Is It a Cold or Something More?
If you’re feeling a bit under the weather, you might be tempted to just huddle under a blanket, eat some chicken soup, and binge-watch your favorite TV series instead of seeing a doctor. This approach may be fine for dealing with a minor sore throat, runny nose, or congested sinuses – that is, if what you have is truly nothing more than a common cold. However, it’s important to note that there are other, more serious health conditions that initially display the very same symptoms.
So, how can you tell the difference between a common cold that you can ride out on your own and a more serious condition that requires prompt medical attention? Here are some important signs to look for:
- Fever higher than 102°F (in adults) – A low-grade fever (around 100°F) can actually help your immune system fight off germs, but if your body temperature becomes more elevated, it’s best to see a doctor who can identify the underlying cause and address it, if necessary.
- A cold that gets better, then gets worse – If you experience a cycle in which you feel mildly ill, recover, and then quickly get sick again, it could be a sign that you developed a second, more serious infection while your immune system was weakened by the first infection. Common secondary infections include bronchitis, sinusitis, and pneumonia — serious conditions that often require medical attention.
- A persistent cold – In general, a cold can last anywhere from three days to two weeks; anything longer warrants a check-in with a physician.
- Dark green mucus – As your immune system fights off a cold, your mucus will usually have a white, yellow, or light greenish tinge due to the presence of white blood cells, which contain a green-colored enzyme. However, thick, dark green mucus can indicate an elevated presence of white blood cells, which could be caused by a more serious respiratory infection that requires treatment.
- Severe muscle aches – If you suddenly feel so weak or tired that you have trouble getting out of bed, you might have the flu, a contagious respiratory illness. To weaken the flu virus and help you feel better, a physician may prescribe an antiviral medication. Because most antiviral treatments for flu work best when administered within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, it’s important to see a physician right away.
- Eye irritation – While cold sufferers commonly experience runny noses and scratchy throats, watery eyes are rarely caused by colds. Instead, the culprit is more likely an allergic reaction. A physician can help you identify the trigger and alleviate your symptoms.
- Persistent coughing without other cold symptoms – If your primary symptom is coughing, you could have bronchitis, which may require medical attention.
- Difficulty swallowing for more than a few days – Strep throat can often begin like a typical cold, but its symptoms generally become more severe over time. If you experience pain when swallowing, have a fever, or see telltale white spots on your tonsils, you should see a doctor who can test you for strep and, if necessary, prescribe appropriate antibiotics.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you can see a physician right away at South Tampa Immediate Care. No appointments are necessary at our walk-in clinic, so you can simply stop in to receive an accurate diagnosis, prompt treatment, and peace of mind.