The incubation period of the common cold is 24 to 72 hours, according to the Merck Manual. The symptoms following the incubation period include a scratchy or sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing and general malaise. A cold typically runs its course within 10 days without treatment.
A cold is viral upper respiratory infection, explains the Merck Manual. A cold is typically caused by any one of more than 100 rhinovirus strains. The virus is spread by person-to-person contact or through aerosolized droplets, such as those produced when an infected individual sneezes. The best ways to prevent infection are to wash your hands and clean contaminated surfaces frequently.