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:
- Trouble breathing. Stuffy nose and a cough are common, but breathing difficulty is not.
- Chest pain. Congestion shouldn’t hurt, and could be a sign of heart trouble or pneumonia.
- Persistent fever. Fever is a sign of infection, and if it doesn’t go away, may indicate treatment is needed.
- You can’t keep anything down. Vomiting causes dehydration. If you can’t keep clear liquids down, you may need an IV.
- You go from better to worse. Colds that block mucus can be derailed by a sinus infection.
- 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.