Skip to content

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Select An Article

Complications of the Common Cold

Font Size

Symptoms of the common cold often are no more than irritating. But sometimes the common cold can lead to a more serious infection, such as sinusitis, bronchitis, or ear infection, and require antibiotics or other medications to get well.

While it’s important to understand how to treat a common cold, it’s also important to know the signs of more serious common cold complications. A

Recommended Related to Cold & Flu

H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine FAQ

A safe and effective H1N1 swine fluvaccine was created and produced in record time -- but it still wasn't ready when the U.S. pandemic peaked in early fall of 2009. Even so, by mid-December 2009, 28 million adults (13% of U.S. adults) and 18 million children (24% of U.S. children) had received the vaccine. When seasonal flu vaccination begins for the 2010-2011 flu season, the regular flu vaccine will contain the 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine (as well as vaccines against the older H3N2 type A and type...

Read the H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine FAQ article > >

Illnesses That Can Result From a Cold

Usually, a trip to the doctor isn't necessary for normal common cold symptoms; a runny nose, sore throat, and fatigue generally go away on their own.

But sometimes, colds can lead to other, more serious medical complications, including:

In addition, if you have a health condition such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, or emphysema, you might experience several weeks of respiratory symptoms long after the cold is over. Let’s look at some of the common cold complications that occur.

Colds and Sinus Infections (Sinusitis)

A sinus infection is an inflammation of the mucus membranes that line the sinus cavities. This inflammation causes the mucus glands in the sinuses to secrete more mucus. When the passages in your sinuses become blocked, pressure develops and your nose may feel plugged. If your cold lingers for more than a week and you begin to have pain in the sinus area, headache, upper tooth pain, nasal obstruction, cough, thick yellow or green nasal drainage, call your doctor. You may have a sinus infection.

For in-depth information, see WebMD's article on When a Cold Becomes a Sinus Infection.

Colds and Asthma Attacks

If you have asthma, a cold can make you feel congested and make you cough as you try to expel mucus from the throat or lungs. You might have a dry cough and wheeze initially with an asthma attack. Then you may experience feelings of breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing. If you notice a worsening of your asthma symptoms, follow your asthma action plan. If you continue to get worse, call your doctor or get medical treatment immediately.

For in-depth information, see WebMD's article on Asthma and Colds.

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

hot toddy
15 tips to help you feel better.
man sneezing into elbow
Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
teen girl coughing
Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
elder berry
Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
cold weather
Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
Boy holding ear

Loaded with tips to help you avoid food allergy triggers.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

woman receiving vaccine shot
woman with fever
Waking up from sleep
woman with sore throat