Symptoms of the Common Cold: What a Cold Is and How to Know If You Have One

Common colds are the most common type of infectious illness suffered by humans the world over, with the average adult catching 2-3 colds per year. Originally thought to be an infirmity contracted from spending too much time outside in cold weather (where the name "cold" comes from), colds are actually viral infections produced by a group of viruses (primarilyrhinoviruses) that which are transmitted by contact with infected individuals or their bodily fluids. By recognizing the symptoms, you can determine whether you have a common cold and treat the illness effectively.


While the symptoms of a cold are as variable as the different viruses that cause them (over 200!), There are a few consistent manifestations that will almost always occur:

· Runny nose

· Nasal congestion

· Sore throat

· Post-nasal drip

· Cough

Other symptoms that are also common in colds but less so include:

· Fatigue

· Aching muscles and joints

· Head pain

· Loss of appetite

Many of these symptoms are also common manifestations of other diseases, primarily the flu. However, colds can often be distinguished from the flu in the form and severity of onset of symptoms. For instance, while cough and high fever are relatively common manifestations of the common cold, these symptoms when present together in adults are highly indicative of the flu. In addition, the symptoms of a cold usually start with a feeling of chills, headache, and sneezing, followed within a few days by post-nasal drip, congestion, headache, and low-grade fever. The symptoms generally peak within 2-4 days after onset, and tend to resolve within 7-10 days.

Types of colds

The common cold frequently expands into other areas of the head and respiratory tract. These colds are categorized based on where they occur:

· Head cold: The most common type of cold, characterized by a runny nose, congestion, post-nasal drip, cough, sneezing, sore throat, fatigue, and low-grade fever.

· Chest cold: The chest cold refers to an expansion of cold symptoms into the upper respiratory tract. This is characterized by worsening and persistent cough, laryngitis, pharyngitis, fever, and may even extend to bronchitis (lower respiratory infection). A chest cold can last as long as 25 days after infection.

· Sinus infection: A sinus infection, or sinusitis, is when the viral infection lodges in the paranasal sinuses and persists after the cold has passed. Sinus infections are characterized by pain and inflammation in the mouth, nose, cheeks, and behind the eyes and eyebrows. This can be accompanied by persistent congestion and post-nasal drip, sore throat, and moderate fever.

Common colds can usually be self-diagnosed and managed through home care. Most home remedies involve treatments to alleviate the common symptoms of the cold. Treatments include steam baths, hot teas and other beverages, and plenty of rest and fluids. However, prevention is always the best treatment. Avoid contact with sick individuals and keep frequently touched surfaces, such as tabletops and doorknobs, clean and disinfected at all times. If you think you have a cold, consider others and avoid going out during the infectious period.