Background: Signs and symptoms of a common cold reported in young children are those perceived by caretakers. Objective signs include cough, fever, and sneezing. Subjective symptoms include nasal congestion, feverishness, headache, and sore throat. School-aged children may provide a more accurate picture of the symptom profile during colds because they can self-report.
Methods: Using preprinted diary sheets listing common signs and symptoms, diaries were kept for school-aged children for 10 days after onset of a cold. Nasopharyngeal aspirates were analyzed for respiratory viruses and potential bacterial pathogens.
Results: Out of 81 colds studied, the most common signs were cough and sneezing, although the most common symptoms were nasal congestion and runny nose. Other symptoms, including feverishness and headache, were each reported in 15% of children at onset. The majority of children (73%) continued to be symptomatic 10 days after onset. Rhinovirus was detected in 46% and 1 or more potential bacterial pathogens (Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis) in 29% of episodes. Symptom profiles for rhinovirus illnesses and those in which potential pathogenic bacteria were detected were not different from the rest.
Conclusion: The common cold in school-aged children is characterized by nasal congestion, cough, and runny nose. Signs and symptoms usually continue for at least 10 days.