How we catch cold and flu
Cold and flu viruses can be breathed in, or passed on by your hands to your nose or eyes. When people who are infected cough or sneeze into their hands, they can transfer the virus onto them. If sufferers go on to have hand‐to‐hand contact with healthy people, they can pass their cold or flu on. In the same way, healthy people can pick up viruses when they touch objects that sufferers have held or handled.
The first few days of a cold
As our immune system responds to the virus, we experience the familiar cold symptoms. The first sign of a cold is usually a sore or irritated throat and is typically followed by early symptoms such as a headache, chilliness or lethargy. These develop quickly and can last one to two days.
During the first few days, your nose may also start to run. As your cold takes hold, this watery trickle may become thicker and change colour to yellow, or even green.
A cough can also be a common symptom of a cold. In the early days this may be linked to a sore or irritated throat and an irritating 'tickle' in the throat.
Common signs of a cold may include:
A headache –
As your immune system responds to the infection it is common to develop a headache.
In the first few days of a cold, you may feel shivery or chilly. However, it is rare for adults with a cold to get a fever too.
This reflex is your body's way of keeping your nose free from the things that irritate it, like dust, bacteria or viruses.
Tiredness and fatigue –
With a cold you may feel tired and drained. You may also find it difficult to concentrate.
During this initial period, you're at your most contagious. So wherever possible, it's a good idea to regularly wash your hands with soap and hot water, and wipe down door handles and worktops with a disinfectant.
It's worth remembering that the early symptoms of a cold are usually at their worst during the first two to three days of the infection and if you're otherwise fit and healthy, there is no need to visit a GP. However, if you're in any doubt, or are concerned about any of your family's symptoms, please speak to your doctor.