Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Select An Article

Common Cold Symptoms: What’s Normal, What’s Not

Font Size
A
A
A

Your nose is running, you've got a cough, and your throat is raw. Is it a cold, allergies, or the flu?

There are similarities to all three, but a few telltale signs can help you tell them apart.

Recommended Related to Cold & Flu

Get to the Bottom of Your Sore Throat

As a symptom of illness, sore throat rivals fatigue for being both commonplace and a potential sign of catastrophe. Usually, having a sore throat is nothing to worry about -- most are caused by cold and flu germs. In rare cases, however, a sore throat can signal something much more serious. One of the first symptoms of infection caused by the dreaded ebola virus, for example, is a sore throat. And strep bacteria, a common cause of sore throat, especially in children, can spread like wildfire if...

Read the Get to the Bottom of Your Sore Throat article > >

The Start of a Cold

It usually begins with a sore throat, and before you know it, you've also got these symptoms:

You usually don't get a fever with a cold. If you do, it may be a sign you've got the flu or an infection with a bacteria.

For the first few days that you're sick, your runny nose will be watery, but it turns thicker and darker after that. You may also get a mild cough that can last into the second week of your cold.

Since a cold can make your asthma worse, check with your doctor to see if you need to change your regular treatment plan.

If you cough up thick or dark mucus or you get a fever, you may have an infection with a bacteria. See your doctor to find out how to treat it. Also see him if your cough doesn't get better after a few weeks.

Your symptoms usually start between 1 and 3 days after you get infected with a cold virus. They typically last for about 3 to 7 days. By then the worst is over, but you may feel stuffed up for a week or more.

You're most contagious during the first 3 days that you're sick, but it's still possible to spread it during the first week.

Is It Allergies Instead of a Cold?

Sometimes you might mistake cold symptoms for hay fever. If they begin quickly and are over in 1 to 2 weeks, chances are it's not an allergy.

Allergies are caused by an overactive immune system, your defense against germs. Your body overreacts to things like dust or pollen. It then releases chemicals like histamine. This causes the passageways in your nose to swell, leading to a runny nose, coughing, and sneezing

Hay fever isn't contagious, but some people may inherit a tendency to get it.

For in-depth information, see WebMD's "Common Cold or Allergies?"

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
Slideshow
cold weather
VIDEO
 
Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
Article
Boy holding ear
Slideshow
 
woman receiving vaccine shot
Article
woman with fever
Article
 
Waking up from sleep
Article
woman with sore throat
Slideshow