Skip to contentright arrow
Babylon Health

Treating Your First Cold (in a While)

Written by

, 4 min read

Treating Your First Cold (in a While)

When you’ve been taking precautions to stay healthy, the first sign of sniffles can come as a surprise. Vaccination, social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing are all good strategies to avoid getting sick. Despite your best efforts, you might come down with a cold virus.

Is it the common cold or COVID-19?

The common cold and COVID-19 cause many similar symptoms, such as a cough, sore throat and runny nose. That’s why it’s important to contact your doctor for medical advice. Even if you’re vaccinated against COVID-19, breakthrough infections are possible. Your health care provider can help you decide when to get tested or come in for an exam. If you have a high fever or if your symptoms go on for more than a week, make a call to your primary care provider.

What about the flu?

Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are caused by different viruses. Some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, so you may need a test to help confirm a diagnosis. If it is the flu, your doctor may prescribe medication that can help reduce your symptoms and shorten your recovery. If you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet, schedule time to get it done.

It seems like everyone has a cold right now

The common cold is common, and in the fall each year, the viral cold season takes off. Children are spending time together inside schools. Adults are returning to work. In many places, measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 are being relaxed. As we head into fall, there are more opportunities for colds to hop from person to person.

Why does this feel like the worst cold ever?

While many of us were avoiding COVID-19, we were also steering clear of the common cold. Many of us have enjoyed a sneeze-free stretch of time. Our memories of sore noses and headaches may have faded. When we’re caught off guard, a cold can seem like an especially nasty surprise.

When to seek emergency medical care

If you’re experiencing any of these signs, call 911 or your local emergency department immediately:1

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nail beds, depending on skin tone

What can I do to recover faster?

As inconvenient as it may be, it’s best to stay home and rest. Keep a water bottle by your bed or chair and drink plenty of water throughout the day. To help your immune system stay strong, eat vitamin-packed fruits and vegetables. A warm soup can be soothing and help you stay hydrated.

Take comfort in your surroundings

A few of your favorite things can help you feel better. A cozy pillow and blanket can help you sleep better. Pass the time with an old movie. A humidifier can help keep your nose, throat and lips from getting dry and ease your symptoms. A warm shower can help you relax.

Help protect your loved ones

Staying isolated can help prevent you from passing on your cold to your family and friends. If possible, stay in a bedroom by yourself. Disinfect shared surfaces and pay extra attention to doorknobs and faucets.

Make a care package for yourself

Even if you’re feeling well now, you can catch a cold when you least expect it. Be prepared with health and comfort items on hand. Packing a tote bag or bin ahead of time can save you a trip to the store, so you can stay home in your pajamas. Here are some ideas:

  • Thermometer
  • Fever-reducing medicine
  • Tissues
  • Saline nasal spray
  • Lip balm
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Cough drops
  • Electrolyte powder or drinks

Strategies for staying healthy

Chances are, you’ll get over your cold in a matter of days. To help avoid the next one, take good care of yourself. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can boost your immune system. Getting at least seven hours of sleep is one of the most important ways to protect your health. It also makes sense to reduce stress in your life, which can wear down your natural immunity. Oh, and gesundheit.


  1. CDC: Symptoms of COVID-19

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.

Ready for better healthcare?

To unlock Babylon video appointments, download the app and register using the Babylon code provided by your health insurance. If you don't receive a Babylon code through your insurance, access our Symptom Checker and My Health for free.

App StorePlay Store