The common cold should take a hint. It’s not wanted around here but unfortunately the average person gets two to four a year. Cold symptoms can get pretty miserable causing even the toughest individual to consider seeing a doctor for relief. The question is when do you need to see a doctor and when are antibiotics necessary?
The typical cold
Colds are caused by viruses which produce the dreaded runny nose, cough and congestion. Usually, colds start off with a clear runny nose and a slight cough. You may have a fever; your cough may worsen; and the junk in your nose will turn yellow or green. Basically, you’re going to feel like crap but after 10 days you should start improving. If not, that’s when you should consider seeing a doctor.
When to worry?
When cold symptoms worsen after five days or do not improve after ten days, consider you might have a sinus infection or other complication of the cold, such as pneumonia, bronchitis or ear infection, and you should see your doctor.
When do you need antibiotics?
Antibiotics can only be used to treat bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or sinus or ear infections, which are a complication of the common cold/cough. Antibiotics are not necessary for most common colds and coughs.
Your doctor will decide if antibiotics are appropriate after an examination and discussion of your symptoms. That junk in your nose does not necessarily mean you have a bacterial infection. In the past, antibiotics were prescribed too quickly. This has lead to the bacteria which causes sinus and ear infections, and pneumonia becoming more resistant to antibiotics.
Medications for the Common Cold and Cough
Don’t hesitate to take an over-the-counter cold remedy if symptoms are interfering with your daily life. Those available include:
•Aspirin can help reduce your fever and relieve aches and pains.
•Nasal decongestants can help with your stuffy nose by decreasing mucus production and shrinking the swelling in the nose. A potential side effect is you may feel like you’ve had a double espresso.
•Anti-histamines help mostly with drying up a runny nose and are intended for allergy rather than cold. Drowsiness may be a side effect.
•Cough suppressants can help you sleep at night. They work by suppressing the cough reflex in the throat and lungs so that the mucus or irritation there won’t trigger coughing.
•Expectorants loosen up thick mucus, making it easier to cough up.
•Prescription cough medicine can be prescribed by a physician for severe coughs.
•Neti pots are small pots used to pour warm saline solution through the sinus passages which loosens up and flushes away mucus and junk in the nose.
•Steam can help loosen up mucus. Take a bath or shower in a steamy bathroom, or get a pot of water steaming on the stove and put your face carefully near it.
•Sleep in a slightly upright position with extra pillows under your head.
•Drink lots of liquids including water, tea or chicken broth.