5 Signs Your Cold Is Getting Better

Woman blowing her nose as her cold is getting better

When many people get sick, the first question on their mind is when they’re going to feel better. Sure, having an excuse to call out of work and lounge around the house may sound appealing at first, but the reality is that coming down with a cold is pretty miserable—especially if you’re battling a cough that’s preventing you from sleeping.

There are signs your body is fighting a cold, which are your body’s clues that you’re getting better. What are the signs your cold is getting better? Keep reading for the top five to be aware of (including if sneezing means you’re getting better). Plus, signs your cold is getting worse and you should see a doctor ASAP.

Related: So You Feel a Cold Coming On—Here's Everything You Can Do to Stop It In Its Tracks

5 Signs Your Cold Is Getting Better

1. You don’t have a fever

According to Dr. David Dobrzynski, MD, an infectious disease doctor and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, the earliest signs of a cold typically consist of nasal congestion, a sore throat, sneezing, dry cough and generally just feeling lousy. He adds that, sometimes, someone will have a slight fever of around 100℉ too.

While a fever is a vital part of the body’s defense against infection, it’s a good sign when your fever goes away. Fevers connected to a cold tend to last between one and three days. If it doesn’t, or it goes away and comes back, it’s important to see a doctor.

Related: Is It a Cold or COVID-19? Here's How to Tell the Difference

2. You have more energy

When a cold peaks, Dr. Dobrzynski says that most people feel wiped out and achy. “I think we all know that feeling of just wanting to lie on the couch watching Netflix all day,” he says. Once you start feeling up to more than just lounging around all day, that’s a sure sign your cold is getting better. In fact, Dr. Dobrzynski says that having more energy is one of the first signs of recovery.

3. Less body aches

Coming down with a cold activates the immune system to fight off the infection by releasing white blood cells. While this process is important for recovery, it causes temporary inflammation. As you recover from your cold, you’ll notice your body aching less. “Body aches resolve because your body is no longer fighting the actual infection itself,” Dr. Dobrzynski says.

Related: Wondering How Long That Annoying Cold Will Have You Parked In Front of the TV With a Box of Tissues? We Have Your Answer

4. Mucus turning from yellow to clear

Dr. Dobrzynski says that while it’s not a perfect sign, if when you blow your nose you notice your mucus is clear instead of yellow, he says it’s a good indicator that you’re on the mend. This is because yellow mucus is typically an indicator that the body is fighting an infection while clear mucus is not a sign associated with sickness.

5. You’re coughing less

Having a sore throat and coughing are both common symptoms of a cold. Dr. Dobrzynski says that, typically, a sore throat will resolve itself before a cough does. “Coughs can linger for a few weeks even after your cold has resolved. Many times it is the last symptom to completely get better,” he explains.

Dr. Dobrzynski explains that the reason why a cough can stick around is because the virus and bacteria associated with the cold irritate parts of the airway, which causes coughing. “The healing process for this can take some time so it may be weeks before you notice it going away. That being said, most people have their cough resolve fairly quickly,” he says.

What about sneezing? Does sneezing mean you are getting better? “Sneezing is another symptom that is caused by irritation from viruses and bacteria. It is also a way our body works to clear out our nasal congestion or other irritants,” Dr. Dobrzynski says. With this in mind, if you’re sneezing less, it could mean the body isn’t being irritated by a virus or bacteria as much and could be a sign you’re getting better.

In general, Dr. Dobrzynski says that colds go away on their own and don’t require medical attention. However, there are signs your cold is getting worse to be aware of. If your cold has lasted longer than two weeks, you have a high temperature lasting longer than three days, your symptoms are getting worse or you are still coughing after three weeks, see a doctor. “If anyone is having trouble breathing or their cold is flaring a chronic condition of theirs that cannot be managed at home then they should see their physician,” Dr. Dobrzynski adds.

It bears repeating that most colds are not dangerous and will go away on their own. But if you’re looking at the above list of signs your cold is getting better and it’s not reflecting how you feel, see a doctor. That way, you can know for sure what’s going on and get back to feeling like yourself as soon as possible.

Next up, find out if it's normal to come down with a cold every month.