It’s almost an annual rite of passage: Winter comes and despite your best efforts, you catch a cold. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s hard to slow down for a mere case of the sniffles. Many of us try to work straight through our colds and hope that, with minimal effort, the symptoms will get better quickly. Although that may sometimes be the case, it can also happen that pesky cold symptoms leave us feeling drained for what seems like an eternity.
Cold symptoms can vanish in as little as two days. Seventy percent of people who catch a cold feel better within a week, says Gary Rogg, MD, an internal medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. But it is not unusual to suffer from symptoms of the common cold for as long as two weeks.
If you're one of those people who brag, come flu season, that you "never, ever get sick," be aware: The odds may catch up to you. Every year, about 5% to 20% of U.S. residents get influenza, according to estimates from the CDC.
Taking certain antiviral drugs within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms can shorten the duration of the flu, but that involves recognizing you have the flu, getting in touch with your doctor, and going to the pharmacist before the 48 hours is up.
Just in case your number...
Sometimes, it’s the things we do - or don’t do - that leave us feeling ill for longer than we expect. Why does your cold seem to be hanging on for longer than it should? Here are six possible reasons.
1. Lack of Rest
Sleep plays an important role in our immune system. In fact, a study published earlier this year in the Archives of Internal Medicine demonstrated that people who got less than seven hours of sleep per night were nearly three times more likely to catch a cold than were people who slept for eight hours or more.
Once you do have a cold, it will also take longer for it to clear up if you don’t get adequate rest.
"Most of society in general doesn’t want you calling in sick; they look down on you if you use your sick days," Rogg says. "But when you're sick, the ideal thing is to stay home and stay away from people and rest it out."
2. Low on Fluids
Fluids play an important part in your healing process as well. If your cold won’t go away, consider drinking more water, Gatorade, or juice.
A lack of fluids can cause discomfort and dehydration, particularly because your water demands increase when you’re sick, given the loss of fluids from drainage. In some circumstances, a lack of fluids in your system might contribute to prolonging your symptoms.