One of the most common reasons to seek medical care for a man cold this time of year is due to coughs and colds. When should a person be seen by a provider? When can you try some medicine at home? What over the counter medications should I take for my symptoms? When do I need an antibiotic? The following will help answer some of these questions.
The most common symptoms of an upper respiratory infection are a runny nose, sore throat, sinus congestion, headache, cough, earaches and fever. The overwhelming majority of all upper respiratory infections are caused by viruses and have to be toughed out until our body heals itself. Antibiotics will NOT make any difference in these infections. A typical cold can last for 7-10 days. And during this time the goal is to treat the symptoms.
- Runny Nose – The best medication to take would be a decongestant like pseudoephedrine (sudafed) or phenylephrine. This will help dry up any post nasal drip, stop your nose from running and decrease sinus pressure.
- Sinus congestion – When you have a lot of sinus congestion and can’t blow anything out and are not getting any drainage. You would benefit from guaifenesin (Mucinex), this will thin secretions to help them clear easier. Note you need to drink lots of water with this medication.
- Body aches / Fever – NSAIDS like ibuprofen (Advil) or Naproxen (Aleve) are great for these symptoms. NSAIDS are anti-inflammatory medications as well as pain and fever relievers. They typically last for 8-12 hours and work great. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is only a pain and fever reducer and lasts for about 4 hours before having to be retaken.
- Cough – Dextromethorphan (Robitussin, Tussin, Delsym), all can help reduce a cough to help get you through your day or night.
Occasionally these infections can be caused by a bacteria or can start out viral and turn into a bacterial infection, at which point an antibiotic needs to be prescribed. Don’t be concerned about the color of your phlegm, but it has been proven that the color of your sinus drainage or phlegm does NOT indicate a bacterial vs viral infection. Drainage can be green, yellow, brown, white or any rainbow colored, studies show there is no significance. So when should someone be seen by a provider? Or when do I need an antibiotic? Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer, but there are a couple of symptoms that should prompt sooner than later attention, these include.
- Fever. There are no such things as high and low-grade fevers. A fever is defined as a body temperature above 100.4. A concerning fever is anything above 103, especially in children who can experience a febrile seizure.
- Severe sore throat, without additional symptoms. (No runny nose or cough). This could be a sign of strep throat which should be treated with antibiotics.
- If you have been sick for 7-10 days and are not getting better.
- If you start to get better but then take a big turn for the worse.
Hopefully, this has shed a little light on man colds and URI’s. Most of the time there is nothing that we as providers can do to help cure a cold any faster. The best that we can do is offer advice on what medicine to take over the counter to make you more comfortable until your body fights off the infection.