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Signs & Symptoms of the Common Cold

by Jennifer Kirby
  • Overview

    Signs & Symptoms of the Common Cold
    Signs & Symptoms of the Common Cold
    What's often referred to as the common cold is a viral infection of the nose and throat--your respiratory tract. More than 200 viruses can cause the common cold, so symptoms can vary considerably, according to the Mayo Clinic. Adults are likely to have a cold several times a year; children, particularly preschoolers, may have a cold six to 10 times in that same 12-month period. Fortunately, the common cold is usually harmless, and symptoms typically disappear within a week or two.
  • Most Common Symptoms

    Among the most common symptoms of a cold are a runny or stuffy nose, congestion, sneezing and watery eyes, according to the Mayo Clinic. The discharge from your nose may become yellow or green and get thicker after you've had the cold for several days.
  • Sore Throat and Coughing

    An itchy or sore throat and coughing frequently indicate the common cold as well. These symptoms, like other symptoms of the common cold, usually appear one to three days after you've been exposed to the virus causing the cold.
  • Aches and Fever

    The common cold may cause mild body aches or headaches. You may feel tired, although extreme fatigue is not a typical symptom of the common cold, according to the Mayo Clinic. You may run a low-grade fever; a fever higher than 102 degrees is not a normal cold symptom.
  • Symptoms Requiring Medical Attention in Adults

    Normally, the common cold does not require medical attention. However, adults should see a doctor if they have a high fever, particularly if accompanied by aches, fatigue, chills, sweating or a cough that produces colored phlegm, according to the Mayo Clinic. In addition, a doctor's visit is warranted if sinus pain is severe or glands are extremely swollen, as sinusitis--inflamed and infected sinuses--can result from a cold that doesn't go away. Strep throat, bronchitis and pneumonia are other possible complications that may be indicated by these symptoms and would need a doctor's treatment.
  • Symptoms Requiring Medical Attention in Children

    The common cold usually hits children harder than adults, and colds are more likely to lead to complications such as ear infections. Possible signs of an ear infection in children include earaches, green or yellow discharge from the nose and a fever that returns after the cold is gone, according to the Mayo Clinic. Children who are too young to express their ear pain may cry more than usual or sleep fitfully. Children should also see a doctor if their cold is accompanied by symptoms such as trouble breathing (a cold can lead to wheezing in asthmatic children); a high fever with chills or sweating, or any fever that lasts more than three days; vomiting or stomach pain; a bad headache; or a persistent cough; according to the Mayo Clinic. These symptoms could suggest complications such as strep throat, pneumonia and croup.

    References & Resources