Symptoms of a common cold usually appear about one to three days after exposure to a cold-causing virus. Signs and symptoms of a common cold may include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy or sore throat
- Slight body aches or a mild headache
- Watery eyes
- Low-grade fever
- Mild fatigue
The discharge from your nose may become thicker and yellow or green in color as a common cold runs its course. What makes a cold different from other viral infections is that you generally won't have a high fever. You're also unlikely to experience significant fatigue from a common cold.
When to see a doctor
For adults — seek medical attention if you have:
- Fever of 103 F (39.4 C) or higher
- Fever accompanied by sweating, chills and a cough with colored phlegm
- Significantly swollen glands
- Severe sinus pain
For children — in general, children are sicker with a common cold than adults are and often develop complications, such as ear infections. Your child doesn't need to see the doctor for a routine common cold. But seek medical attention right away if your child has any of the following signs or symptoms:
Apr. 17, 2013
- Fever of 100.4 F (38 C) in newborns up to 12 weeks
- Fever that rises repeatedly above 104 F (40 C) in a child of any age
- Signs of dehydration, such as urinating less often than usual
- Not drinking adequate fluids
- Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child younger than 2
- Fever that lasts more than three days in a child older than 2
- Vomiting or abdominal pain
- Unusual sleepiness
- Severe headache
- Stiff neck
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent crying
- Ear pain
- Persistent cough
- Fashner J, et al. Treatment of the common cold in adults and children. American Family Physician. 2012;86:153.
- Goldman L, et al. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/191371208-2/0/1492/0.html#. Accessed Jan. 9, 2013.f
- Pappas DE, et al. The common cold in children: Clinical features and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 9, 2013.
- Kliegman RM, et al. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2011. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-6/0/1608/0.html. Accessed Jan. 9, 2013.
- Get set for winter illness season. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm092805.htm. Accessed Jan. 9, 2013.
- Stopping the spread of germs at home, work and school. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/stopgerms.htm. Accessed Jan. 9, 2013.
- Pappas DE, et al. The common cold in children: Treatment and prevention. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 9, 2013.
- Dykewicz MS, et al. Rhinitis and sinusitis. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2010;125:S103.
- Public health advisory: FDA recommends that over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold products not be used for infants and children under 2 years of age. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/drugs/drugsafety/postmarketdrugsafetyinformationforpatientsandproviders/drugsafetyinformationforheathcareprofessionals/publichealthadvisories/ucm051137.htm. Accessed Jan. 9, 2013.
- What to do in a medical emergency: Fever. American College of Emergency Physicians. http://www.emergencycareforyou.org/EmergencyManual/WhatToDoInMedicalEmergency/Default.aspx?id=242&terms=fever. Accessed Jan. 9, 2013.
- Sexton DJ, et al. The common cold in adults: Treatment and prevention. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 9, 2013.
- Linde K, et al. Echinacea for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000530.pub2/abstract. Accessed Jan. 10, 2013.
- Singh D, et al. Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD001364.pub3/abstract. Accessed Jan. 10, 2013.
- The flu, the common cold and complementary health practices. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/flu/ataglance.htm. Accessed Jan. 9, 2013.
- When to call the pediatrician: Fever. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/fever/pages/When-to-Call-the-Pediatrician.aspx. Accessed Jan. 11, 2013.
- Steckelberg JM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 11, 2013.
- Sullivan JE, et al. Clinical report: Fever and antipyretic use in children. Pediatrics. 2011;127:580.
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