Skip to content

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Select An Article

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

Font Size

Is It the Flu?

Take your temperature. A mild case of the flu often has symptoms like a cold, but a cold rarely raises your temperature above 101 degrees F.

Besides a fever, the flu often gives you muscle aches and a headache.

For in-depth information, see WebMD's "Flu or Cold Symptoms?"

When to Call the Doctor About Cold Symptoms

Except in newborns, colds aren't dangerous. The symptoms usually go away without any special treatment. But when you're sick it can wear down your body's resistance, making you more open to an infection by a bacteria.

See your doctor if your cold symptoms are severe and you aren't getting better. He'll likely check your throat and ears, and listen to your lungs. He may take a throat culture by brushing your throat with a long cotton-tipped swab. This will show whether you have an infection that needs treatment with antibiotics.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • An earache
  • Pain around the nose and eyes (sinuses) for more than a week
  • Fever above 102 degrees F. If your child is younger than 3 months and has a temperature of 100.4 degrees F or higher, call your doctor right away.
  • Fever that lasts more than a day in a child under 2, or more than 3 days in a child age 2 or older
  • Cough up mucus for more than a week
  • Shortness of breath
  • Worsening symptoms
  • Symptoms that last longer than 2 weeks
  • Trouble swallowing.
  • sore throat for more than 5 days
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or belly
  • stiff neck or sensitivity to bright lights

Also see your doctor if:

  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding and get a cold
  • Your newborn or infant gets symptoms
  • Your cold worsens after the third day

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on November 22, 2015
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
woman receiving vaccine shot
woman with fever
Waking up from sleep
woman with sore throat