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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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Complications of the Common Cold

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What Else Could It Be? continued...

Get emergency medical help right away if you have one or more of these problems. They could be warning signs of something more serious, like meningitis:

  • Fever over 102 F
  • Sudden, severe pain in the face or head
  • Double vision or trouble seeing
  • Confusion or problems thinking clearly
  • Swelling or redness around one or both eyes
  • Stiff neck
  • Shortness of breath

Bronchitis (a chest cold): You get it when the large tubes that carry air into your lungs become swollen and irritated. Telltale symptoms of this illness can include:

  • A cough that could last 10 to 20 days
  • A cough that produces green, yellow, or clear mucus

Most of the time, you don’t need to see a doctor for bronchitis. But call yours ASAP if you have any of these symptoms -- you could have pneumonia:

  • Fever above 100.4 F
  • A cough that is not better after 7 to 10 days
  • Unexplained weight loss

Get emergency care or call 911 for any of these symptoms:

  • Chest pain or trouble breathing with your cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • A barking cough that makes it hard for you to talk or swallow

If you’re over 75 and have a cough that won’t stop, see your doctor. You could have bronchitis, even if you don’t have any other symptoms.

Ear infection: Colds, bronchitis, and sinus infections can keep fluid trapped in your ear behind your eardrum. When this happens, bacteria or viruses can grow and cause an infection.

Warning signs of an ear infection can include:

  • Fullness or pressure in one or both ears
  • Pain in one or both of them
  • Fluid that drains from your ear
  • Muffled hearing
  • Sore throat

See your doctor right away if you have a high fever or severe pain in your ear. Hacking and sneezing are normal when you have a cold. Other problems, like a high fever, aren’t.

If any of your symptoms concern you, put your mind at ease -- call the doctor.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on October 29, 2015
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