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Cold and Flu

How to tell when you need to see the doctor?

06/05/2009

Question:

I have been chewed out for going to the dr for "just a cold" before. I got read the riot act about antibiotics not helping a "cold" etc., etc. So I have no idea when I should make an appointment or how long I should wait before I do any more. I have had thick green gobs of phlegm dripping down the back of my throat onto my vocal cords for the past 2 weeks. My this has irritated my voice so much that I can barely croak out anything sounding like words any more when I try to talk. I also have a constant headache that OTC pain relievers don`t even touch. I *think* I have a sinus infection, but I do NOT want to go to the doctor and get yelled at again about how antibiotics don`t do anything for a cold, or about how green phlegm is normal with a cold and does not mean you have an infection. So how do I know when something is worse than a cold and I need to go to the dr?

Answer:

Thank you for sharing your concerns. I agree with you that it is not always possible to tell when you need to see a doctor. If you are still feeling ill after 2 weeks and your symptoms are not getting better, I think it would be reasonable to see a physician to find out what you have. If you only have a viral infection, it is likely that your physician won’t prescribe an antibiotic. However, if you are thought to have a bacterial infection, antibiotics might be indicated.

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Response by:

John  Andrews, MD, MPH John Andrews, MD, MPH
Assistant Senior Vice President Medical Center
Director University Health Services
University of Cincinnati