Common Cold - Symptoms



An acute, usually afebrile (without fever), viral infection of the respiratory tract with inflammation in any or all airways including the nose, paranasal sinuses, throat, larynx, and often the trachea and bronchi.


Usually abrupt after a 1-3 day period of incubation.


Usually last 4-10 days.

Symptoms include

  • Nasal discomfort
  • Throat discomfort
  • Sneezing
  • Rhinorrhea ("runny nose")
  • Malaise (discomfort, uneasiness)
  • Afebrile (without fever. A fever is associated with the flu or with bacterial complications)
  • Nasal secretions
  • Hacking cough
  • Laryngitis

Complications may include

  • purulent sinusitis (inflammation of sinuses with colored, liquid discharge - white, yellow, or green)
  • Otitis media (inflammation of the middle ear)
  • Tracheobronchial involvement with purulent sputum (involving the trachea and bronchus)
  • Tonsilitis (inflammation of the tonsils)
  • Adenoiditis (inflammation of the adenoids)

Treatment is for symptomatic relief.

  • (OTC) (over-the-counter) decongestant to provide temporary nasal decongestion.
  • Steam inhalations to relieve chest tightness and to mobilize secretions.
  • Adequate hydration to encourage expectoration (spitting).
  • Night time use of an antitussive cough syrup to control coughing aand allow sleep.
  • Antihistamines may reduce rhinorrhea in allergic patients.
  • Antibiotics are not used unless there is a secondary bacterial complication.
  • Antipyretics and analgesics are commonly used but their benefit, except in reducing fever, is doubtful.

OTC Medications

  • Nasal Decongestants - phenylpropanolamine; pseudoephedrine; phenylephrine
  • Expectorants - Guaifensin
  • Antihistamines - Diphenhydramine; Chlorpheniramine; promethazine
  • Antitussives - Dextromethorphan; Diphenhydramine; Codeine
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