Have a Cold? Consider This…

Little girl blows her nose

By: Carley Castelein, PharmD Candidate 2018, Drake University

Cold season is upon us so it is important to know when you should go to the doctor.

It is easy to know when you aren’t feeling well from a cold: your throat is sore, your nose is stuffed up or running like crazy, and then a cough appears by day four or five. However, did you know the average cough lasts about 17 days and that if your cold lasts less than 10 days, there is about a 2% chance it is caused by bacteria?

Many people seek a doctor within a week of getting sick, hoping for some antibiotics to relieve their suffering and return to normal. However, prescribing antibiotics for a viral infection is causing larger problems. Not only are the side effects, such as diarrhea and yeast infections, of some antibiotics bothersome, they are also making antibiotics less powerful against certain bacteria.

Each year about 2 million people become sick because of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die as a result of these infections. It is important to think about your symptoms and take care of your body when you aren’t feeling well to protect yourself and loved ones, so consider plenty of fluids, rest, and some symptomatic relief to see if you can avoid a trip to the doctor and unnecessary antibiotics.

For more information visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Get Smart campaign at https://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/community/materials-references/print-materials/adults/b-general-color.pdf.


Ebell MH, Lundgren J, Youngpairoj S. How long does a cough last? Comparing patients’ expectations with data from a systematic review of the literature. Ann Fam Med. 2013;11(1):5-13.


Rosenfeld RM, Piccirillo JF, Chandrasekhar SS, et al. Clinical practice guideline (update): adult sinusitis. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015;152(2 Suppl):S1-S39.




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