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    Respiratory Problems, Age 12 and Older

    Respiratory Problems, Age 12 and Older

    Topic Overview

    Most adults and older children have several respiratory infections each year. Respiratory problems can be as minor as the common cold or as serious as pneumonia . They may affect the upper respiratory system (nose, mouth, sinuses, and throat) or the lower bronchial tubes and lungs. See a picture of the respiratory system .

    Upper respiratory system

    The upper respiratory system includes the nose, mouth, sinuses, and throat. When you have an upper respiratory infection, you may feel uncomfortable, have a stuffy nose, and sound very congested. Other symptoms of an upper respiratory infection include:

    • Facial pain or pressure.
    • A runny or stuffy nose, which may lead to blockage of the nasal passages and cause you to breathe through your mouth.
    • A sore throat.
    • Laryngitis.
    • Irritability, restlessness, poor appetite, and decreased activity level.
    • Coughing, especially when lying down.
    • Fever that occurs suddenly and may reach 103 F (39 C) or higher.

    Lower respiratory system

    The lower respiratory system includes the bronchial tubes and lungs. Respiratory problems are less common in the lower respiratory system than upper respiratory system.

    The symptoms of a lower respiratory (bronchial tubes and lungs) problem usually are more severe than symptoms of an upper respiratory (mouth, nose, sinuses, and throat) problem.

    Symptoms of lower respiratory system infections include:

    • Cough, which continues throughout the day and night, often producing green, yellow, brown, or gray mucus (sputum) from the lungs.
    • Fever, which may be high with some lower respiratory system infections such as pneumonia.
    • Difficulty breathing . You may notice:
      • Shortness of breath.
      • Grunting, which is heard during the breathing out (exhaling) phase of breathing.
      • Wheezing .
      • Flaring the nostrils and using the neck, chest, and abdominal muscles to breathe, causing a "sucking in" between or under the ribs (retractions).
    • Chest pain with exertion or when you take a deep breath.

    Respiratory problems may have many causes.

    Viral infections

    Viral infections are the most common cause of upper respiratory symptoms. Symptoms of a viral illness often come on quickly (over hours to a day or two) without prior illness. Common viral illnesses include colds and influenza (flu) .

    • Colds are minor upper respiratory illnesses that usually go away without treatment. Symptoms may include cough, mild sore throat, nasal congestion, runny nose or sneezing, and occasionally a fever.
    • Influenza (flu) symptoms are usually more severe than a cold. The key symptoms in adults are fever and body aches. Headache, eye pain, muscle aches, and cough are also common. For more information, see the topic Influenza (Seasonal Flu).

    Antibiotics are not used to treat viral illnesses and do not alter the course of viral infections. Unnecessary use of an antibiotic exposes you to the risks of an allergic reaction and antibiotic side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, and yeast infections. Antibiotics also may kill beneficial bacteria and encourage the development of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

    Bacterial infections

    Bacterial infections may develop after a viral illness, such as a cold or influenza, and are less common than viral illnesses. Bacterial infections may affect the upper or lower respiratory system. Symptoms tend to localize to one area. In the upper respiratory system, the most common sites of bacterial infections are the sinuses and throat. In the lower respiratory system, the most common site is the lungs (pneumonia).

    Bacterial infections are more common in smokers, people exposed to secondhand smoke , and people with chronic lung disease (such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [ COPD ]) and other chronic medical problems. Antibiotics can effectively treat most bacterial infections.

    Allergies

    Allergies, especially hay fever, are another common respiratory problem. Symptoms include sneezing, clear runny drainage from the nose and eyes, itchy eyes or nose, and stuffy, congested ears and sinuses. The symptoms of allergies often last longer than a typical viral respiratory infection. For more information, see the topic Allergic Rhinitis.

    Asthma

    Asthma is a chronic disease of the respiratory system. It causes inflammation and narrowing in the tubes that carry air to the lungs (bronchial tubes). The inflammation leads to difficulty breathing, wheezing , tightness in the chest, and cough.

    Asthma often begins during childhood and may last throughout a person's life. The cause of asthma is not clearly known. It is more common in people who also have allergies. For more information, see the topic Asthma in Children or Asthma in Teens and Adults.

    Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.

