Symptoms of a Cold

By Michele C. Hollow @michelechollow
November 28, 2017
Young woman lying in bed blowing nose --- Image by © Mike Kemp/Tetra Images/Corbis

Symptoms of a cold appear 1 to 3 days after exposure to a virus and vary from person to person. Here's a list of cold symptoms and solutions.

Your desk is littered with crumpled up tissues. You feel miserable and want to sleep. Is it a cold, the flu, or allergies? All have similar symptoms. But there are differences.

Symptoms of a cold

A cold often starts with a sore throat and it’s usually followed by:

  • A runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Chest and nasal congestion
  • Coughing
  • Exhaustion

While it’s rare to get a fever, fevers are usually associated with the flu, it’s possible to have a low-grade one. Usually, with the flu, a fever lasts longer than with a cold. The same goes for muscle and body aches. It’s more common to experience body aches from the flu than from a cold.

It’s also easy to think you’re having an allergic reaction instead of a cold. The main difference between a cold and an allergy is the duration of the ailment. Colds usually last between 3 days and 2 weeks.

Allergies, like hay fever, are seasonal and aren’t contagious. Colds, however, are and you’re contagious within the first 3 days. You can also spread your cold within the first week, so be cautious about spreading germs when you first show symptoms of a cold.


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March 20, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN