The Common Cold Symptoms

Do you have the sniffles and a cough? If so, you could be one of the millions of Americans who contract the common cold each year. While there is no cure for the cold, knowing the symptoms can help you cope with it.

Common Cold Symptoms

Symptoms of the common cold include the following:

  • congestion
  • coughing
  • headache
  • itchy throat
  • minor aches
  • running a fever below 102
  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • sore throat
  • stuffy nose
  • tiredness.

If you have a cold, you might also notice that your nasal discharge is slightly discolored or thickened. This should not be a cause for concern, as mucous will often turn yellow or green and become very thick during the course of a cold.

If you come in contact with a cold virus, you may start to show symptoms in 10 to 12 hours after exposure. Symptoms will probably be at their worst between three to six days after you become infected.

Causes of Common Cold Symptoms

Common cold symptoms are a byproduct of your immune system fighting off the cold virus. When you get infected with a virus, your immune system releases chemicals and enzymes to fight and kill the viruses. These substances may cause your body to produce more mucous or may cause you to cough or sneeze. They may also cause your nasal passages to swell.

Remember that the mucous and the moisture in your coughs and sneezes are full of your cold virus. Therefore, you should use disposable tissues to wipe your nose and should wash your hands frequently to reduce your risk of infecting others.

Medical Attention for the Common Cold

If you do not know whether or not your symptoms are being caused by the common cold, you should visit your doctor. Generally speaking, however, the doctor can’t provide you much relief if your symptoms are caused by the common cold. He won’t be able to provide you with antibiotics, as they treat antibacterial infections rather than viral infections.

If you develop a secondary bacterial infection as a result of the cold, your doctor will be able to provide you with antibiotics to cure the infection.

If you are an adult and have had cold symptoms for more than 10 days and are not seeing any improvement or if your symptoms are getting worse, you should call your doctor. In addition, if you are an adult who is running a fever of 102F or more or who is having chills, you should schedule a doctor’s appointment.

If you are caring for a child who has a cold, pay close attention to him, especially if he is too young to tell you how he feels. In general, children develop more severe cold symptoms that adults and often develop ear infections, which will require a trip to the doctor.

Consult your physician if your child is running a fever for more than three days or if the fever runs 103F or more. In addition, if your child is vomiting or has a bad headache, it is time to call your doctor.


The American Lung Association. (n.d.) What is a Cold? Retrieved November 5, 2007, from the American Lung Association Website: