By Dr. Christine Sauer

It’s the flu season and many people wonder when they feel “off” if it is just a common cold or if it is more serious and time to go to the doctor, walk-in-clinic or even emergency room.

The rules below apply for otherwise healthy people. If you are immunocompromised or have any serious disease or take any medications, please always see your doctor right away!

Here are the signs of a common cold:

Stuffy, runny nose, sneezing, headache, fever for 1-3 days, scratchy throat, hoarseness, cough, achiness all over the body. The severity of those symptoms is mild to moderate in the case of just a cold, which means that you still can go about your daily life. Usually it is over in about 1 week. Usually diarrhea is not part of the common cold.

What symptoms to watch for and what to do about it:

It’s not a simple cold, if you have…

  1. High fever (over 39.5°C) for more than 3 days – see your doctor or go to a walk-in-clinic
  2. Fever and stiff neck (can’t put your chin on your chest for pain) – go to the emergency room (it might be meningitis
  3. High fever and a very sore throat – see your doctor, it may be a strep throat that requires antibiotics to prevent serious complications.
  4. Rash all over your body – see your doctor.
  5. Feeling very sick, drowsy (not from medications), aches and pains all over, high fever – see your doctor right away or go to the emergency room.
  6. Wheezing or trouble breathing – see your doctor or go to the emergency room
  7. Coughing a lot, bringing up phlegm that looks yellow, greenish or reddish – see your doctor right away or go to the emergency room.



Could it be an allergy or is it a cold or the flu?

It could be an allergy if

  • You have a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, but no or just a slight fever
  • The symptoms stay for more than 1 week
  • Your symptoms start after exposure to certain foods, smells, air pollutants..
  • Your symptoms come on every year at the same time (e.g. birches flowering, pollen)
  • Your symptoms go away after taking an antihistamine medication

If you are in doubt, it is always a good thing to call your doctor and ask for advice.

Wonder what you can eat if you feel off to help a cold of flu? Check out this article!

If you have longer-lasting symptoms or problems and would like them sorted out, please contact me for your free phone health consultation with DocChristine!