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Colds (cont.)

When Should Someone Seek Medical Care for a Cold?

For mild-to-moderate cold symptoms, individuals usually do not need to see a doctor. Almost everything a doctor can prescribe to relieve symptoms can be purchased without a prescription.

However, if symptoms become severe or people develop the following symptoms or signs, the patient may have "the flu" virus, bacterial pneumonia, or another illness that should be reported to the doctor:

For more severe cold symptoms or a prolonged duration of symptoms and/or signs, people should visit their doctor. An office visit will usually suffice, but if the person is extremely ill and seems to be getting worse, go to the emergency department.

How Do Health-Care Professionals Diagnose a Cold?

Symptoms and a physical examination are all the doctor needs to diagnose the common cold. An initial diagnosis often is made from symptoms alone.

  • Usually, no blood tests or X-rays are necessary.
  • During the physical examination, the doctor will pay careful attention to the head, neck, and chest.
  • The doctor will examine the eyes, ears, throat, and chest to help determine if a bacterial source is causing the illness.
  • Other tests may be done to differentiate a cold from other problems such as the flu, lupus, or pneumonia, for example.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/31/2016

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Rhinoviruses »

The common cold is an acute respiratory tract infection (ARTI) characterized by mild coryzal symptoms, rhinorrhea, nasal obstruction, and sneezing.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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