Talking to Your Doctor About Viral Upper Respiratory Infections (Colds and Influenza)
You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is essential to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors or experience with colds and the flu. By talking openly and regularly with your doctor, you can take an active role in your care.
General Tips for Gathering Information
To 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. They may think of questions to ask.
- Write out your questions ahead of time, so you don't forget them.
- Write down the answers you get. Make sure you understand what you are hearing. If you don't, tell the doctor. Ask for educational materials.
- Ask where you can find more information. You have a right to know.
Specific Questions to Ask Your Healthcare Provider
- Can this be more serious than a cold or the flu?
About Your Risk of Developing Complications
- Do I have any health problems that might get worse because of this virus?
- What can I do to prevent other health problems?
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 medicine (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 any time?
- What other symptoms should I be on the lookout for?
Common cold. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/infectious-diseases/respiratory-viruses/common-cold. Updated June 2018. Accessed September 14, 2018.
Influenza. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/infectious-diseases/respiratory-viruses/influenza. Updated June 2018. Accessed September 14, 2018.
Influenza in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/influenza-in-adults. Updated September 13, 2018. Accessed September 14, 2018.
Upper respiratory infection (URI) in adults and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/upper-respiratory-infection-uri-in-adults-and-adolescents-18. Updated November 29, 2018. Accessed September 14, 2018.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board David L. Horn, MD, FACP Last Updated: 11/11/2020