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January 13, 2020

Peak Illness Season: When to Ride It Out, and When to See a Health Care Provider 

Sophia L. Thomas, DNP, FNP-BC, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP

January is peak germ season, and many people who are worn down from the holidays get sick. But even if you feel miserable, only certain symptoms are dangerous. Here’s a quick guide to the things you shouldn’t ignore:

  1. Trouble breathing. Stuffy nose and a cough are common, but breathing difficulty is not. 
  2. Chest pain. Congestion shouldn’t hurt, and could be a sign of heart trouble or pneumonia.
  3. Persistent fever. Fever is a sign of infection, and if it doesn’t go away, may indicate treatment is needed. 
  4. You can’t keep anything down. Vomiting causes dehydration. If you can’t keep clear liquids down, you may need an IV.  
  5. You go from better to worse. Colds that block mucus can be derailed by a sinus infection
  6. Lingering symptoms. Sore throat, cough and congestion are part of sickness, but shouldn’t last longer than a week or two. 

People take 50% more sick days in January than any other month. Crawling into bed may help, but some symptoms warrant a trip to a health care provider. If your symptoms are severe, go to the ER. If it’s not an emergency but you need to see a health care provider right away, consider seeing a nurse practitioner at a retail clinic or urgent care center for faster care.