestion, cough, and runny nose can linger. Your cold may be improving if you have more energy and your symptoms are milder.
A cold is a mild viral infection that often lasts for about a week. Cold symptoms include:
- sore throat
- runny nose
Generally, these symptoms are most severe in the middle of a cold, around days 3–5.
By the last days of a cold, most symptoms will have faded and your energy will have returned to your usual levels. You might still have a lingering cough or some mild congestion and nasal discharge.
This article takes a closer look at symptoms that signal your cold is almost over.
Colds typically end after about a week. Many people find that symptoms start to ease on days 7–10 of their cold. On these days, you might notice your energy picking up, and it might seem easier to work, attend school, and do daily tasks.
You might still have some lingering symptoms. These can include:
A runny nose and congestion can last up to 14 days, and it’s possible for a cough to last weeks. It’s common for nasal discharge in the final days of a cold to be yellow or green. This happens as a result of your immune system fighting the cold.
A cold is often broken into stages. People experience different symptoms in each stage and might feel sicker in some stages than in others. For instance, it’s common to feel worse in stage 2 than in stage 1 or 3.
Stage 1 lasts for 1–2 days. Symptoms in this stage are typically mild, and the most common symptom people report is a sore throat. You can also experience:
- slight congestion
- mild runny nose
Symptoms normally increase on days 3–5, also called stage 2. This is normally when you feel the sickest. In stage 2 of a cold, you often have the following symptoms:
- runny nose
- body aches
Symptoms start to get better after about a week. This is stage 3. In this stage, symptoms are mild and might resolve completely. The remaining symptoms in stage 3 typically include cough, congestion, and runny nose.
Does blowing your nose help get rid of a cold?
Blowing your nose can help relieve some of your symptoms. It can make it easier to breathe and can make you feel less congested. However, it probably won’t make your cold resolve any faster.
Typically, it’s best to recover from a cold at home with plenty of rest and some at-home remedies.
Steps you can take to help relieve your symptoms include:
- staying hydrated by increasing your fluid intake (drinking tea, juices, nonalcoholic beverages)
- sucking on throat lozenges to relieve throat pain and reduce coughing
- taking an over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medication to relieve your cough and fever
- using saline drops and sprays to relieve nasal congestion
- taking OTC pain medications such as ibuprofen to reduce inflammation
- drinking warm beverages that can soothe your throat, such as tea with honey
- taking a hot shower or bath, as the steam can help clear your sinuses
- using a humidifier to help open nasal passages
Do you need to see a doctor for a cold?
You don’t normally need to see a doctor for a cold. The common cold is caused by a virus. This means it can’t be treated with antibiotics. Since cold symptoms are typically mild, at-home treatment is typically best. However, there are times when it’s a good idea to see a doctor.
See a doctor if:
- your symptoms haven’t improved after a week
- your symptoms are getting worse instead of better
- you’ve had a fever for more than 4 days
- OTC medications aren’t helping
- you have symptoms that go away and then come back
- any of your symptoms feel severe or abnormal
- you become dehydrated
Any of the above could be a sign that your cold has become a more serious infection.
A cold typically resolves in about a week. Around day 7, your symptoms will often start to fade. You might still have congestion, a stuffy nose, and a cough. These symptoms can last weeks longer than other cold symptoms.
As your symptoms fade, your energy levels should return to their usual levels. You’ll likely find it easier to do everyday activities.
You typically don’t need to see a doctor for a cold. At-home treatment with rest, OTC medications, and the use of heat and steam to soothe your throat or open your nasal passages can help relieve your symptoms.
If your symptoms last longer than a week, or if they get worse instead of better, it’s best to see a doctor.