What are the signs and symptoms of a cold?

Signs and Symptoms of a Cold

Cold symptoms usually occur one to three days after the body has been infected with the virus. The “incubation” phase refers to the time before symptoms manifest. Symptoms usually go away in seven to ten days, but they can linger anywhere from two to fourteen days.

Nasal congestion or a runny nose

One of the most typical symptoms of a cold is a runny nose or nasal congestion (stuffy nose). Excess fluid causes blood vessels and mucous membranes of the nose to expand, resulting in these symptoms. The nasal discharge tends to thicken and turn yellow or green after three days. These types of nasal discharge are typical, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Postnasal drip, which occurs when mucus flows from the nose to the throat, is another symptom of a cold.

Colds are known to cause these nasal symptoms. However, if they last more than 10 days, you acquire yellow/green nasal discharge, or you develop a severe headache or sinus pain, you may have developed a sinus infection (called sinusitis).


Common Cold | Johns Hopkins Medicine

When the mucous membranes of the nose and throat become irritated, sneezing occurs. When a cold virus infects nasal cells, the body produces histamine and other natural inflammatory mediators. Inflammatory mediators induce blood vessels to widen and leak, and mucus glands to discharge fluid when they are released. Sneezing is caused by irritation as a result of this.


A cold might be accompanied by a dry cough or a cough that produces mucus, known as wet or productive cough. Coughs are the final symptom of a cold to go away, and they can remain anywhere from one to three weeks. If your cough lasts more than a few days, see your doctor.

If you have any of the following cough-related symptoms, you should see your doctor:

  • cough with blood in it
  • a cough that is accompanied by thick, foul-smelling yellow or green mucus
  • a strong cough that appears out of nowhere
  • a cough in a person with swollen legs or a heart ailment
  • a cough that gets worse when lying down
  • as you breathe in, you cough and make a loud noise
  • a cough that comes with a fever
  • a cough that is followed by night sweats or weight loss that is sudden
  • If your child is under the age of three months, he or she has a cough.

Throat irritation

Catching a Cold When It's Warm | NIH News in Health

A sore throat is dry, itchy, and irritating, making swallowing difficult and even making solid food difficult to eat. A cold virus can create irritated tissues, which can lead to a sore throat. It can also be induced by postnasal drip or simply exposure to a hot, dry atmosphere for an extended period of time.

Mild headaches and pains in the body

A cold virus might cause minor all-over body pains or a headache in some people. These signs and symptoms are more common when you have the flu.


When you have a common cold, you may develop a low-grade fever. Contact your doctor if you or your child (6 weeks and older) has a fever of 100.4°F or higher. The CDC advises calling your doctor if your child is under 3 months old and has a fever of any sort. Watery eyes and mild weariness are among symptoms that may appear in people who have a common cold.

When should you see a doctor?

Symptoms of the common cold, in most cases, are not serious and can be treated with drinks and rest. Colds, on the other hand, should not be taken lightly among infants, the elderly, or people with chronic health concerns. An ordinary cold, if it develops into a serious chest illness like bronchiolitis, caused by the respiratory syncytial virus, can be fatal to the most vulnerable members of society (RSV).


Source: CDC

You are unlikely to have a high fever or be fatigued when you have a typical cold. These are some of the flu’s most prevalent symptoms. So, if you experience any of the following symptoms, see your doctor:

  • Symptoms of a cold that last more than ten days
  • a temperature of at least 100.4°F
  • a fever accompanying sweating, chills, or mucus-producing cough
  • lymph nodes that are extremely swollen
  • excruciating sinus ache
  • earache
  • chest discomfort
  • Breathing difficulties or shortness of breath


See your child’s pediatrician promptly if your child

  • is under the age of six weeks and has a temperature of 100°F or higher
  • is at least 6 weeks old and has a temperature of 101.4°F or higher
  • has been sick for more than three days with a fever
  • has been suffering from a cold (of any kind) for more than ten days
  • is vomiting or feeling abdominal pain
  • is wheezing or having trouble breathing
  • is suffering from a stiff neck or a terrible headache
  • isn’t drinking and urinating at a lower rate than normal
  • is having difficulty swallowing or dribbling excessively
  • is experiencing earache
  • has a chronic cough
  • is shedding more tears than normal
  • appears to be especially tired or grumpy
  • Their skin has a blue or gray hue to it, particularly around the lips, nose, and fingernails.

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