Coughs and Colds

Coughs and colds are experienced by most adults two to four times per year and more frequently by children. It is not necessary for you to see a doctor if you are having symptoms of an uncomplicated viral infection in the respiratory tract (ears, nose and sinuses, throat and chest). On the other hand, your doctor should evaluate you if you are having symptoms that suggest a more serious cause, such as a bacterial infection, or if your symptoms aren't manageable with over-the-counter remedies or the passing of time. The purpose of this guide is to review your cough and cold symptoms and to identify specific patterns of illness for which a doctor's evaluation is recommended.

You will encounter a number of questions about your symptoms as you proceed through this program. Your answers to these questions will help give you suggestions most pertinent to you.

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Upper and lower respiratory tract infections commonly cause several symptoms simultaneously. Even so, one symptom probably dominates your illness. Identifying your most dominant symptom can be a good way for us to get started.

What is your most bothersome symptom from the list below?

Cough, wheeze, or breathing difficulty.

Sore throat.

Runny nose, stuffy nose or sneezing.

Hoarse voice or lost voice.

Ear pain.

You have identified that your most bothersome symptom is ear pain. Ear pain can be caused by an infection along the canal leading to the ear drum, or it can be caused by a pressure change (with or without infection) behind the ear drum. If your pain is made worse when you pull on your outer ear, then it is likely that your infection is "external" to your ear drum, not behind it.

If you pull backward on your ear, does your pain increase sharply?

Yes

No

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