How Long Is This Stupid Cold Gonna Last? An Investigation
We are all intimately familiar with the symptoms of colds—itchy throat, coughing, sniffling, sneezing, hacking, headache, tiredness, that gross dry nose thing that happens when you’ve been using toilet paper to blow because you’re too lazy to buy tissues. But I had never really considered how long each of these symptoms last, and the order in which they occur, and how long they are supposed to take in full. Why bother, I thought; you’re sick already, and going to be sick for as long as you’re sick.
Then, a few years ago, after one too many protracted illnesses that hit me at about this time of year, the period in which all your coworkers and your children and your partner and the man on the subway coughing into the air not the crook of his arm were sick, I did something for the first time: I looked up exactly how a cold progresses.
I did this by, yes, googling, specifically googling “lifecycle of a cold.” There are many results to this query, and all outline the same rough principles, though the most helpful ones are accompanied by cheery illustrations. You will be in for probably no more than 7–10 days of discomfort, all told. There are three rough stages (Stage 1: tiredness, sore throat; Stage 2: coughing, congestion, runny nose; and Stage 3: finally starting to feel better), and each of those stages are approximately one to three days. With this information in hand, you then know when you can expect to feel better. “Ah,” you think, “I’m in the coughing and blowing my nose stage, the worst stage,” and the stress of being sick abates ever so slightly. The best is yet to come! This interminable misery will end, if you accept your fate and let yourself rest! There is a light at the end of the tunnel (and, for those around you, the comfort of knowing when you are no longer contagious and can rejoin society). When you know that you’re coughing and have a runny nose and have felt bad for about three days, you then know you have approximately four to five days left of these symptoms. You can plan for things more specifically if you know when you’ll be back at it again, ready to embrace life in all its other stressful glories.
Given how the human mind works, this tracks. Studies show that even if we think spoilers ruin television shows and movies, knowing what happens actually lets people enjoy stories more. This is not a one-to-one; there is no universe in which I enjoy having a cold more thanks to the element of surprise. But it is true that uncertainty, particularly about the future, can be extremely anxiety-producing, even if it does come along with a side of getting to lay at home and loudly moan once in awhile. It stands to reason, then, that knowing your pain will end, and roughly when that will be, helps abate the stress.
We know the “miracle cold buster” Airborne is nothing more than marketing and Emergen-C may not do anything but add flavor and a bit of fizz to your morning. But we don’t actually need these things anyway because it’s dumber to “power through” a cold than accept it for what it is, take it easy, take basic care of yourself, and let things get better in due time could be exactly the medicine you never knew you needed.
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Source : Kate Dries Link