Being sick can be tricky sometimes. Many people don’t want to go to the doctor for no reason, but at the same time they don’t want to ignore a potentially serious illness. So how do you know when you should go to the doctor?

Most sinus and nasal infections are caused by viruses and can only be treated with time, rest, hydration, and supportive care like Tylenol or Motrin, decongestants, and similar medicines, CEENTA Otolaryngologist John Kilde, MD, said. However, if someone has a high fever; a worsening cough; a headache; neurologic symptoms like hearing loss, visual changes, or lethargy; or symptoms lasting more than 2-3 weeks; they should see a doctor.

While the amount of time you might wait to see a doctor depends on your symptoms and their severity, Dr. Kilde recommends seeing a doctor if they worsen or continue for 2-3 weeks. Viral illnesses can last several weeks in some cases. Ear infections can also be more long lasting. Even if they are treated with antibiotics, hearing loss can persist as it can take weeks or months for the fluid to clear.

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if an ailment is something minor or is the symptom of a more serious condition, Dr. Kilde said. For example, a sore throat might be the symptom of a cold, or it might be the symptom of strep throat or bronchitis. So, when in doubt, Dr. Kilde recommends getting a medical evaluation.

Some people might have allergies and not know if they are dealing with them or another illness. A person’s symptoms are a good sign if they are dealing with allergies or something like a cold or sinus infection. Illnesses are usually associated with symptoms like fevers, for example. Allergies can last for weeks at a time while a cold should go away after a week.

The choice to take medicine depends on the severity of your symptoms and on your diagnosis, Dr. Kilde said. Over-the-counter cold and sinus medicines tend to be safe and can help with cold symptoms, but if you are not improving, the decision to use prescription medications would need to be made with your physician.

This can sometimes be a tricky line to walk, Dr. Kilde said, but your doctor will know best whether you need a prescription or if time is the best medicine.

If you do decide to come to a doctor, know you will be in good hands at CEENTA.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. Dr. Kilde practices in our Albemarle office. If you would like to make an appointment with him or any of our doctors, please call 704-295-3000.


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