- Early Signs
- 4 Stages
- What Is It?
- Cold Treatment While Breastfeeding
- Cold Medicines and Breastfeeding
- Antibiotics and Breastfeeding
- Medicines to Avoid While Breastfeeding
- Home Remedies
What are the early signs of a common cold?
The initial signs of a common cold are usually a sore throat and runny nose followed by coughing and sneezing.
Other typical symptoms of a common cold include:
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Body aches
- Fever (especially in children)
- Stuffy nose
Symptoms usually go away within 7 to 10 days. In people with weak immunity, asthma or other lung conditions such as bronchitis or pneumonia may develop.
What are the 4 different stages of a common cold?
A common cold may typically follow a certain pattern of progression. The typical pattern, however, may not be experienced by everyone who gets a cold.
The typical stages of a common cold are as follows:
- Stage 1 (incubation period): This refers to the stage between the infection by a cold virus and the development of symptoms. This stage may last for one to three days, although for some it may be as short as 10 to 12 hours.
- Stage 2 (appearance and progression of symptoms): In this stage, symptoms begin and reach their peak intensity. The symptoms of a cold generally peak in one to three days. Typical cold symptoms include a sore throat, sneezing, cough, a stuffy nose, a runny nose (clear, watery discharge from the nose), feeling sick, headache, body ache, and fever. Fever is more commonly seen in children.
- Stage 3 (stage of remission): This stage is marked by a decline and eventual fading of cold symptoms. The symptoms usually subside between 3 and 10 days. After two to three days of the appearance of symptoms, the discharge from the nose may appear white, yellow, or green. This color change is normal and does not mean that antibiotics are needed.
- Stage 4 (stage of recovery): In this stage, the person feels normal and gets on their feet. There may be some lingering symptoms such as mild cough, stuffy nose, and scanty nasal discharge. Such mild symptoms may last up to two weeks in some people. They can be easily managed by appropriate over-the-counter (OTC) medications and a healthy diet.
What exactly is a common cold?
The common cold or viral rhinitis is an upper respiratory infection caused by several types of viruses. It is one of the most common infectious diseases affecting humans. Over 200 types of viruses have been identified that cause the common cold.
- Most colds are caused by viruses belonging to the rhinovirus family.
- Other common causes of a cold include coronavirus (COVID-19), adenovirus, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
- Most people with a common cold recover in about 7 to 10 days.
There are millions of cases of the common cold each year in the United States. It is one of the main reasons for children missing school and for adults missing work. Children are affected more commonly with a cold than adults who may have an average of two to three colds each year.
One can avoid getting a cold by following hygiene practices such as frequent hand washing, avoiding close contact with sick people, and not touching the face with unwashed hands. Although most people catch a common cold in winter and spring, it is possible to get a cold at any time during the year. There is no evidence whether going out in cold weather can make someone more vulnerable to catching a common cold.
- CDC Warns of Potentially Fatal Bacterial Illness on U.S. Gulf Coast
- Helping Others as Volunteers Helps Kids 'Flourish': Study
- FDA Approves Pfizer's RSV Shot for Older Adults
- What to Do When Tough-to-Treat Lymphoma Strikes During Pregnancy
- Rate of Pregnant U.S. Women Who Have Diabetes Keeps Rising
- More Health News »
What can I take for a cold while breastfeeding?
If you are breastfeeding, it’s important to be careful about what you put into your body, as what you ingest can enter your breast milk and thus be ingested by your baby.
While most cold medicines are safe to take while breastfeeding, make sure to first:
- Check with your doctor.
- Determine the active ingredient in the medicine.
- Check the correct dosage amount.
- Be prepared to monitor your baby for any behavioral or medical changes.
Generally, the amount of medicine that enters your milk when breastfeeding is much lower (about 5-10 times lower) than the amount your baby would be exposed to while in your uterus.
However, because these drugs do enter your milk in small quantities, try to stick with the lowest possible dose you need to treat your symptoms. Also, to minimize any possible effects on your baby, you can feed your baby first and then take the medicine.
What cold medicines are safe to take while breastfeeding?
Cold medicines that are considered safe to take while breastfeeding include:
- Zyrtec (cetirizine)
- Nasal sprays that contain Afrin (oxymetazoline), Flonase, Nasacort (steroids), or plain saline
- Dextromethorphan (you will have to keep an eye on your baby for any unusual drowsiness or a decrease in appetite while you are on this drug)
- Lozenges containing mild antiseptics, amylmetacresol, dichlorobenzyl alcohol, or cetylpyridinium
- Certain influenza antiviral medications, such as oseltamivir (although your doctor will prescribe the best treatment for you)
- Most cold and allergy relief eye drops
It is also safe to get the flu vaccine when you are breastfeeding.
What antibiotics are safe to take while breastfeeding?
Antibiotics that are generally safe to take while breastfeeding include:
- Amoxicillin (for bacterial infections, such as strep throat or ear infections)
- Penicillin (for bacterial infections, such as strep throat or ear infections)
- Azithromycin (for bacterial infections, such as pink eye or bacterial bronchitis)
What medicines to avoid while breastfeeding
Medicines that should be avoided while breastfeeding include:
- Zinc supplements
- Combined cough and cold or cough and flu medicines, such as Benadryl or Robitussin (these contain decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine, which may reduce your milk supply and could make your baby irritable and restless)
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter
What home remedies can you try to treat a cold?
One of the most amazing characteristics of human milk is how it adapts. As mother and baby are exposed to bacteria and viruses, breast milk includes antibodies specific to those antigens, as well as disease-fighting substances that help prevent many common illnesses. A mother will pass antibodies to her baby through her milk, which can destroy bacteria in the infant’s gastrointestinal tract before they have a chance to make the baby sick.
