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Symptoms of the Common Cold

Do you think you’ve gotten a cold? Symptoms can come on 1-3 days after you’ve been infected with the virus.


A cold virus enters your body through your mouth, eyes or nose. The virus can spread through droplets in the air when someone who is sick coughs, sneezes or talks.

It also spreads by hand-to-hand contact with someone who has a cold or by sharing contaminated objects, like doorknobs, pens, or phones. If you touch your eyes, nose or mouth after such contact or exposure, you’re likely to catch a cold.


You may have a cold if you have a combination of the following symptoms:

Runny or stuffy nose

Sore throat



Slight body aches or a mild headache


Low-grade fever

Generally feeling unwell (malaise)


Many common colds will run their course after a few days. However, in some cases, you should consult a doctor.

For adults — seek medical attention if you have:

Fever greater than 101.3 F (38.5 C)

Fever lasting five days or more or returning after a fever-free period

Shortness of breath


Severe sore throat, headache or sinus pain


Most people with a common cold can be diagnosed by their signs and symptoms. If your doctor suspects you have a bacterial infection or other condition, he or she may order a chest X-ray or other tests to exclude other causes of your symptoms.

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