Friday, June 3, 2011

A Common Cold or Something Else

I hope this post helps you to decide whether or not you should seek medical attention if you have a "head cold". Physicians see a lot of people for simple colds and often reassure them they just need a little more time and supportive therapy. A cold, which is generally caused by a viral infection, usually resolves after 3 or 4 days. Colds usually present with sneezing, watery eyes, a sore throat, headache, congestion or a watery runny nose. Usually, though, there is not significant fever. These symptoms will usually respond to over-the-counter (OTC) medications including decongestants, mucolytics such as Mucinex, Tylenol or Advil, antihistamines and time. Vitamin C is also helpful in higher doses along with lots of fluids. Rest and isolation are also recommended at the onset to prevent the spread through airborne particles. Also, a majority of people do not realize that most sore throats are most often viral in origin and therefore do not respond to antibiotics. Of course the cause may also be due to a strep (bacterial) infection, which will require a course of antibiotics. This may also be seen in those with inflamed or enlarged tonsils (tonsillitis).

The "flu" is quite different in that you will generally feel sick with aches, pains (especially muscle or joint), fever and occasionally rigors (tremors or shakes). People will often say their whole body hurts. Early treatment (first 48 hrs) with Tamiflu or Relenza can make a significant difference in the duration and severity. Otherwise, fluids, rest and the above OTC meds will also help. Flu shots will usually protect you from acquiring the seasonal flu, but that is not a guarantee as there are many strains.
Sinusitis presents with pain around the eyes, cheeks, nose or forehead, a headache, dry cough, or heavier discharge from the nose. Sinusitis may be a chronic condition and often requires prolonged antibiotic therapy. Nasal washing with a neti pot or NeilMed bottle may also be helpful.

When someone has a persistent and often deep cough that brings up yellowish or greenish mucus, this could be a sign of acute bronchitis or an upper respiratory infection that may require antibiotics. If these symptoms are associated with significant shortness of breath and fever, then pneumonia may be the cause. This condition is more serious and should be evaluated right away.

When symptoms do not improve in a few days or seem significantly worse, you should probably seek medical attention. Physicians can also prescribe other medications which may help to improve the symptoms and occasionally help you resolve a cold sooner.

1 comment:

  1. Have you tried dumplings and roast ducks? They are the famous and traditional Beijing dieshes. And also bird's nest soup? Its a delicacy in China.

    Enjoy your days~~~