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When to Seek Medical Attention for Common Colds: A Guide for Symptoms and Treatment

The common cold is still a mystery to scientists. There are over 200 different viruses that potentially cause the common cold, which makes developing a cure a challenge. The good thing is that most common colds are mild and will go away on their own within a week or two. But sometimes, a cold can lead to more serious health problems. Here's a guide for when to seek medical attention for your cold symptoms.

Risks and Side Effects of the Common Cold

The common cold is generally a mild illness, but it can sometimes lead to more severe health problems. In some cases, the cold can lead to pneumonia, bronchitis or ear infections. These complications are more likely to occur in young children, older adults and people with weak immune systems.

There are also certain risks associated with cold treatments. For example, decongestants can cause side effects like insomnia, nervousness and dizziness. Antihistamines can also cause drowsiness. To avoid any unwanted side effects, read the label carefully and follow the directions when using any over-the-counter medication.

When to Seek Medical Attention

There is no cure for the common cold, but there are treatments that can help relieve cold symptoms and make you feel better. So, don't just suffer in silence. Here are situations when you should seek medical attention for your cold symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Common cold symptoms for longer than two weeks
  • Complications like pneumonia, bronchitis or ear infections
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Rash or swelling in your hands or feet
  • Severe headache, stiff neck or confusion
  • Sustained high fever
  • Weakened immune system

While most colds will go away on their own, it's important to pay attention to your symptoms and see the doctor if they worsen.

Find the Right Treatment for You

There are many different cold treatments available, both over-the-counter and prescription. The best way to treat a cold is to focus on relieving your symptoms and making yourself comfortable. If your cold symptoms last longer than two weeks, or you develop any serious complications, visit any of UF Health's three emergency and urgent care centers in Jacksonville, Fla., for prompt, professional care for your cough, cold or flu. No appointment is necessary. Walk-ins are always welcome.