Common Cold

Common Cold
Though there’s not much that can be done when a person has a common cold, certain people suffer more and other conditions may put their health at greater risk. Colds that linger longer than 10 days may be an indication that something else is wrong. When you’re in doubt, contact Dr. Mirela Mircea and Dr. Vivian Lugo-Eschenwald of Family Medicine Associates of Alexandria in Alexandria, Virginia to schedule an exam.

Common Cold Q & A

Family Medicine Associates of Alexandria

What happens when a person has a common cold?

A cold is a viral infection of the nose and throat. No matter how it may feel when you have a cold, the condition is typically harmless. Children under age 6 have the greatest risk of catching a cold, as their young immune systems continue to develop. Two or 3 colds a year aren’t unusual for a healthy adult. Symptoms last about 7-10 days, though some people, such as smokers, may find recovery takes longer. When cold symptoms hang on for 14 days, schedule an appointment with FMAA.

What are the common symptoms? Are there any that should raise red flags?

Though individual cases may vary, the common cold usually includes:

  • Running or stuffy nose
  • Thicker mucus changing to yellow or green
  • Sore throat
  • Head congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Body aches and headache
  • Low fever
  • General feelings of illness

Medical attention may be necessary when a fever exceeds 101.3 Fahrenheit, or 38.5 Celsius, lasts for more than 5 days or returns later as a person tries to recover from a cold. Severe sore throat pain, headache, or sinus pain may require further treatment. Shortness of breath or wheezing could indicate other problems.

Is there anything I should watch for when my child has a cold?

Typically, a child’s cold doesn’t require a doctor’s visit. However, call FMAA immediately if any of these conditions occur:

  • Fever of 100.4 F or 38 C in newborns up to 12 weeks old
  • Fever that climbs or lasts longer than 2 days for any age of child
  • Symptoms that get worse or fail to improve
  • Wheezing
  • Ear pain
  • Excessive drowsiness or lack of appetite

In rare cases, a cold may trigger secondary conditions. These include acute ear infections, asthma attacks, acute sinusitis from colds of unusually long duration, and other disorders, such as strep throat, croup, or pneumonia, all of which need medical treatment.

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