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

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