medicine, primary care

‘Tis the Season…

The season for colds and flu, that is.

I’m just putting this out there in black and white, so that everyone can see it.  I’m even going to italicize it, so that you know I really, really mean it.  Here goes…

I can’t cure your cold.  I can’t even make it go away faster than it would on its own.  Even if you have a vacation in two days and you’re flying to the Caribbean and don’t want to be sick- I STILL can’t make it better.


There.  Glad I got that off my chest.

Colds are caused by a virus, not a bacterium.  This means that antibiotics will not work for them.  Bronchitis typically does not need an antibiotic either- it gets better on its own.  Likewise sinusitis.

A cold typically lasts 10 to 14 days.  A cough from bronchitis can last for weeks, and sometime a few months.  Sinus pain and pressure can last for weeks.  A cough does not means that antibiotics are needed.  Green mucus is not a sign of a bacterial infection- that’s just the color of mucus.  A fever doesn’t mean an antibiotic is needed.  I highly recommend that everyone read this.  It’s a link to the CDC Get Smart Homepage, and is chock-full of great information about antibiotics.

Certain over the counter cold medications can be helpful.  For those without high blood pressure, Sudafed is my top choice.  Nasal saline rinses are almost always helpful.

Now, I never mind people coming into my office to get their cold checked out.  I’d hate for someone to be worried that their cold might be something more than just a virus.  It’s never a waste of my time- I’d rather someone get checked out than worry, and sometimes someone actually has an ear infection or pneumonia. Even if it’s not something like that, I typically will be able to give individualized advice about dealing with the symptoms.   However, I do ask that people trust my judgement.  Don’t get angry with me if I won’t give antibiotics.  I never give them just to appease someone- I only give them if they’re needed.  And please, don’t get angry with me if you’re still sick in a week- that’s typical.  It stinks, I know.  It’s just how it is.  If I find the cure for the common cold, I promise, my patients will be the first to know!

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