When Is It Time to See Your Doctor?

Most winter colds and coughs are viral and will go away on their own with home care. But you’ll want to see your doctor if you aren’t getting any better over time or if your symptoms worsen. Mucus buildup from a viral infection can lead to a bacterial infection.

With children, be alert for high fevers and for abnormal behavior such as unusual drowsiness, refusal to eat, crying a lot, holding the ears or stomach and wheezing. Signs of trouble for a child or adult can include a cough that disrupts sleep, a fever that won’t go down, increased shortness of breath, facial pain caused by a sinus infection, worsening of symptoms, chest pain or a difference in the mucus you’re producing.

Cold and flu complications may include bacterial infections, such as bronchitis, sinusitis, ear infections, and pneumonia, that could require antibiotics. Note: While antibiotics are effective against bacterial infections, they don’t help against viral infections such as a cold or flu.

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration Department of Consumer Health Information