Question

Cold and Flu

When should I see a doctor for a cold or flu?

A Answers (3)

  • ASusan Blum, MD, MPH, Integrative Medicine, answered
    When should I see a doctor for a cold or flu?

    The flu is usually treatable at home, but a couple of severe symptoms warrant a trip to the doctor. Preventive and functional medicine specialist Dr. Susan Blum talks about these red flags in this video.

    Helpful? 1 person found this helpful.
  • Most cold and flu symptoms will get better on their own with time and rest. But for some symptoms, it's wise to see a doctor. A doctor can make sure nothing is seriously wrong, prescribe medicine if needed, and give suggestions to help you feel better. Here are some tips for when to call.

    Fever:
    • For babies younger than 90 days (3 months): 100.4 degrees F or more
    • For babies 90 to 180 days old (3-6 months): 101.0 degrees F or more
    • For children 6 months and older: a high fever (103.0 degrees F or higher), and the child seems sick
    • Any fever that lasts 2 days or more and is not improving
    Coughing:
    • Coughing in a baby that makes it difficult to eat or sleep, especially if the baby is younger than 6 months
    • Coughing that sounds like a seal barking and interferes with breathing
    • Coughing that starts suddenly and goes for an hour without stopping
    • Cough with wheezing (whistling sound when you breathe in or out)
    • Coughing with any difficulty breathing or with chest pain
    • Coughing that lasts longer than three weeks
    Runny, stuffy nose:
    • Stuffy nose that isn't improving by 10 days or gone by 3 weeks
    • Stuffy nose with other symptoms that seem severe (like a high fever, ear pain, or cheek pain)
    Ear pain:
    • Ear pain with fever or that interferes with sleep and activities
    • Ear pain without fever that is not improving after 2 days (you may give ibuprofen for the ear pain)
    Sore throat:
    • Sore throat without other typical cold symptoms
    • Sore throat with fever, headache, stomachache, rash, or vomiting
    • Sore throat that is so severe that it's hard to swallow
    • Severe sore throat that seems worse than you'd expect with a cold
    Breathing problems:
    • Unusually fast or shallow breathing
    • Distress with breathing
    • Skin between the ribs or below the throat pulling in with each breath
    • Bluish color in the lips or fingernails
  • ARealAge answered

    Colds and flu account for more unnecessary visits to the doctor than any other ailment. As colds and flu are viral, generally, a doctor can't do anything for them. Antiviral flu medication is available if diagnosis is within 48 hours of the onset. This medication is not a cure, but it may reduce flu symptoms and shorten the duration. Most of the time, a healthcare professional will be needed only if complications develop.

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