Coughs and Colds – Do I Need a Doctor?

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If you have a cough, sore throat, or runny nose, you may wonder if you need to see a doctor. A mild cough or cold is usually nothing to worry about. However, some situations call for a doctor’s appointment. Knowing what symptoms require a trip to a healthcare provider will put your mind at ease so you can focus on resting.

In this article, we’ll walk you through what to know about coughs and colds – and when to seek medical attention.

Types of Coughs

A cough is a reflex your body uses to clear your airways and protect your lungs from infection and foreign materials.

Some coughs are wet (productive) and bring up mucus or phlegm. Others are dry (nonproductive) and don’t produce any mucus.

Coughs are either acute or chronic, based on how long you’ve had the cough.

Acute coughs usually begin quickly and last up to 3 weeks. They are often due to a cold, flu, or sinus infection.

Chronic coughs last longer than 8 weeks in adults and 4 weeks in children.

When to Get Medical Attention for a Cough

Call 911 or get emergency care for any cough that is accompanied by:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Hives or a swollen face or throat with difficulty swallowing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion

When caused by a cold or upper respiratory infection, the cough is often the last symptom to improve. It’s a good idea to see a doctor if a cough lasts longer than 3 weeks or occurs along with any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Thick and yellow or green mucus
  • Night sweats
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Your symptoms are getting worse rather than better

Cold Symptoms

Colds are common viral infections that usually occur during colder months. Unlike the flu or COVID-19, cold viruses start slowly, are generally mild, and don’t cause life-threatening symptoms.

Colds cause inflammation in the nose and throat – proof that your immune system is working to fight the virus. Common cold symptoms include:

  • A stuffy or runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Mild aches and pains

Read More: COVID-19, Flu, and Strep: Your Ultimate Guide

When to Go to the Doctor for a Cold

While colds aren’t usually severe, bacteria can spread in your body when you have a cold. This can lead to bronchitis, a sinus infection, or an ear infection that needs to be treated. See a doctor if you have:

  • A fever of 105 degrees or more that doesn’t respond to treatment
  • A fever that lasts over 3 days
  • Symptoms that start to improve and then get worse again
  • Symptoms for over 10 days that aren’t improving

Seek emergency care if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or blue lips or nails
  • Chest pain
  • Seizure
  • Confusion
  • Worsening symptoms of a chronic condition

Choose Integrity Urgent Care When You Need a Doctor

At-home care is often all you need for coughs and colds. But sometimes you need the help of a doctor. Integrity Urgent Care, part of the Xpress Wellness family, is chain of Texas-based walk-in clinics. We are dedicated to giving you the highest-quality, affordable care for non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries. Find a location near you and check in online or walk in today so we can help you feel better!

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