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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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

#1 Difficultly Breathing or Chest Pain

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

#2 Persistent Fever

A fever that won't go away can be a sign of a secondary infection in your body that should be treated. Generally, a fever for an adult is defined as a temperature greater than 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

#3 Vomiting or Inability to Keep Fluids Down

Your body needs fluids to stay hydrated. If you can't keep down fluids, you may need to go to your doctor’s office or the hospital to receive fluids intravenously (through a vein).

#4 Painful Swallowing

This is not normal. Although minor discomfort when you swallow can come from a sore throat, severe pain can be a sign of an infection or injury that needs to be treated by a doctor.

#5 Persistent Coughing

A cough that won't go away is likely postnasal drip that may be treated with antihistamines. However, it could also be related to asthma or GERD (gastroesophageal refluxdisease), both of which can be treated by your doctor. 

In addition, adults are being diagnosed with pertussis (whooping cough) more than before. So, if you have an unexplained cough for more than two to three weeks, your doctor may want to try an antibiotic to treat this type of infection.

#6 Persistent Congestion and Headache

Colds and allergies that cause congestion and blockage of the sinus passages can lead to a sinus infection. If you have symptoms that don't go away with usual medication, see your doctor for further treatment.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on July 15, 2014

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