If you are trying to beat your cold naturally, you can try the following home remedies:
- Steam. For nasal congestion, you can try inhaling steam over a bowl of hot water.
- Saline drops or nose sprays. These are also cheap and effective for nasal congestion.
- Water. Since a cold can dehydrate you, aim for at least 10 glasses (8-ounce glasses) of water per day.
- Honey and ginger. These are naturally antimicrobial and decongesting agents. Raw honey can be added to ginger tea or consumed as is.
- Garlic. Garlic contains allicin, which has been proven to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antiseptic properties.
- Chicken broth. Studies show that chicken soup has mild anti-inflammatory effects that may provide relief from upper respiratory infections.
For some mothers, the thought of taking meds while pregnant or breastfeeding is scary. You are doing your best to stay healthy and decrease your baby’s exposure to chemicals. However, sometimes, the judicious use of medicines that can help you feel well enough to get through the day is the best thing you can do for yourself and your baby. When in doubt, call your doctor.
Cold and Flu Resources
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Harvard Medical School https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/common-cold-viral-rhinitis-a-to-z
The Royal Women’s Hospital. Medicines in Breastfeeding. https://www.thewomens.org.au/images/uploads/fact-sheets/Medicines-in-breastfeeding-151018.pdf
Mitchell JL. Use of cough and cold preparations during breastfeeding. J Hum Lact. 1999 Dec;15(4):347-9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10776186/
WebMD. Cold and Allergy Meds: Safe While Breastfeeding? https://www.webmd.com/baby/cold-and-allergy-meds-safe-while-breastfeeding#1
Top Common Cold Stages and Timeline of Symptoms Related Articles
What Are the Best Home Remedies for an Upper Respiratory Infection?What is an upper respiratory infection and what causes it? Learn more about upper respiratory infection, the common cold, and how you can treat upper respiratory infections at home. The primary function of the respiratory system is to help you breathe, supplying your body with oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide.
Can I Get Any STDs Through Clothing?Most sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) cannot be transmitted through clothing. Some such as pubic lice, scabies and molluscum contagiosum can be transmitted by sharing clothes with an infected person.
Cold, Fever and Flu Symptoms in Children: Medications and Home RemediesHow long does a cold last? How long is a cold contagious? Colds and fevers are some of the most common ailments in children. Learn common cold symptoms, treatment options, over the counter (OTC) medicines for cold and fever, home remedies, and how to relieve a sore throat.
Cold & Flu QuizAches? Pain? Fever? This Cold & Flu Quiz tests your knowledge on the difference between coming down with the common cold and sickness from influenza virus.
Cold and Cough Medicine for Infants and ChildrenThe safety of giving infants and children over-the-counter (OTC) cold and cough medicine is important for caregivers to understand. While there is no "gold standard" recommendation for giving infants and children OTC cold and cough medicine for fever, aches, cough, and runny nose, a few standards have been recommended.
Cold and Flu: Finding Fast Cough ReliefRemedies for coughing to relieve symptoms, thin mucus, and clear phlegm include cough syrup and honey in hot water. Use suppressants to treat a dry cough. See a doctor when home remedies are not enough. Bronchitis or another condition may be to blame.
Common ColdThe common cold (viral upper respiratory tract infection) is a contagious illness that may be caused by various viruses. Symptoms include a stuffy nose, headache, cough, sore throat, and maybe a fever. Antibiotics have no effect upon the common cold, and there is no evidence that zinc and vitamin C are effective treatments.
Common Cold QuizTake this quiz to learn the truth behind the infectious, contagious, uncomfortable disease known as the common cold. Test your knowledge of colds; get prevention tips, and learn what you may want to avoid when treating a cold!
Foods for the FluThe best foods to eat when you have the flu soothe symptoms and help you feel better faster. Good foods to eat with the flu include popsicles, turkey, vegetable juice, chicken soup, garlic, ginger, hot tea, bananas, toast, meal replacement drinks, oranges, pumpkin seeds, and carrots.
How Do You Get Rid of a Cold Overnight?Cold symptoms are part of your body’s healing processes. Most of the time, it does not require any help. However, you can get rid of a cold faster, even overnight, by resting, drinking hot fluids, blowing your nose, gargling with salt water, taking a hot shower, using a humidifier and taking OTC pain relievers and decongestants.
How Long Is a Cold or Flu Contagious?Viruses cause the common cold and the flu. Early symptoms and signs for a cold and the flu are similar, however, flu symptoms are typically more severe than cold symptoms. Cold and flu viruses are transmitted typically via coughing or sneezing.
Is It Common to Get a Cold During Early Pregnancy?It is common to get a cold and the flu during pregnancy. Find out if it affects the baby and how to take care of yourself.
Adenovirus 14 (Killer Cold Virus)Adenovirus infection, particularly Ad14, or the "killer cold virus" has been on the increase in the past two years. Symptoms range from those experienced with colds, sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, pinkeye, fever, bladder infection, and neurological conditions. Diagnosis and treatment options need to be discussed with your physician.
Panniculitis from Cold PicturePanniculitis is an inflammation of the fat beneath the outer layer of skin, leaving the area red and tender. In this case, the panniculitis has occurred due to exposure to cold. Ice crystals can form within cells and the injury to the cells occur during both cooling and thawing.
When Should You See a Doctor for Upper Respiratory Infection?What is an upper respiratory infection? Learn the symptoms of an upper respiratory infection and what to do about it.
How to Differentiate Between the Signs and Symptoms of COVID-19, Allergies, Cold, and Flu?Coronavirus disease or COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. Most people with COVID-19 will experience a mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without the need for intensive or special treatment. Serious illness is more likely in elderly people and those with underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer.
Cold and Flu: What Doctors Do to Boost Their Immune SystemsHow can you make your immune system stronger? Why not try what the pros try?