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Incubation Period for a Cold

The incubation period of a cold ranges between 2-4 days, depending upon the severity of the viral attack. In some cases, it can be as short as 10 hours of infection and as long as 5-7 days. Read the article to know the details.
Cold, flu and fever are the most common diseases contracted by human beings. The symptoms of a cold do not immediately appear after the viral infection. It usually takes two to three days to confirm that you are suffering from a cold. The time period between exposure to the virus (or any kind of pathogenic microorganism) and occurrence of symptoms is known as the incubation period. Clinical onset of the diseases take place when the infectious organism multiplies inside the host body and finally poses complications to health. Incubation period of a cold depends on the potency of the viral multiplication in making one fall sick by attacking the immune system of the body.

What is the Incubation Period for a Cold?

Cold is a viral infection where inflammation is caused to the respiratory passage. Infection to organs of upper respiratory system, like sinus, throat, nose, nasopharynx, bronchial tubes, are seen. Common cold can be caused by attack of more than 200 types of viruses amongst which the group of Rhinovirus is more likely to infect the human body. From this data, we can infer that the incubation period for a cold will differ according to the nature of the viral attack.

Since the prime cause behind occurrence of common cold is attack by Rhinovirus, we shall study the incubation of Rhinovirus in connection with common cold. The virus enters the respiratory tract of human beings and they multiply within 15 minutes of the attack. They prefer a temperature of 32°C for maximum growth and multiplication. The infection spreads randomly and symptoms of common cold will appear within 2 days of the attack. Thus, the average incubation period of common cold caused due to Rhinovirus infection in 2-4 days. During this period, the victim will experience runny nose, sneezing, sore throat and congestion in nasal passages. Rhinovirus infection is common among children and adults. It's often occurs during seasonal changes and specifically during the winter season. The symptoms are not very severe; they disappear naturally maximum within a week. In some cases, symptoms can also appear within 10 hours of viral infection.

Common cold accompanied by fever is usually caused by influenza virus. The incubation period of influenza virus depends on the severity of the attack that can be as short as 1 day to a stretched period of 7 days. However, the approximate incubation period is in the range of 1-3 days when caused by influenza virus. Apart from experiencing the common symptoms of cold, the victim will also suffer from body aches, headaches, fever, exhaustion, loss of appetite and tiredness in body. A proper medical treatment is required in such cases to get rid of the discomfort. Some other viruses causing common cold are Adenovirus, Coronavirus and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). Their incubation period is between the range of 1-7 days, 2-10 days and 2-8 days, respectively. Thus, you can well assume the fact that you have already been infected for two or three days before diagnosis of the symptoms. Common cold also results from infection caused by Paramyxoviruses, Echoviruses and Coxsackieviruses.

Since cold attack is a respiratory system disorder, a person becomes more vulnerable due to addictive habits like smoking and chewing tobacco. Consumption of excessive cold drinks and leading a stressful lifestyle are some other factors that increase chances of contracting this disease. Cold and flu, both are contagious and intermingling with people suffering from cold further makes an individual prone to getting the attack. Knowing the contagious period of common cold is also a significant factor for practicing self immunity. The virus spreads by sneezing, coughing, ejecting mucus, sniffing, etc. Even in absence of external symptoms the virus can spread from one person to another. The second day of infection is considered to be the most contagious period for a cold.

Once the symptoms have been detected, a proper treatment will eliminate uneasiness and discomfort within a week. Cold symptoms are usually cured with home remedies like inhaling peppermint vapor, taking hot peppered drink, etc. Antibiotics are administered only when there's fever and body ache suspected due to infection of influenza like viruses.
By Saptakee Sengupta
Published: 3/16/2011
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