What to Expect, and What
You Can Do About It

Colds typically last between 7 and 10 days. Those days can be divided into three stages—but the duration and symptoms may vary.

Read on to find out what you’re in for. (Remember, talking to your doctor is always a good idea.)

DAY 1 TO 3:

During the early stage of a cold, you may experience a tickle in your throat (aka, a sore throat) as the first symptom. This can occur as early as the first day of infection. This may be quickly follow by the onset of other typical cold symptoms during this early stage – stuffy nose, runny nose, sneezing, hoarseness, cough.

day 1 label with icon of human wiping nose from common cold

DAY 4 to 7:

In the peak stage of a cold, your symptoms may reach their maximum intensity, resulting in effects such as a runny nose, cough, sinus/nasal congestion, body aches, headache and fatigue. In some, cases, this may also lead to a fever.

day 4-7 label with icon of human chest and face with nasal congestion from common cold


Afrin® helps nasal congestion by shrinking swollen nasal membranes in seconds.


DAY 8 to 10:

The late stage of a cold takes place within days eight to ten. During this phase, the severity of your symptoms should decrease as you experience less nasal congestion and aching. While coughing may also decrease for most people, some people may develop a nagging cough, that can last longer, after your initial infection.

If your symptoms last longer than average, are severe, and/or your fever returns, you should contact a doctor.

day 8-10 label with icon of human chest and face feeling better from common cold


  1. American Academy of Family Physicians. Colds and the Flu (https://familydoctor.org/condition/colds-and-the-flu/) Accessed February 24, 2023
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Children and Colds. (https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/ear-nose-throat/Pages/Children-and-Colds.aspx) Accessed February 24, 2023
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Multiple pages reviewed for this article. (https://www.cdc.gov/dotw/common-cold/) Accessed February 24, 2023
  4. Merck Manual Professional Version. Common Cold. (https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/infectious-diseases/respiratory-viruses/common-cold) Accessed February 24, 2023
  5. National Health Service. Common cold. (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/common-cold/) Accessed February 24, 2023
  6. National Institutes of Health. Understanding a Common Cold Virus. (https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/understanding-common-cold-virus) Accessed February 24, 2023
  7. National Library of Medicine. Common Cold. (https://medlineplus.gov/commoncold.html) Accessed February 24, 2023