The common, early cold symptoms are sneezing, a runny nose, and irritation of the nose and throat.
The common cold is caused by a viral infection, most commonly of members of the rhinovirus family. The virus infects the tissue of the throat, sinuses, nose and the upper passages of the lung.
The virus is spread through direct contact with the secretions from an infected individual or from airborne droplets containing the virus from sneezes or coughs of an infected individual.
Detection of symptoms typically occurs 1 to 3 days following initial exposure and infection.
Complications may arise if the common cold infection becomes more severe within the sinuses or the middle ear, or if the virus infects the lower passages of the lung (pneumonia or bronchitis).
- nose and throat irritation
- runny nose
- congested nose and sinuses
- mild fever
- general feeling of illness
- may develop middle ear or sinus infections
Diagnosis is typically through physical examination and observation of the common, often harmless symptoms. Rarely, blood testing and chest x-rays are used to confirm the diagnosis.
However, more severe symptoms (such as high fever, difficulty breathing or chest pain) may suggest a diagnosis other than that of a common cold.
Treatment is typically palliative with bed rest and rehydration. Symptom relief can be attempted with the countless off the shelf remedies available.
Prevention is effective with good hygiene practices and isolation of infected individuals.