Common Cold: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Medically Reviewed on 5/5/2017

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

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

REFERENCE: Common Cold. Symptoms.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/5/2017
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