Common Cold: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2019

The common cold refers to a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. Characteristic symptoms include

  • cough,
  • stuffy or runny nose,
  • scratchy or sore throat, and
  • sneezing.

The following symptoms and signs may also occur:

Symptoms of a cold usually last from four to 14 days.

Other conditions, including allergies and the flu, can cause symptoms similar to those of the common cold. While flu symptoms are generally more severe, it is often difficult to tell the difference between a cold and the flu. Other conditions, like bacterial strep throat or sinus infections, may mimic symptoms of a cold.

Causes of the common cold

The common cold is caused by a viral infection of the upper airways (respiratory tract). This infection can be due to different types of viruses, so there is no one "cold virus." In fact, over 200 types of viruses are known to cause the common cold. Examples of virus types that can cause colds are rhinovirus, coronavirus, adenovirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and parainfluenza virus.

Related Symptoms & Signs

Other cold

  • Body Aches
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Itchy Eyes
  • Loss of Sense of Smell
  • Malaise
  • Nasal Congestion (Stuffy Nose)
  • Nasal Discharge (Runny Nose)
  • Postnasal Drip
  • Red Eyes
  • Scratchy or Itchy Throat
  • Sinus Pressure
  • Sneezing
  • Sore Throat
  • Watery Eyes

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/10/2019


The common cold is one of the most common illnesses in the world. See Answer

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