How long does a cold last?
How long does a cold last? The answer depends on several different factors and can help distinguish between a cold, allergies, and something more serious. Each year in the United States alone there are more than one billion colds. On average adults usually catch between two and four colds per year. Statistically women get more colds than men and the prevailing theory is that their close interaction with children results in greater exposure to the cold virus. In children, the typical number of colds in a given year is often as high as twelve. The common cold is responsible for more missed work and school than any other single illness.
So, how long does a cold last? The average time for adults is between seven and nine days. For children, the typical duration is slightly less at five to eight days. However, it is not unusual in children and adults for a cold to last as long as two weeks. If symptoms persist for more than two weeks with no improvement, there is a possibility that symptoms are either being caused by allergies, or a secondary bacterial infection is involved. In younger babies and infants the common cold normally lasts about one week. In babies younger than three months and especially newborns, a common cold may quickly develop into pneumonia or croup, so extra vigilance is needed.
Each year Americans spend millions of dollars on products “guaranteed” to shorten the duration of a cold. How long does a cold last when using these products? Research says no product currently available results in an appreciable and/or predictable reduction in the duration of cold symptoms. The most popular remedy today is zinc. Unfortunately, scientific studies have failed to show any consistent measurable decrease in duration when using this product either. Some studies show that Vitamin C taken before the onset of cold symptoms may decrease the duration of symptoms in some people. Echinacea has received mixed reviews where the common cold is concerned. Some studies have shown no benefit, while other research seems to indicate a slight reduction in severity of symptoms and duration. For now, the theory is that using echinacea is not harmful, but it may not be helpful either.
Surprisingly, the best cold remedies come from within. It seems the most effective weapon in the fight against the common cold is the human immune system. There are several ways to boost the immune system and research shows that following these simple steps may reduce the symptoms of a cold by as much as one to two days. Get the proper amount of sleep. Those who are chronically fatigued are more susceptible to colds and often stay sick longer. Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and adequate protein. This reduces the likelihood of catching a cold in the first place. Exercise strengthens the immune system and reduces stress. In contrast excess stress lowers immunity and impairs the bodies natural ability fight off invaders, making colds last longer.