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Talking to Your Doctor About Viral Upper Respiratory Infections (Colds and Influenza)

En Español (Spanish Version)

You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is essential to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors and/or experience with viral upper respiratory infections (colds and influenza). By talking openly and regularly with your doctor, you can take an active role in your care.

General Tips for Gathering Information

Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk to your doctor:

  • Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and think of questions to ask.
  • Write out your questions ahead of time, so you don't forget them.
  • Write down the answers you get, and make sure you understand what you are hearing. Ask for clarification, if necessary.
  • Don't be afraid to ask your questions or ask where you can find more information about what you are discussing. You have a right to know.
Specific Questions to Ask Your Healthcare Provider
About Viruses
  • Is there any chance this is more serious than a common cold (or a self-limited flu)?
About Your Risk of Developing Complications
  • Do I have any medical conditions that might worsen because of this virus?
  • What can I do to prevent complications?
About Treatment and Prevention Options
  • What treatments do you recommend?
  • Do I need anything besides rest, good nutrition, humidified air, over-the counter (OTC) drugs, and maybe a warm bath?
  • Do you have a favorite remedy, like honey and vinegar or herbs like Echinacea?
  • Should I get a flu shot each year?
  • Is there anyone around me who might need special protection because of my virus?
  • Should I, or anyone I live with, take preventive doses of medication (medicine to prevent the flu)?
About Your Outlook
  • Should I call if I am not getting better in 10 days or if I’m getting worse at anytime?
  • What other symptoms should I be on the lookout for?
References

Beers MH, Berkow R. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. 17th ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons; 1999.

Fauci AS, Braunwald E, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 14th ed. New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2000.

Last reviewed September 2013 by

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.