Common Cold Center

Cold Diagnosis

Medical history
The common cold is usually mild, with symptoms lasting 1 to 2 weeks. If you have a cold, you can first see your family doctor. Your doctor will review your medical history and may perform a physical exam. Being ready to answer questions such as:

  • When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous, or occasional?
  • How severe are these symptoms?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen symptoms?

To prepare for the appointment record all the symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated the cold.  Also, write down a list of major stresses, recent life changes, medications, vitamins or supplements and over-the-counter (OTC) cold remedies that you're taking.  Write down questions for your doctor.  List questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For the common cold, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What is likely causing my symptoms or condition?
  • What is the best course of action?
  • What kinds of tests do I need?
  • What will determine whether I should plan for a follow-up visit?
  • Is this condition temporary or chronic?
  • What are possible causes for my symptoms or condition?

Most respiratory bugs come and go within a few days, with no lasting effects. As colds are a leading cause of doctor visits and missed days from school and work, it's best to prevent a treat a cold properly.  Learn more about cold prevention and cold remedies in the next section as we outline both home remedies and doctor recommended techniques.

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