    Check Your Symptoms

    Do you have a respiratory problem?
    Respiratory problems can affect the nose, mouth, sinuses, and throat (upper respiratory system) or the bronchial tubes and lungs (lower respiratory system).
    Yes
    Respiratory problem
    No
    Respiratory problem
    How old are you?
    Less than 12 years
    Less than 12 years
    12 years or older
    12 years or older
    Are you male or female?
    Male
    Male
    Female
    Female
    Have you swallowed or inhaled an object?
    Yes
    Swallowed or inhaled object
    No
    Swallowed or inhaled object
    Have you had surgery in the past 2 weeks?
    Surgery can cause problems that make you cough.
    Yes
    Recent surgery
    No
    Recent surgery
    Could you be having a severe allergic reaction?
    This is more likely if you have had a bad reaction to something in the past.
    Yes
    Possible severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
    No
    Possible severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
    Could you be having symptoms of a heart attack?
    If you're having a heart attack, there are several areas where you may feel pain or other symptoms.
    Yes
    Symptoms of heart attack
    No
    Symptoms of heart attack
    Are you having trouble breathing (more than a stuffy nose)?
    Yes
    Difficulty breathing more than a stuffy nose
    No
    Difficulty breathing more than a stuffy nose
    Would you describe the problem as severe, moderate, or mild?
    Severe
    Severe difficulty breathing
    Moderate
    Moderate difficulty breathing
    Mild
    Mild difficulty breathing
    Do you have a chronic health problem that affects your breathing, such as asthma, allergies, or COPD?
    A breathing problem may be more of a concern if you normally do not have breathing problems.
    Yes
    Has chronic breathing problems
    No
    Has chronic breathing problems
    Are the breathing problems you're having right now different than what you are used to?
    Yes
    Breathing problem is different than usual symptoms
    No
    Breathing problem is different than usual symptoms
    Is your ability to breathe:
    Quickly getting worse (within minutes or hours)?
    Breathing problems are quickly worsening
    Slowly getting worse (over days)?
    Breathing problems are slowly worsening
    Staying about the same (not better or worse)?
    Breathing problems are unchanged
    Getting better?
    Breathing problems are getting better
    Yes
    Symptoms of serious illness
    No
    Symptoms of serious illness
    Do you have pain or swelling in one calf?
    Pain and swelling in the lower leg can be symptoms of a blood clot.
    Yes
    Pain or swelling in one calf
    No
    Pain or swelling in one calf
    Do you have pain in your ribs or the muscles of your chest?
    This type of pain may feel worse when you press on or move the area or when you take a deep breath.
    Yes
    Pain in chest wall
    No
    Pain in chest wall
    How bad is the pain on a scale of 0 to 10, if 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain you can imagine?
    8 to 10: Severe pain
    Severe pain
    5 to 7: Moderate pain
    Moderate pain
    1 to 4: Mild pain
    Mild pain
    Has the chest pain lasted for more than 4 days?
    Yes
    Pain in chest wall for more than 4 days
    No
    Pain in chest wall for more than 4 days
    Are you coughing up mucus, phlegm (say "flem"), or blood from your lungs?
    This is called a productive cough. Mucus or blood draining down your throat from your nose because of a cold, a nosebleed, or allergies is not the same thing.
    Yes
    Coughing up sputum or blood
    No
    Coughing up sputum or blood
    Are you coughing up blood?
    This means blood that is coming up from your chest or throat. Blood that is draining down from your nose into your throat (because of a nosebleed, for example) is not the same thing.
    Yes
    Coughing up blood
    No
    Coughing up blood
    How much blood is there?
    A lot of bright red blood [2 tsp (10 mL) or more]
    Large amount [2 tsp (10 mL)] of bright red blood in sputum
    Streaks of bright red blood
    Streaks of bright red blood in sputum
    Specks or spots of blood
    Specks or spots of blood in sputum
    Has this been going on for more than 2 days?
    Yes
    Specks or spots of blood in sputum for more than 2 days
    No
    Specks or spots of blood in sputum for more than 2 days
