Cold season is here and mixed with the serious flower bloom, allergies are adding to the punch. This year the cold seems to be worse and people are really feeling it. Most people just try and tough it out but when is it more than just the common cold? We asked some doctors when is it a common cold and when is it time to see a doctor because it may be worse than just a cold. Here are some common symptoms that may mean you have the flu, strep throat or something worse.
Symptoms longer than 4 days
Most common colds only last for a few days so if you notice the symptoms lasting longer than that, it may be something more serious. We asked Melisa Lai Becker, MD from Cambridge Health Alliance for more details. She stated that colds start with a scratchy throat, congestion and runny nose, followed by a cough. The runny nose and cough may last past four days but anything else and you may have to see a doctor. You may have the flu or mononucleosis, so see a doc soon.
Symptoms go then come back
If you got better then the symptoms come back with a vengeance, you may have a super infection or a rebound illness. There are some super bugs going around that seem to knock people out of commission for a week or two. Many people start with a cold but while their immune system is weak they catch something much worse. So if you notice symptoms returning but are worse, see a doctor ASAP.
You recently traveled internationally
Doctors ask if you have traveled internationally recently for a reason. Viruses are often localized and if you travel to that region you may bring it back with you and doctors aren’t looking for those types of illnesses, so tell your doc and they can help.
Most common colds don’t come with a high fever, a small one maybe. Dr. Becker says that if you have a fever higher than 101 it could be a sign of strep throat and you should see a doctor immediately.
Low-grade fever for multiple days
Dr. Becker says that low-grade fevers are common but they won’t last long, if your does last a few days it may be because your body if fighting off something serious.
If your stomach is bothering you then you most likely don’t have a cold. Tossing your cookies is usually a sign of the flu or something worse. If you are nauseous or have diarrhea you may need to see a doc soon.
Sinus headaches are common with the cold but if you have severe headaches accompanied by fever and a stiff neck, it may be meningitis.
Chest pain/hard to breathe
Coughing is common with the cold, but if your chest discomfort is getting serious or you are having shortness of breath, it may be worse than just a cold.
Common colds usually affect the entire respiratory system but if your symptoms are localized to one part of your body, it may be worse. Strep affects just the throat and mono can cause the tonsils to swell. If you notice a localized pain or combination of symptoms, get it checked out.
If your cold seems like more than just a cold, stay home from work and see your doctor. We don’t need to spread it around your office or school.