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The Common Cold: When To See Your Doctor

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From a stuffy nose to a scratchy throat or minor cough, there are several symptoms of the common cold that are annoying, but not serious. Luckily, in most cases these annoying symptoms of the common cold will go away quickly and you will be back in normal. However, what if your cold symptoms don't improve or your symptoms become worse?

If you are suffering with a cold, here are a few signs it's time to make a doctor's appointment.  

Your Symptoms Haven't Gotten Better After One Week

The traditional symptoms associated with the common cold will dissipate or completely disappear around seven days after they began. If it's been a week and your symptoms aren't getting any better, you are developing new symptoms, or your initial symptoms are getting worse, contact your primary physician.

While your body is fighting the cold virus, it can leave it vulnerable to other secondary illnesses, including bronchitis, pneumonia, or respiratory syncytial virus, RSV. Your cough should improve within two to three weeks after the onset of symptoms as well.

If your cough doesn't improve, contact your doctor to determine if it is caused by another infection.

Wheezing and Trouble Breathing

The cough associated with the common cold can last for several days, impact your ability to get a good night's sleep, and make your days miserable. However, your cough and cold should never make it difficult for you to breathe or cause wheezing. Difficulty breathing, and wheezing are symptoms associated with more serious illnesses, such as pneumonia.

If you are experiencing chest pains in addition to trouble breathing, call 9-1-1 or visit your local emergency room right away.

A High Fever

According to the Mayo Clinic, a fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit in adults, 100.4 degrees in newborns, and 102 degrees Fahrenheit in toddlers is considered high, and warrants a call to your family physician. If a child has a fever and is vomiting, lethargic, isn't eating and drinking, or a headache should be seen by a physician. In most cases, a common cold will not result in a fever, or the fever will be minor.

A high fever in addition to the other symptoms associated with a cold is a sign of a more serious illness, including the flu, pneumonia, bronchitis, or RSV. Respiratory syncytial virus is a particularly serious condition, especially in infants and young children.

The common cold can disrupt your life for a few days. If your symptoms aren't improving, you have a high fever, or you are developing new and more serious symptoms, contact your family doctor.