What are the signs and symptoms of the common cold?

  • A blocked or runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Mild fever
  • Mild cough

Usually the common cold presents with a runny nose, nasal discharge and sneezing. The eyes become watery and a mild fever is common. Initially the nasal discharge is clear and watery but later becomes thicker and white or yellow. After a few days the nose becomes blocked and nasal breathing may be difficult, especially at night or while breastfeeding. Sleep is commonly interrupted. A mild cough is common and caused by mucous running down the back of the throat (post-nasal drip). The symptoms and signs of a common cold clear up in a week. Usually there are no complications of a common cold.

A very sore throat suggests pharyngitis or tonsillitis while high fever, muscle pains and feeling very unwell suggest influenza rather than a common cold.

A blocked nose with a green (purulent) discharge on one side in a generally well child suggests a foreign body.

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