    Do you take a medicine that affects the blood's ability to clot, such as aspirin, warfarin (such as Coumadin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), or clopidogrel (Plavix)?
    These medicines can cause bleeding and can make it harder to control bleeding.
    Yes
    Takes medicine that affects blood's ability to clot
    No
    Takes medicine that affects blood's ability to clot
    Is this cough normal for you because you have a lung problem like chronic bronchitis or emphysema?
    Some people with chronic lung problems have a productive cough all the time.
    Yes
    Typical productive cough
    No
    Typical productive cough
    Have you been coughing up phlegm for more than 3 days?
    Yes
    Coughing up sputum for more than 3 days
    No
    Coughing up sputum for more than 3 days
    Do you think you may have a fever?
    Yes
    Possible fever
    No
    Possible fever
    Did you take your temperature?
    Yes
    Temperature taken
    No
    Temperature taken
    How high is the fever? The answer may depend on how you took the temperature.
    High: 104F (40C) or higher, oral
    High fever: 104F (40C) or higher, oral
    Moderate: 100.4F (38C) to 103.9F (39.9C), oral
    Moderate fever: 100.4F (38C) to 103.9F (39.9C), oral
    Mild: 100.3F (37.9C) or lower, oral
    Mild fever: 100.3F (37.9C) or lower, oral
    How high do you think the fever is?
    High
    Feels fever is high
    Moderate
    Feels fever is moderate
    Mild or low
    Feels fever is mild
    How long have you had a fever?
    Less than 2 days (48 hours)
    Fever for less than 2 days
    At least 2 days but less than 1 week
    Fever for at least 2 days but less than 1 week
    1 week or more
    Fever for 1 week or more
    Do you have a health problem or take medicine that weakens your immune system?
    Yes
    Disease or medicine that causes immune system problems
    No
    Disease or medicine that causes immune system problems
    Do you have shaking chills or very heavy sweating?
    Shaking chills are a severe, intense form of shivering. Heavy sweating means that sweat is pouring off you or soaking through your clothes.
    Yes
    Shaking chills or heavy sweating
    No
    Shaking chills or heavy sweating
    Do you have diabetes?
    Yes
    Diabetes
    No
    Diabetes
    Is your diabetes getting out of control because you are sick?
    Yes
    Diabetes is affected by illness
    No
    Diabetes is affected by illness
    Do you and your doctor have a plan for what to do when you're sick?
    Yes
    Diabetes illness plan
    No
    Diabetes illness plan
    Is the plan helping get your blood sugar under control?
    Yes
    Diabetes illness plan working
    No
    Diabetes illness plan not working
    How fast is it getting out of control?
    Quickly (over several hours)
    Blood sugar quickly worsening
    Slowly (over days)
    Blood sugar slowly worsening
    Do you think that a medicine may be causing your symptoms?
    Think about whether the symptoms started after you began using a new medicine or a higher dose of a medicine.
    Yes
    Medicine may be causing symptoms
    No
    Medicine may be causing symptoms
    Did you start having trouble breathing after taking a medicine?
    This could mean that you're having a bad reaction to the medicine.
    Yes
    Breathing problems began after taking medicine
    No
    Breathing problems began after taking medicine
    Did any other symptoms start after you took the medicine?
    Yes
    Possible medicine reaction
    No
    Possible medicine reaction
    Have you had thick, yellow discharge from your nose for more than 5 days that is not getting better?
    This may mean you have a sinus infection.
    Yes
    Nasal discharge more than 5 days not getting better
    No
    Nasal discharge more than 5 days not getting better
    Do you have any pain in your face?
    Yes
    Facial pain
    No
    Facial pain
    How bad is the pain on a scale of 0 to 10, if 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain you can imagine?
    8 to 10: Severe pain
    Severe pain
    5 to 7: Moderate pain
    Moderate pain
    1 to 4: Mild pain
    Mild pain
    Do you have a runny nose, sneezing, and watery eyes without other cold symptoms?
    Yes
    Allergy symptoms
    No
    Allergy symptoms
    Have your symptoms lasted longer than 2 weeks?
    Yes
    Symptoms for more than 2 weeks
    No
    Symptoms for more than 2 weeks

