Cold And Flu: When To Ignore It And When To See The Doctor?

When is your cold not a cold?

That may sound like the beginning of a riddle. But it is a serious question that few outside of the medical profession can answer.


Do You Really Have A Cold?

We typically call anything a cold if there are symptoms of coughing, sneezing, fever, runny nose, congestion, and general croup.  While those symptoms may represent a cold, they may also represent something much worse, or nothing at all. They might represent an uncomfortable day or two out of your life. Or they could represent something necessitating a trip to the doctor.

It can be difficult to tell.


Does Your Kid Really Have A Cold?

Things get a lot more complicated when you add kids to the mix.

Every new parent’s worst nightmare is played out before their eyes every time their baby settles into a coughing fit. The worst-case scenarios must immediately be ruled out. That hyper-concern fades a little as the infant enters early childhood. But it never goes away completely. But is it time to call a doctor for their cold?


Here are some things to consider.

Urgent Care Can Help You

One of the main reasons to see a doctor for a cold is for peace of mind. It is not really about getting some magic treatment that we know doesn’t exist. It is about making sure that we are not suffering from something more serious than we think.


A new kind of urgent care allows you to make same-day appointments around your schedule for a variety of symptoms. The twist is that the interview is done by phone over audio or video. If they find something worrying in the interview, they can recommend you visit the ER. It’s a good way to gauge the danger of an illness or injury before going to an urgent care facility. They can write you prescriptions just like any other urgent care. You can pick them up at your convenience. For most people, urgent care is covered by insurance and only requires a co-pay.

If you need a professional assessment of your symptoms, try urgent care.


Assessing Your Child’s Cold

When your 8-year-old has a cold, do you:

  1. Keep her home and in bed?
  2. Take her to the doctor?
  3. Send her off to school anyway?
  4. None of the above?

You probably hated test questions like this as much as your child does now. Unfortunately, you can’t afford to get this wrong.


Here’s a sample of the answers to the question of whether or not your child should stay home:

  1. Stay home and consider going to a doctor if the fever is above 101.
  2. Trust your judgement if there is congestion but very little green or yellow discharge from the nose.
  3. It’s a school day if there is a mild, infrequent cough that doesn’t impact daily activities.

Bear in mind that is only a small sample. You want to make sure your child is going to be okay without too much discomfort. And you want to be sure that your child doesn’t become Typhoid Mary and spread plague throughout the school. A little more digging can help you decide whether you should go to work, stay home, or see your doctor for your cold and flu symptoms.


Differences Between A Cold And Flu

It is a lot harder to tell than you think. The diagnostic differences are in probability and severity. You might get a fever for both, but it is more likely with the flu. You might suffer aches and pains with both, but the flu will be more severe.

The only “never” is extreme exhaustion for a cold. However, it is typical for the flu, mostly at the beginning. Knowing the difference is challenging but important. Colds go away without a trace, while the flu can have serious health implications if it hangs around.

See a doctor if you have a stubborn flu, are running a high fever, or you just have to have some peace of mind.