Parents Corner: How to Identify a Common Cold


The common cold is a viral infection of your nose and throat (upper respiratory tract). It's usually harmless, although it might not feel that way. Many types of viruses can cause a common cold.

Most people recover from a common cold in a week or 10 days. Symptoms might last longer in people who smoke. Generally, you don't need medical attention for a common cold. However, if symptoms don't improve or if they get worse, see your doctor.

How do I know if it’s the common cold and not COVID-19?

Both COVID-19 and the common cold are caused by viruses. COVID-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2 while the common cold is most often caused by rhinoviruses. Both spread in similar ways and cause many of the same symptoms but there are some differences:

Symptom COVID-19 Cold
Cough Usually (dry) Usually
Muscle Aches Usually Sometimes
Tiredness Usually Sometimes
Sneezing Rarely Sometimes
Sore Throat Usually Usually
Runny or stuffy nose Usually Usually
Fever Usually Usually
Diarrhea Sometimes Never
Nausea or vomiting Sometimes Never
New loss of taste or smell Usually (often without a runny nose) Sometimes (especially with a stuffy nose)

When to see a doctor

Adults generally do not need to see a doctor for a common cold, however, you should seek medical attention of you have:

Symptoms that worsen or don’t get better

Fever greater than 38°C lasting more than 3 days

Shortness of breath


Severe sore throat, headache or sinus pain

Children usually do not need to see a doctor for a common cold but should seek medical attention right away for any of the following:

Fever of 38°C in newborns up to 12 weeks

Rising fever or fever lasting more than 2 days in a child of any age

Severe symptoms such as headache, throat pain or cough

Difficulty breathing or wheezing

Ear Pain

Extreme fussiness

Unusual drowsiness

Lack of appetite


There is no vaccine for th4e common cold but yu can take precautions to slow the spread of cold viruses.

Wash your hands. Wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Teach your children the importance of handwashing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

Disinfect your stuff. Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, electronics, and kitchen and bathroom countertops daily. This is especially important when someone in your family has a cold. Wash children's toys periodically.

Cover your cough. Sneeze and cough into tissues. Throw away used tissues right away, then wash your hands thoroughly. If you don't have a tissue, sneeze or cough into the bend of your elbow and then wash your hands.

Don't share. Don't share drinking glasses or eating utensils with other family members. Use your own glass or disposable cups when you or someone else is sick. Label the cup or glass with the name of the person using it.

Stay away from people with colds. Avoid close contact with anyone who has a cold. Stay out of crowds, when possible. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Take care of yourself. Eating well and getting exercise and enough sleep is good for your overall health.

If you have concerns, you should always consult your medical professional.

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