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Quick Dose: When Are Cold or Flu Symptoms Cause for Concern?

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While the cold and flu season can be unpredictable, the common cold and mild cases of the flu usually last about two weeks. You may find temporary relief with over-the-counter medications and by drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and staying home to rest. However, if your symptoms are getting worse instead of better, this may be a sign of something more serious. If you have persistent vomiting, a cough that lasts more than 10 days, a cough that produces thick greenish-yellow phlegm, chest pain, shortness of breath or a prolonged fever over 102 degrees in adults (103 or higher in children), it’s time to call your physician. The flu can turn into a more serious condition such as pneumonia, bronchitis or an ear infection – especially in babies, older adults and people with chronic health conditions – so take these signs seriously and seek professional advice.

David Fox, MD, primary care physician, Northwestern Medicine Primary and Specialty Care Lavin