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Frequently asked questions about colds

What can I do to prevent the common cold?

The best ways to prevent the common cold are good hand hygiene (washing well and often) and avoiding close contact with people who have colds or other respiratory infections.

So I think I have a cold…

A cold usually includes a runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, and coughing which can last for up to two weeks. The common cold can be caused by more than 200 viruses, but is most often a result of the rhinovirus. The hallmark of a cold is a runny nose. When germs that cause colds first infect the nose and sinuses, the nose makes clear mucus. This helps wash the germs from the nose and sinuses. After two or three days, the body's immune cells fight back, changing the mucus to a white or yellow color. As the bacteria that live in the nose grow back, they may also be found in the mucus, which changes the mucus to a greenish color. This is normal and does not mean you need antibiotics.

Do I need to go to Parton or call my doctor at home?

Most common colds resolve themselves with rest, hydration, and over-the-counter medications. However, the CDC recommends seeing a healthcare provider if you have a temperature higher than 100.4° F, symptoms that last more than 10 days, or symptoms that are not relieved by over-the-counter medicines.

But what about antibiotics for my cold?

Antibiotics are needed only if your healthcare provider tells you that have a bacterial infection. Remember that the common cold is most often cause by a virus, which do not respond to antibiotics. Your healthcare provider may prescribe other medicine or give tips to help with a cold's symptoms, but antibiotics are not needed to treat a cold or runny nose. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed can be harmful. Each time you take an antibiotic, the bacteria that normally live in your body (on the skin, in the intestine, in the mouth and nose, etc.) are more likely to become resistant to antibiotics. Common antibiotics cannot kill infections caused by these resistant germs.

What can I do to feel better?

Rest, over-the-counter medicines and other self-care methods may help you feel better. Remember, always use over-the-counter products as directed.