Dr. Mark Friedman explains how to treat a cold. Spoiler alert: A Z-Pak isn't the right solution.
Patient: I've been sick for three days, I'm exhausted. I have a 100-degree temperature. My nose is running. I'm so tired. Everybody at work has been sick and now I'm sick, too.
Dr. Friedman: Any problem with wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, headache, earache, sore throat, neck stiffness or soreness, chest pain, nausea or vomiting?
Patient: No, I just feel like crap.
Dr. Friedman: Do you have any other medical problems or allergies to medications?
Dr. Friedman: I'm going to recommend symptomatic treatment with an over-the-counter medication until you feel better. Tylenol or ibuprofen for fever or achiness, a cough medicine containing dextromethorphan if you develop a cough, and an antihistamine decongestant formulation like Claritin D or Zyrtec D for nasal or sinus congestion.
Patient: What about an antibiotic? The last time I had a cold my doctor gave me a Z-Pak.
Dr. Friedman: Colds are caused by a variety of different viral agents, none of which, unfortunately, are susceptible to antibiotics. While some doctors do give antibiotics for colds, they have no more than placebo value and actually put the patient at risk for potentially serious complications and side effects. The antibiotics also wipe out the good bacteria that our bodies need to stay healthy. This practice is bad science and bad medicine.
Patient: What if I don't get better in time? I have a vacation coming up next week.
Dr. Friedman: You're likely to be ill and contagious for a few more days. It may be necessary and advisable to stay home, rest, postpone or cancel outside events. Your body needs the time and rest to heal and it's not fair to spread your cold to other people. If you feel like you're getting sicker and develop a fever above 102.5, headache, stiff neck, persistent cough, chest pain or congestion, earache or sore throat, you should consult your doctor right away or go to the nearest urgent care center or emergency room.
Patient: That's great to know. Thank you for your help, doctor.
Dr. Friedman: Your case is unique and with First Stop Health you'll have a network of over 500 doctors nationwide to advise you. With First Stop Health, you really will have a doctor in the family.