When you get sick, it is important to evaluate your symptoms to determine if you are suffering from the common cold or a more serious illness requiring medical treatment. If you are concerned, it is best to err on the side of caution and make an appointment to see your doctor. The following symptoms are red flags that you should look for when trying to determine if you are suffering from an illness other than a cold.
Sniffles that persist more than four days: If your congestion and runny nose last beyond four days, you may have a sinus or respiratory tract infection. The cause may be bacterial or viral. Your doctor may prescribe medications depending upon the exact diagnosis.
High Fever: As an adult, it is very likely that your body is fighting an illness other than the common cold if you are experiencing a fever higher than 102. A high fever may indicate strep throat or another infection. Contact your doctor if your fever lasts for more than 48 hours or rises above 103 degrees.
Severe Headache: This can be an indication of meningitis, especially if a fever and neck pain accompanies the symptom. A pressure headache that is worse near the nose and eyes or gets worse when you bend forward could be a sign of a sinus infection.
Stomach Problems: A cold rarely causes digestive tract problems. Diarrhea and vomiting are usually signs of the flu, food poisoning or another medical condition. You should seek medical advice if you have been experiencing problems for more than a few days.
Acute Localized Pain: This sign can be caused by other conditions. While a cold can produce a stuffy nose, congestion and a sore throat, acute pain when swallowing is a symptom of strep throat. A cold usually does not isolate intense pain in one area.
Muscle Aches and Fatigue: A cold usually does not cause widespread body aches and pains. Along with muscle and joint pain, fatigue and chills may accompany the flu.
Chest Pains or Trouble Breathing: Even though a cough and congestion is a sign of a cold, they should not be severe enough to cause wheezing, shortness of breath or chest pain. Breathing problems can be a sign of bronchitis or pneumonia.
It can be difficult to distinguish between some illnesses because they share similar symptoms. If you notice symptoms getting worse or lingering, it may be a sign of a more serious illness. In these instances, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible.