Common Cold

Colds are common, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t confusing. Every cold season, I receive many questions from patients about the cold. Read on to learn the answers.

What are the signs of a cold?

You may have a cold if you have these symptoms:

  • Nasal congestion or stuffiness
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue

In some cases, you may also experience muscle aches and a low-grade fever (below 101 degrees).

How long do cold symptoms last?

Usually the symptoms peak at day three or four of your cold, then you start feeling much better. However, symptoms can persist for a week or two weeks.

Should I go to the doctor for a cold?

In most cases, you don’t need to go to a doctor for a cold. Because it is a virus, there’s no medicine that can help you get well faster. However, you should go to the doctor if the symptoms persist past that 14 days or they don’t get better.

If symptoms persist, it may be a sign that you have developed a bacterial infection like sinusitis or bronchitis. These infections can occur because the cold virus breaks down your body’s natural defenses. Antibiotics can help treat these infections, but won’t help with the cold.

What treatments can I use for cold symptoms?

Over-the-counter “cold medicines” don’t actually help with cold symptoms, studies show. Instead, try using these remedies for your worst symptoms:

  • Tylenol for low-grade fever and muscle aches
  • Nasal saline sprays for congestion
  • Fluids to help keep your energy up

Do I need to miss work when I have a cold?

Children average six to eight common colds a year and adults average three per year, which could result in a lot of missed work. Though the cold can spread through the air or through touch, there’s no need to miss work for a cold. In general as long as you aren’t running a huge temperature, you can go to work.

However, you should be careful not to spread the virus when in public. You should:

  • Sneeze and cough into your elbow
  • Wash your hands frequently (the most effective solution)
  • Avoid shaking hands or hugging others
  • Stand three feet away from others

With these careful steps, you can help keep others in your life healthy.

About the author

Dan A. Naumann, M.D.

Dr. Dan A. Naumann, a Board Certified Family Medicine physician with over 30 years of experience, will join Hampton Roads Urgent Care on October 2, 2017. He received his medical degree from the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia and completed his Family Medicine residency as Chief Resident at York Hospital Family Practice in York, Pennsylvania in 1990.

Dr. Naumann serves in the United States Air Force Reserve as Lieutenant Colonel, Flight Surgeon and Chief of Flight Medicine among other military appointments. Dr. Naumann has also served as Lead Physician in several humanitarian efforts including the Smokey Mountain Military Humanitarian Medical Team, the Malawi Africa Medical Missionary Team, and the Jamaica Medical Missionary Team.

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