Symptoms & Signs
The three most frequent symptoms of a cold are:
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
Adults and older children with colds generally have a low fever or no fever. Young children, however, often run a fever around 100-102°F.
Once you have “caught” a cold, the symptoms usually begin in 2 or 3 days, though it may take a week. Typically, an irritated nose or scratchy throat is the first sign, followed within hours by sneezing and a watery nasal discharge.
Within 1 to 3 days, the nasal secretions usually become thicker and perhaps yellow or green. This is a normal part of the common cold and not a reason for antibiotics.
Depending on which virus is causing the symptoms, the virus might also cause:
- Decreased appetite
- Muscle aches
- Postnasal drip
- Sore throat
Still, if it is indeed a cold, the main symptoms will be in the nose.
For children with asthma, colds are the most common trigger of asthma symptoms.
Colds are commonly seen before ear infections. However, a child’s eardrums are usually congested during a cold, and it’s possible to have fluid buildup without a bacterial infection (caled serous otitis media).
The entire cold is usually over all by itself in about 7 days, with perhaps a few lingering symptoms (such as cough) for another week. If it lasts longer, see your doctor to rule out another problem such as a sinus infection or allergies.
Review Date : 1/10/2010
Reviewed By : Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.