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When A Cold Goes Bad: 5 Signs You Need Medical Care


In most cases, the common cold does not require medical treatment. It is harmless and goes away on its own. Plenty of fluids and some over-the-counter medications are all that’s necessary to treat this common ailment. However, colds can turn bad. Secondary infections can occur, and these do require medical treatment.

But how do you know when your cold stops being harmless and transforms into something that requires a doctor’s care? Track your symptoms! If any of the following are true of your illness, you may want to make an appointment or go to urgent care.

1. Prolonged Symptoms

Colds are caused by viruses, which is why they don’t respond to antibiotic treatment. Certain bacterial infections, however, require antibiotic treatment and can present with cold-like symptoms. If your cold symptoms last for more than 10 days, you may have a bacterial infection, not a cold. In this case, you will need medical attention.

Most colds clear up within 7 to 10 days, but there is some variation among individuals. If you feel like your symptoms are lingering longer than they should, or if they are getting worse rather than better, speak to your doctor.

2. Recurring Fever

A fever is common in individuals with colds. Cold fevers usually follow a reliable pattern and clear up after a few days. When a cold fever does not follow a reliable pattern, doctors become suspicious about a secondary infection or illness.

A fever becomes suspicious when it lasts longer than five days, or if it returns after a fever-free period. Temperature readings are also of concern. Since most cold fevers are mild, any temperature greater than 101.3 F (for adults) should be reported to your doctor.

3. Excessive Mucus

While it’s not uncommon for mucus to get thicker and change color during a cold, you should pay attention to your mucus in order to spot any potential signs that you may need medical care. Thick, sticky, and green mucus is generally nothing to worry about. You may even see a small tinge of blood, especially if you’re engaging in a great deal of nose blowing.

If you see large amounts of blood, however, you should see a doctor. You should also speak to your doctor if your mucus is getting excessive or shows no signs of clearing up.

4. Unrelenting Pain

Pain is often the first indicator that something is wrong. Sinus pain, intense headaches, chest pain, pain when coughing, stomach pain, muscle cramps, and more are all signs that your cold has morphed into something worse, such as a secondary sinus infection or bronchitis. At the very least, pain is a signal that you may need more than over-the-counter medications to get rid of your cold.

5. Incessant Coughing

Coughs linger. It can take up to three weeks to get rid of a cough associated with a cold. However, your cough should get progressively better. If your cough lasts longer than three weeks, gets worse, or causes pain, see a doctor immediately.

You should also seek medical care if you make unusual sounds when you cough. Wheezing, whooping sounds, and squeaking, can all be signs that the cold has moved into your lungs, which can lead to bronchitis or pneumonia.

Colds can start out innocently and often clear up on their own. In some cases, however, they can turn into secondary infections, such as bronchitis and/or a sinus infection. If you feel like your cold has gone bad, you should seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Visit Premier Urgent Care Centers of California, Inc. today to get the care you need.

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