Medical News Today: What are the stages of the common cold?

a woman experiencing a runny nose because of the early stages of a cold Share on Pinterest
In the early stages of a cold, a person may experience a runny nose and fatigue.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people usually recover from a common cold within 7–10 days.

Symptoms of a cold usually appear gradually, reach a peak, and then progressively fade away again.

The sections below provide more detail on each stage of the common cold.

Stage 1

One of the first stages of a cold is usually a sore throat. People might also experience:

  • tiredness
  • fatigue
  • a slightly runny or stuffy nose, which produces clear mucus

Symptoms are usually mild during the first stage of a cold, before peaking over the following few days.

Stage 2

Symptoms can increase and worsen during the second stage of a cold. People may experience:

  • a runny nose
  • congestion
  • mild aches
  • sneezing
  • a sore throat
  • tiredness
  • fatigue
  • cough

This is the peak stage of a cold. It usually occurs within 2–3 days of experiencing the first cold symptoms. People may also notice mucus from the nose turning white, green, or yellow during this stage.

Stage 3

Within 7–10 days, people will usually start to recover from a cold. Symptoms begin to ease up, and people will start feeling better. People may also find that they have more energy and are more able to carry out tasks as usual.

Certain symptoms can last slightly longer, for up to 14 days, though they should keep improving within that time. These longer lasting symptoms may include:

  • a runny nose
  • a stuffy nose
  • cough

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