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When Should I See a Doctor for a Cold or Flu?

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    You have trouble breathing or chest pain.

    Aside from a stuffy nose and some general muscle aches, a cold or the flu shouldn't make you short of breath or cause pain in your chest. These could be signs of a more serious problem such as heart disease, asthma, or pneumonia. Call your doctor or go to the emergency room.

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    Your fever doesn’t get better.

    A fever that won't go away can be a sign of another infection in your body that needs treatment. Generally, a fever for an adult means a temperature greater than 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

    You can’t keep anything down.

    Your body needs fluids to work properly. If you can't drink anything without vomiting, you may need to go to your doctor’s office or the hospital to get fluids through a vein (IV).

    It hurts to swallow.

    This is not normal. Although a sore throat can make it a little painful to swallow, severe pain can be a sign of an infection or injury that needs to be treated by a doctor.

    You can’t get rid of your cough.

    A cough that won't go away is likely postnasal drip that can be treated with antihistamines. But it could also be related to asthma or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Your doctor can tell you about treatments that can help.

    A lasting, severe cough is also the main symptom of whooping cough, which has become more common in many parts of the U.S. So, if you have an unexplained cough for more than 2-3 weeks, your doctor may test you for this type of infection.

    Your congestion and headache won’t go away.

    Colds and allergies that block the nasal passages can lead to a sinus infection. If your cold medicine doesn’t work, see your doctor for more treatment.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on September 16, 2014

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