When to See A Doctor: The cold typically lasts for 10 days at most, so you may want to see a doctor if your symptoms last longer or if they start getting worse.
If you keep feeling bad, perhaps you don't have just a cold, but one of the more problematic illnesses listed below.
Avoiding It: While not always 100 percent effective, getting a flu shot will significantly reduce your chances of catching the flu when it comes around. But because you can get the virus even after a vaccination, there are other ways to try to avoid it.
By keeping abreast of the news, you will probably know when the flu reaches your community.
"When influenza is in your community… that's the time that those particularly vulnerable people, even though they've been vaccinated … avoid crowds," said Schaffner.
As examples, he said that concerned patients should have someone else rent movies for them or do their shopping, if possible. Schaffner said he even knows of some people who will stay home from religious services.
If You Get It:If you act quickly, you can cut down the amount of time you spend sick with the flu. You can get antiviral drugs from your doctor to reduce flu time if you take them within 24 to 48 hours of when your symptoms first appear.
If you don't act quickly, you can reduce your symptoms by trying some of the same remedies you would for a cold.
To Feel Better:Like vaccination and avoiding the flu, feeling better when you get the flu may have a lot to do with what you do in advance.
"I would say the best way, up front, is to keep yourself in good shape," said Brownfield.
Eating right, exercising and getting sleep can keep your immune system ready to battle influenza.
Like everything else with the flu, prevention is key.
When to See A Doctor:While most people recover from influenza, it can be a fatal disease.
Schaffner said that patients who get a sense of sinusitis -- either fullness in the face or facial pain -- should see a doctor.
Difficulty breathing is also a key sign, as it can indicate that you may have bronchitis or pneumonia -- possibly because the flu opened you up to infection.
Avoiding It: Bronchitis can be caused by viruses or bacteria. At least one of those viruses is also the cause of the cold, so following those same tips may help you avoid this nasty cough.
The virus people catch is different from the chronic form, which is caused by inhaling particles over many years or by smoking.
If You Get It: Bronchitis is a deeper infection of your respiratory tract, and so it will be accompanied by heavy coughing, with mucus. Although it is not always the case, the mucus you cough up will often be yellow or green.
Bronchitis will typically last 7-10 days. Many people will recover without needing to see a doctor.
To Feel Better: Because your throat will be sore, as in the case of a cold or flu, many of the same treatments can help you feel better.
Most of the time, bronchitis will be caused by a virus, but in some cases it is caused by a bacteria. If doctors realize this, they will prescribe an antibiotic. However, they will not otherwise, although many patients request it.
The reason for the refusal, as Brownfield explained, is that the antibiotic will not do anything, and patients who needlessly take antibiotics will often not respond to treatment with them in the future.