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How long does a cold last?

The common cold usually lasts around 10 days, but can last up to 14 days (2 weeks).

It's called the common cold because colds are very common with most adults and teenagers getting 2 to 4 a year. Children average 6 to 12 colds a year.

For some people symptoms may go in 4-5 days, for others it might be 10 days or longer. The duration of a cold will depend on the type of cold virus that's caused it, and the person's general health and their immune system's ability to fight it off.

The NHS says colds usually get better on their own in a week or 2. That may surprise many people - one survey found nearly 9 out of 10 people questioned didn't know a cold could last a week and a half.

There isn't usually a need to see a GP or seek medical advice for a cold unless complications develop - or if you have specific concerns because of an adult or child's general health. Complications might include symptoms lasting over 3 weeks, breathing difficulties, chest pain, coughing up blood in mucus, or symptoms suddenly getting worse.

There is no specific treatment for colds but the symptoms of blocked or runny nose, sore throat, coughs, and sneezing, may be helped with home care. This includes rest, plenty of fluids, healthy eating, over-the-counter painkillers (age-appropriate paracetamol or ibuprofen), decongestants, and gargling salt water. Antibiotics don't help with colds and, unlike flu, there's no vaccine to prevent colds.

You can pass on cold viruses from before your symptoms begin until the symptoms have cleared up.

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on October 25, 2017

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