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How to Fight Through the 5 Stages of a Cold


Woman sick in bed with the common cold, blowing her nose

By Sarah Parker Ward

For as common as colds are, it’s rare that we stop and think about their actual progression. Yet understanding the early warning signs of a cold can help you take steps toward relief sooner and accurately identifying when a cold is truly waning can help keep you from jumping back into work before your body is really ready.

So, here are the five stages of a cold you should know and the related remedies to consider that can help get you through – and of course, be sure to talk to your healthcare professional if you have any questions.



Stage 1: Onset
It’s roughly 1-3 days since you came into contact with a cold virus and your body is starting to show mild symptoms like mild fatigue, runny or stuffy nose, and a sore throat. Even though you’re busy, try not to ignore these warning signs! Get ample rest and stay especially well hydrated.

Stage 2: Progression
Your cold is really settling in, as is the cough and congestion. Now’s the time to make a full on TLC Kit stocked with chicken soup, tea, honey, cough drops, soft tissues and lip balm. Zinc is a staple of a balanced and healthy immune system, so stock up on zinc-rich foods like eggs, garbanzo beans, pumpkin seeds and whole grains.

Stage 3: Peak
Your cold is in full swing and you’re feeling knocked out. Body aches and a low-grade fever are normal, but double up on your liquids - water, broth and juices - to stay hydrated. To relieve congestion and sinus pressure, use hot, steamy showers and humidifiers and consider an over-the-counter nasal decongestant.

For faster relief of some of your most frustrating symptoms, try TYLENOL® Cold or TYLENOL® Sinus. Have a child under the weather with a cold? TYLENOL® offers helpful treatments for them, too.

Stage 4: Remission
As your fever breaks and your aches start to subside, you know you’ve turned the corner toward wellness. As you gain back your strength, take the time to nix persistent germs by disinfecting surfaces in your home, car and office. Throw all bedding and clothes into the wash for a good scrubbing, and don’t forget to sterilize personal items like toothbrushes and cell phones that could also harbor and spread germs.

Stage 5: Recovery
Finally, you’re on your feet and feeling back to normal! Treat any minor, lingering symptoms like a cough or runny nose, with the appropriate over-the-counter medicine and stick to an especially healthy, balanced diet as your body reboots.

Remember, cold weather isn’t the source of a cold – hence many of us come down with it in the summer, too! Rather, viruses transmitted through miniscule droplets are the cause. So the best prevention method is to disinfect the spaces around you regularly and wash hands for a full 20 seconds at least five times a day.

Want more information? Try these common cold and flu prevention tips, or these nine things you should know about the common cold.

©Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 2019

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