Incubation period with a cold

What is the incubation period for a cold?

In the case of a cold, the incubation period is the period between infection, i.e. the penetration of pathogens into the body, and the appearance of the first symptoms.
The incubation period is due to the fact that the pathogens first have to multiply before they can spread in the body and lead to the typical symptoms. The length of the incubation period for a cold can vary widely and depends on the type of pathogen (bacteria or viruses).

What are the first signs of symptoms?

The first signs of a cold after the incubation period are typically upper respiratory problems.
The lining of the nose and throat swell and become inflamed, causing nasal congestion, frequent sneezing and a scratchy throat. There are also pain when swallowing and difficulty swallowing. Symptoms worsen quickly and often turn into colds (rhinitis) and painful sore throat (pharyngitis).

Further symbols at a glance:

  • sniff
  • to cough
  • Sore throat
  • Sore throat
  • Inflammation in the throat
  • difficulties swallowing
  • hoarseness

As the cold progresses, those affected feel bruised, dull and tired. The swollen nasal mucous membranes change the pressure conditions in the skull and headaches occur. In addition, there may be a slight increase in body temperature and body aches.

You can find more information about the symptoms at: Symptoms of an explanation

How long is the incubation time for viral and bacterial infections?

Most colds or flu-like infections are caused by viruses (especially rhino or adenoviruses).
The viruses are transmitted to other people by droplet infection and enter the body via small droplets of saliva that are produced when coughing or sneezing. The viruses first colonize the mucous membranes of the nose and throat, multiply there and then spread further in the body. Typically, the incubation time for a traditional viral cold is relatively short, around a day. Depending on the pathogen, however, incubation times of two to seven days can also occur.

More rarely, colds are caused by bacteria. The bacteria enter the body through an entry port, usually the nose or throat, and multiply. Even with a bacterial cold, the incubation time depends on the bacterial species and is usually a few days.

Also read our topics:

  • When do you need antibiotics for a cold?
  • The viral cold

Are you already contagious during the incubation period?

The simple answer to this question is: yes!
Even during the incubation period, when the infected are not showing any symptoms themselves, they are already infectious. Therefore, there is a risk of infection two to seven days before the first symptoms appear. They should pay attention to general hygiene during the cold season and wash their hands regularly with soap.

Find out more about the duration of the infection: How long is a cold contagious?

How do I nip the germ in the incubation period?

The best way to protect yourself from a cold sounds simple: it's best not to get infected in the first place.
The best way to do this is to wash your hands regularly, avoid shaking hands and keep a safe distance from sick people. However, if you suspect that you have been infected, the best thing to do is to strengthen the body's own defense system.
Zinc helps to kill viruses in the body and at the same time supports the immune system in the fight against the pathogens. Salt water solutions, which are used by gargling or in the form of nasal showers, also help to nip a cold in the bud or at least to alleviate it. The salt water attacks the pathogens on the mucous membranes and at the same time moistens the nose and throat, thereby strengthening the natural barrier function.
Tried and tested home remedies for a cold are also onions and garlic. Both have an antibacterial effect and kill viruses. The vegetables are best enjoyed raw, because cooking them loses their healing properties.

Also read more on the topic:

  • How can I prevent a cold?
  • Gargle with salt water

Is the incubation period in babies or children different than in adults?

In contrast to adults, babies and small children do not yet have a fully functional immune system, which is why they get sick significantly more often.
The incubation time depends not only on the type of pathogen and the dose of infection, but also on the strength of the immune system. Since newborns and very young children in particular have a very weak immune system, the incubation period for them can be shorter than for adults. Usually, the incubation time for a common cold is a few hours to a few days.

Find out more: Cold in the baby

Chart of the course of the cold