What're the symptoms of colds?The onset of cold symptoms occurs within one to three days after you're exposed to a cold virus. Symptoms of the common cold usually begin two to three days after infection and often include nasal discharge, obstruction of nasal breathing, swelling of the sinus membranes, sneezing, sore throat, cough and headache. Fever is usually slight but can climb to 102° F among infants and young children. Cold symptoms can last from two to 14 days, but two-thirds of people recover in a
week. If symptoms occur often or last much longer than two weeks, they may be the result of an allergy rather than a cold.
Fever is not common, but a mild fever may develop at the beginning of the illness. At first, the secretions from the nose are watery and clear and can be annoyingly plentiful; eventually they become thicker, opaque, yellow-green, and less abundant. Many people also develop a cough. Symptoms usually disappear in 4 to 10 days, although a cough often lasts into the second week.
In addition to a runny nose and fever, signs of a cold include coughing, sneezing, nasal congestion, headache, muscle ache, chills, sore throat, hoarseness, watery eyes, tiredness, and lack of appetite. The cough that accompanies a cold is usually intermittent and dry. Most people begin to feel better four to five days after their cold symptoms become noticeable. All symptoms are generally gone within ten days, except for a dry cough that may linger for up to three weeks.
Colds make people more susceptible to bacterial infections such as strep throat, middle ear infections, and sinus infections. A person whose cold does not begin to improve within a week; or who experiences chest pain, fever for more than a few days, difficulty breathing, bluish lips or fingernails, a cough that brings up greenish-yellow or grayish sputum, skin rash, swollen glands, or whitish spots on the tonsils or throat should consult a doctor to see if they have acquired a secondary bacterial infection that needs to be treated with an antibiotic.
People who have emphysema, chronic lung disease, diabetes, or a weakened immune system--either from diseases such as AIDS or leukemia, or as the result of medications, (corticosteroids, chemotherapy drugs)--should consult their doctor if they get a cold. People with these health problems are more likely to get a secondary infection. Colds occasionally can lead to secondary bacterial infections of the middle ear or sinuses, requiring treatment with antibiotics. High fever, significantly swollen glands, severe facial pain in the sinuses, and a cough that produces mucus may indicate a complication or more serious illness requiring a doctor's attention.