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How Do I Know If I Have More Than a Cold?

Clayton Wells, Pharmacist

Rite Value Pharmacy

Louisa, Kentucky

This is a question that sadly almost all of us encounter. No matter how careful you are, it is still easy to catch the common cold. Self-diagnosing is common practice for many of us, especially with the vast resources of the internet. There are a lot of over-the-counter options available to us to treat our ailments. Therefore, with all the resources available, the question often becomes, “at what point should I see a doctor?” This question can be a difficult one to answer.

So, what exactly is a cold?  A cold can be caused by several different viruses that affect the upper respiratory tract (i.e. nose, throat). First, how do I know that what I have is a cold? Assess your symptoms. The most common symptoms of a cold are runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, sneezing, cough, and just generally feeling unwell (malaise).  A cold will usually run its course in about a week, but it can linger for up to 10 – 14 days. The good news is that the symptoms are treatable with over-the-counter medications and will usually go away on their own. A cold sounds benign, but in some instances it can progress into something more.

Then the question becomes, “how do I know if I have more than a cold?”  In general, the symptoms of a cold are tolerable, aggravating yes, but usually you feel well enough to function.  Otherwise, if you feel terrible and do not seem to be improving then maybe it’s time to see a doctor. You should seek medical attention if you have a fever greater than 101, fever lasting more than 5 days, shortness of breath, wheezing, and severe sore throat, headache or sinus pain.

December 1, 2019

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