About Colds: Symptoms and Complications

Cold viruses invade the tissues that line the inside of the mouth, throat and nose. This infected membrane becomes swollen or inflamed, and cold symptoms begin.

It usually takes anywhere from one to three days for symptoms to develop. The cold runs its course in about seven days. Symptoms follow a typical pattern:

  • dry, scratchy, or sore throat
  • runny nose or congestion
  • sneezing triggered by nasal congestion
  • headache as a result of congestion
  • earaches, also brought on by the congestion (especially in children)
  • slight fever and chills (more common in children than adults)
  • coughing, usually "dry" at first but later can be accompanied by sputum and phlegm

Colds may aggravate the symptoms of other conditions, such as asthma. It's not clear if fatigue, stress, or poor diet and poor health lead to more frequent colds, but they do appear to trigger more severe cold symptoms. Elderly people especially tend to get more severe cold virus infections.

The cold virus can also infect other parts of the body. For instance, the eye infection known as "pinkeye" (mild conjunctivitis) can occur. Kids are especially prone to this, since they tend to wipe their noses with their hands and then rub their eyes.

Learn more about Cough and Flu