The winter “respiratory, cold, and flu” season is upon us. I have seen quite a spike in visits to urgent care with people suffering from coughs, nasal and sinus congestion, sore throats, and generalized achiness.
I believe that people, now, more than ever realize that there is no cure for the common upper respiratory infection also commonly known as “URI” or head and chest cold.
I am sympathetic to anyone who feels ill and I understand one’s desire to feel well as soon as possible, but there just is no quick fix to the common URI including bronchitis and sinusitis.
Unless one’s symptoms last longer than expected, as I will describe below, antibiotics will do no good and may even cause unwanted side effects and help to create germs that are resistant to antibiotics.
Here are some reasons why someone with URI symptoms should be seen by a doctor:
– You have a fever of 103 F or higher.
– You have any fever lasting more than three days.
– Your cough is associated with wheezing, chest pain, or shortness of breath.
– You are elderly or have a compromised immune system due to chronic disease or chemotherapy.
– You are basically well except that you have a cough for two to three weeks.
– Your sinus congestion with green nasal mucous doesn’t improve after 7-10 days.
Most all coughs, even with yellow or green mucus, are considered bronchitis and are caused by viruses which cannot be cured with antibiotics.
A recent large study concluded that bronchitis can last up to two or three weeks. If your cough lasts longer than this, you should see your doctor.
Another reason to see your doctor is if you have a cough associated with fever, shortness of breath, and feeling as if you’ve been “run over by a Mack truck” — then you could have either pneumonia or influenza for which treatment is available.
Regarding sinusitis, almost all sinus infections, even with green mucus production, begin as a common virus infection and will improve without antibiotics. If these symptoms last more than 7-10 days, then an antibiotic may be indicated.
When you do see your doctor, let them evaluate you by listening to what you have to say, examining you, and then determining what type of treatment is necessary to make you feel better.
P.S. It’s not too late for the flu shot. Influenza cases are just beginning in our area, and as is happening in other parts of the country, this disease may spread among us quickly. Better safe than sorry.