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What Are the First Signs of a Cold?

What Are the First Signs of a Cold?


The common cold is often taken for granted because of the prevalence and frequency with which it is experienced. However, it is still important to know exactly what the symptoms of the common cold are. By doing so, you can determine if you are indeed experiencing a harmless cold, or something more serious such as a cold-related complication or the flu .


Itchy and Sore Throat

One of the first signs of the onset of the common cold is that your throat will start to feel itchy and uncomfortable. Sometimes, it will develop into a sore throat. This is the effect of the bradykinin clearing its way up to the nasal cavity, caused by the viral infection that is progressing inside your body.


Another symptom of the common cold, which takes place as the itchiness in the throat starts to subside, is sneezing. Such sneezing is also accompanied by fluid coming out of the nose that is clear and runny in texture.

General Feeling of Illness, Weakness and Loss of Appetite

Because of the body’s response to the common cold virus, that of  releasing a chemical called cytokines from the white blood cells, the body will feel weaker than usual. Some individuals experience slight headaches and fever. The appetite also decreases, as this is another effect of the sudden surge of cytokines in the body.  When the body shuts down however, making you unable to function, this may already be a sign of the flu, and not just the common cold.

Stuffy Nose

The first few symptoms described above usually accompany the onset of the common cold, which means that one or two days have elapsed since the virus entered the body. On the third to fourth day of having the virus, nasal congestion or a stuffy nose may be experienced, due to the swelling of the veins along the lining of the nose. This is when difficulty in breathing is most prominent, and the need to “blow” the nose to remove the thick fluid inside it arises.


Because of the irritation of the upper airways, you may experience acute coughing while being infected with the common cold virus. Conversely, the most common cause of an acute cough is the fact of being infected with the common cold virus.

It is important to note that these and other common cold symptoms will typically last for a period of seven to ten days only. If the symptoms do not disappear or worsen after this timeframe, it may be that a more serious complication has resulted from being infected with the common cold. Examples of these complications are acute bacterial sinusitis and acute bacterial middle ear infection. It may also be possible that you are infected with another type of influenza virus, such as the flu.



Hayden, MD, Frederick, and Jack Gwaltney, MD. “Common Cold Complications.” Common Cold. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2010.

Rees, GL, and R Eccles. “Sore Throat Following Nasal and Oropharyngeal Bradykinin Challenge.” Informa Health Care 114.2 (1994): 311-314.Informa Health Care. Web. 13 Oct. 2010.

“Common Cold Centre.”Cardiff University. Cardiff University, n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2010.

Pratter, MD, Melvin. “Cough and the Common Cold: ACCP Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines.” Chest Journal 129.3 (2006): 725-745.Chest Journal. Web. 13 Oct. 2010.


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