Cold can make you feel absolutely terrible and sometimes, it feels like death would be preferable, there’s no denying it.
What’s to love about being congested, coughing, having a fever, a sore throat, watery eyes, runny nose and all the rest of it?
While they make you feel miserable, a cold is a highly contagious viral infection that is, in the scheme of things, a minor illness that will usually run its course and go away by itself within a week or two with or without treatment. It just really sucks in the meantime.
Antibiotics can’t work for the cold or the flu because they treat bacterial infections, not viruses.
However, you can treat your symptoms by drinking plenty of fluids so you don’t get dehydrated, take paracetamol to reduce fever and pain, use decongestants if you have a blocked nose, eat a balanced diet with lots of fruit and veg, get plenty of rest and don’t drink alcohol or smoke while you’re sick.
Of course, if you take time off work and your employer demands you have a medical certificate, this means you’ll have to seek out a GP to get one (or a pharmacist if you live in a place where you can access this service).
But as a general rule, these are the other times you should see a doctor for a cold or flu:
1. If your fever doesn’t improve
If you have a fever above 38°C that won’t go away after about three days, despite using paracetamol, it could be a sign you’ve got an infection that needs treatment. You should also definitely see a doctor if your fever is more than 40°C.
2. It hurts to swallow
Severe pain in your throat can also be a sign of infection from something like tonsillitis.
3. You can’t keep anything down
If you can’t drink anything without bringing it back up again for a prolonged amount of time, you should see a doctor. Your body requires fluids for it to function properly, and you could become severely dehydrated very quickly.
4. Fainting or feeling like you might faint
If you start feeling lightheaded or dizzy while you’re battling a cold, or if you faint, you need immediate medical attention.
5. A cough that won’t go away
If you’ve got a cough that’s still hanging around after 10 days, you should go get checked out. You might have bronchitis or another kind of infection. A lasting or severe cough is also a possible symptom of whooping cough.
6. Pain or pressure in your chest
If you’ve been coughing away for days, you might have some aches and pains in your chest afterwards. But if you start experiencing chest pains that fluctuate when you breathe, it might be a symptom of a condition called pleurisy and you could be developing pneumonia. You should see a doctor as soon as possible.
7. Shortness of breath
If you’re experiencing difficulty breathing or have shortness of breath after developing a cold, it could mean there is a more serious condition at play, such as pneumonia, which can be life-threatening if not immediately treated.
8. Congestion and headache won’t go away
If you have a cold or allergy that is blocking your nose with mucus, it could lead to a sinus infection.
9. Feeling confused or disoriented
Sometimes, when you have a cold, you might experience a kind of ‘brain fog’ from your sinuses being inflamed and side-effects of cold and flu medications. But if it turns to confusion or disorientation, you need to get a friend or relative to take you to see a doctor.
10. Coughing up green or yellow phlegm or blood
If you’re hacking up thick green or yellow phlegm or blood, this is a major sign something else is going on, like bronchitis or worse. Get to a doctor.