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Three Things That Can Make a Cold Take a Turn for the Worse

Posted Aug 09 2013 12:00am
Woman sneezing from a cold
We all know the dreaded feeling of a cold coming on: the headache, the congestion and the sore, scratchy throat. What some people don’t know, however, is that a common cold that’s left untreated can take a long time to go away. It can also turn into something more. If you’re not taking care of yourself like you should, or you’re hoping the sniffling and coughing will go away on their own, think again. Here are three everyday mistakes people make that can make a common cold drag on or turn it into a full-fledged flu
1. Refusing to admit that you’re sick.

One of the best things you can do to effectively battle a cold is take care of yourself. This means getting sufficient sleep and eating well so that your body has the energy it needs to recover. For many people, however, personal engagements and work responsibilities make it difficult to slow down. So instead of resting, an individual might try to fight through their symptoms, assuming that over time their cold will go away on its own. What people don’t realize is that the opposite can happen. In fact, over-exerting yourself when your immune system is weak will not only prevent your symptoms from improving – it could make your cold worse. If that happens, you’ll end up out of commission for much longer.

2. Not getting enough fluids.

Aside from getting plenty of rest, the other standard piece of advice for getting over a cold is to load up on liquids. Water, sports drinks and juice play an important part in the healing process – and they help replace the fluids that are lost when you’re sick. Not only can staying hydrated keep your symptoms from getting worse, it can help them get better. Fluids help loosen mucus in the nasal passageways, allowing it to drain more quickly. This means that symptoms of congestion won’t last as long and you’ll start to feel better right away.

3. Succumbing to vices.

While hydration is essential for a swift recovery, drinking the wrong liquids can set you back. Drinking alcohol, for example, can dehydrate your body and inhibit your immune system, making it difficult to get back to health. It can also prevent medications you’re taking from doing their job. Smoking, on the other hand, is bad for the respiratory system, which is usually affected by a cold. Cigarette smoke (even if inhaled second-hand) can cause sinus problems to linger. It can also make it hard for your body’s defense system to fight infection. If you come down with a cold, make the right choice – avoid alcohol and don’t smoke.

What to do when your cold symptoms won’t go away

Most colds will go away on their own within five to ten days, though in some cases certain symptoms can stick around for longer. If you’ve been sick for more than ten days and none of your symptoms show signs of going away, you should schedule a doctor consultation with your family physician or a telehealth service. Without proper treatment a common cold can turn into something more, such as sinusitis, bronchitis or even pneumonia.

Amanda Guerrero
Amanda is a health writer, specializing in healthcare IT, patient engagement and Meaningful Use. She feels strongly about preventative care and empowering patients to make informed decisions based on all available treatment options. Amanda maintains her own health IT-related blog and contributes to websites such as and
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