Primary symptoms include rhinorrhea, nasal congestion, and sore throat. These symptoms are largely due to the body's innate immune response to the viral infection rather than viral damage to the respiratory tract. Constitutional signs such as fever and chills are less pronounced than in other respiratory infections. A common cold may also aggravate underlying asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Secondary bacterial superinfections can occur. Patients with above symptoms along with localized pain to the sinuses may have resulting sinusitis (ie, viral sinusitis).
Common colds are self-limited and do not require specific treatment, but rather supportive measures. Children younger than 6 years average 6-8 colds per year with symptoms typically lasting 14 days. Older children and adults average 2-4 colds per year with symptoms typically lasting 5-7 days; however, the duration of symptoms is increased in cigarette smokers.
Note: In 2022 and 2023, pediatric invasive group A streptococcal (iGAS) infections and noninvasive group A streptococcal infection cases have been associated with respiratory infections due to parainfluenza, rhinovirus, enterovirus, influenza, and human metapneumovirus, among other viruses. Concurrent or preceding viral infections, including varicella (chickenpox), may increase risk for iGAS infection. Severe outcomes of iGAS infections include necrotizing fasciitis, streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, and death.
J00 – Acute nasopharyngitis [common cold]
82272006 – Common Cold
Differential Diagnosis & Pitfalls
- Allergic, vasomotor, or seasonal rhinitis
- Sinusitis (acute bacterial, fungal)
- Post-nasal drip
- Asthma exacerbation
- Post-viral cough
- Drug-induced cough (eg, beta blockers, angiotensin-converting-enzyme [ACE] inhibitors)
- Acute otitis media
- Foreign body (eg, in the nose or inhaled)
- Structural abnormalities of the nose or sinuses (see, eg, deviated nasal septum)