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Symptoms of the Common Cold

Cold symptoms usually begin two to three days after infection. Symptoms often include:
  • Mucus buildup in your nose
  • Difficulty breathing through your nose
  • Swelling of your sinuses
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Fever.

How the Common Cold Is Transmitted

Transmission of the common cold occurs by one of two methods:
  • Touching your skin or environmental surfaces, such as telephones and stair rails, that have cold germs on them and then touching your eyes or nose
  • Inhaling drops of mucus full of cold germs from the air when a contagious person coughs or sneezes.
A person is most likely to transmit a virus when he or she is experiencing symptoms of the common cold, especially during the first couple of days (day 2 to day 4), when symptoms are at their worst. A person becomes less contagious as the cold symptoms improve.

Common Cold Remedies

It seems like every day a new "common cold remedy" is being marketed to prevent, cure, or shorten the length of the common cold (see Common Cold Myths). Despite these marketing claims, there is only one cure -- time. Therefore, remedies are focused on providing relief of symptoms as the body fights the virus.
Common cold treatment options include:
  • Resting in bed
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Gargling with warm salt water
  • Using throat sprays or lozenges
  • Using a cool-mist humidifier
  • Taking common cold medicine.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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