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Beat Bad Cold Symptoms: At-Home Remedies and When to See a Doctor

Beat Bad Cold Symptoms: At-Home Remedies and When to See a Doctor

Beat Bad Cold Symptoms: At-Home Remedies and When to See a Doctor

Bad cold symptoms can make you feel rotten. Both the common cold and influenza (the flu) are caused by a virus. As many as 41 million Americans get the cold or flu every year, leading to more than 710,000 hospitalizations. So, when do bad cold symptoms require a doctor’s attention?

The Primary Care providers at Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County offer comprehensive care when you’re unwell. Sometimes, all you need to start feeling better is a day of rest, but there may be times when your body needs a bit more help. Learn how to identify bad cold symptoms, treat them at home, and when to see a doctor.

Strong Immunity Helps Prevent Cold and Flu

Upper respiratory infections, such as the common cold or flu, cannot be treated with antibiotics. Typically, the body’s natural immune system is the best treatment for viral infections, including the flu or a cold.

“Our best defense is to slow the spread of viruses and provide the immune system support,” said Family Medicine practitioner Dr. Jacob Johnson. “This includes getting eight or more hours of sleep a night, a healthy diet, and good hydration.”

Other prevention tips include frequent handwashing, staying home when you’re not feeling well, and taking over-the-counter supplements. A Primary Care provider can make recommendations for safe supplement options.

Getting the annual flu vaccine is another important way to strengthen your immunity. Vaccines are especially important for children and adults for whom viral infections can be more harmful.

“The flu shot helps boost our immune systems to fight multiple flu strains,” Johnson said. “I get one every year to stay safe and healthy so I can continue working as a provider to help treat patients.”

How to Identify Cold Symptoms

Cold and flu symptoms often overlap. People who suspect the flu or COVID-19 should be tested to determine an effective treatment method.

Typical symptoms of a cold include:

  • Body aches
  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Fever or chills
  • Headaches
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy nose or difficulty breathing through your nose

Although these symptoms are uncomfortable, they generally clear up on their own within 10 days. If symptoms last longer, you might be dealing with a serious cold.

Serious cold symptoms are those that worsen over time, rather than improve. Bad cold symptoms can include:

  • Dehydration
  • Fever over 102 degrees
  • Medical conditions that are unrelated to the cold or flu are worse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Symptoms that don’t improve after a week
  • Trouble breathing

At-Home Treatment for Cold and Flu Symptoms

At-home cold and flu treatment starts with plenty of rest, hydration, and nutritious foods. The next step is treating bad cold symptoms with over-the-counter medication to support your immune system. These medicines can also keep you more comfortable.

“Over-the-counter remedies for cough, cold, and flu provide antihistamines and decongestants, so the body spends more energy fighting the virus,” Johnson said. “So, sleep, good nutrition, and over-the-counter meds are the main at-home treatments since the body is actually doing most of the healing work itself.”

Other at-home remedies to improve comfort include:

  • Cough drops or honey to soothe a sore throat
  • Humidifier or cool mist vaporizer
  • Nasal spray
  • Steam from a hot shower
  • Suction bulb to clear mucus in young children

Not sure if an at-home remedy is safe or effective? Speak with your Primary Care provider for the best recommendations.

When to See a Doctor for Your Cold

High-risk groups such as young children, older adults, or those with chronic medical conditions should see a doctor even if they aren’t experiencing bad cold symptoms. Certain heart, lung, and endocrine system diseases put you at a greater risk for viral infections.

“Due to the complexity of the body’s immune system and a high-risk person’s ability to fight infections, get medical care early for an individualized treatment plan,” Johnson said. “Sometimes we think we are dealing with a virus, but you may be dealing with something more severe. That’s why medical evaluation is important, especially since sepsis can occur with almost any type of illness.”

Additional warning signs that you may require medical attention include:

  • Decreased urine output
  • Increased heart rate

Pay attention to your body’s signals. Reach out for medical attention if you need it.

“Follow your intuition and seek medical evaluation, especially if something feels off,” Johnson said. “You’re never bothering providers by getting those opinions. We work hard to make ourselves available to help everyone, and we’re passionate about what we do.”

Get cold and flu treatment fast. Schedule a Primary Care appointment.