    Make an Appointment

    Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.

    • Make an appointment to see your doctor in the next 1 to 2 weeks.
    • If appropriate, try home treatment while you are waiting for the appointment.
    • If symptoms get worse or you have any concerns, call your doctor. You may need care sooner.

    Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) may include:

    • The sudden appearance of raised, red areas (hives) all over the body.
    • Rapid swelling of the throat, mouth, or tongue.
    • Trouble breathing.

    A severe reaction can be life-threatening. If you have had a bad allergic reaction to a substance before and are exposed to it again, treat any symptoms as an emergency. Even if the symptoms are mild at first, they may quickly become very severe.

    Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:

    • Your age. Babies and older adults tend to get sicker quicker.
    • Your overall health. If you have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart disease, you may need to pay closer attention to certain symptoms and seek care sooner.
    • Medicines you take. Certain medicines, herbal remedies, and supplements can cause symptoms or make them worse.
    • Recent health events, such as surgery or injury. These kinds of events can cause symptoms afterwards or make them more serious.
    • Your health habits and lifestyle, such as eating and exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug use, sexual history, and travel.

    Call 911 Now

    Based on your answers, you need emergency care.

    Call 911 or other emergency services now.

    Symptoms of serious illness may include:

    • A severe headache.
    • A stiff neck.
    • Mental changes, such as feeling confused or much less alert.
    • Extreme fatigue (to the point where it's hard for you to function).
    • Shaking chills.

    Temperature varies a little depending on how you measure it. For adults and children age 12 and older, these are the ranges for high, moderate, and mild, according to how you took the temperature.

    Oral (by mouth) temperature

    • High: 104 F (40 C) and higher
    • Moderate: 100.4 F (38 C) to 103.9 F (39.9 C)
    • Mild: 100.3 F (37.9 C) and lower

    Ear or rectal temperature

    • High: 105 F (40.6 C) and higher
    • Moderate: 101.4 F (38.6 C) to 104.9 F (40.5 C)
    • Mild: 101.3 F (38.5 C) and lower

    Armpit (axillary) temperature

    • High: 103F (39.5C) and higher
    • Moderate: 99.4 F (37.4 C) to 102.9 F (39.4 C)
    • Mild: 99.3F (37.3C) and lower

    Symptoms of a heart attack may include:

    • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
    • Sweating.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly, or in one or both shoulders or arms.
    • Lightheadedness or sudden weakness.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.

    The more of these symptoms you have, the more likely it is that you're having a heart attack. Chest pain or pressure is the most common symptom, but some people, especially women, may not notice it as much as other symptoms. You may not have chest pain at all but instead have shortness of breath, nausea, numbness, tingling, or a strange feeling in your chest or other areas.

    It is easy for your diabetes to become out of control when you are sick. Because of an illness:

    • Your blood sugar may be too high or too low.
    • You may not be able take your diabetes medicine (if you are vomiting or having trouble keeping food or fluids down).
    • You may not know how to adjust the timing or dose of your diabetes medicine.
    • You may not be eating enough or drinking enough fluids.

    Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:

    • Diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS.
    • Long-term alcohol and drug problems.
    • Steroid medicines, which may be used to treat a variety of conditions.
    • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer.
    • Other medicines used to treat autoimmune disease.
    • Medicines taken after organ transplant.
    • Not having a spleen.

    Try Home Treatment

    You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.

    • Try home treatment to relieve the symptoms.
    • Call your doctor if symptoms get worse or you have any concerns (for example, if symptoms are not getting better as you would expect). You may need care sooner.

    Severe trouble breathing means:

    • You cannot talk at all.
    • You have to work very hard to breathe.
    • You feel like you can't get enough air.
    • You do not feel alert or cannot think clearly.

    Moderate trouble breathing means:

    • It's hard to talk in full sentences.
    • It's hard to breathe with activity.

    Mild trouble breathing means:

    • You feel a little out of breath but can still talk.
    • It's becoming hard to breathe with activity.

    Pain in adults and older children

    • Severe pain (8 to 10): The pain is so bad that you can't stand it for more than a few hours, can't sleep, and can't do anything else except focus on the pain.
    • Moderate pain (5 to 7): The pain is bad enough to disrupt your normal activities and your sleep, but you can tolerate it for hours or days. Moderate can also mean pain that comes and goes even if it's severe when it's there.
    • Mild pain (1 to 4): You notice the pain, but it is not bad enough to disrupt your sleep or activities.

    An illness plan for people with diabetes usually covers things like:

    • How often to test blood sugar and what the target range is.
    • Whether and how to adjust the dose and timing of insulin or other diabetes medicines.
    • What to do if you have trouble keeping food or fluids down.
    • When to call your doctor.

    The plan is designed to help keep your diabetes in control even though you are sick. When you have diabetes, even a minor illness can cause problems.

    Seek Care Now

    Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.

    • Call your doctor now to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
    • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care in the next hour.
    • You do not need to call an ambulance unless:
      • You cannot travel safely either by driving yourself or by having someone else drive you.
      • You are in an area where heavy traffic or other problems may slow you down.
    Postoperative Problems
    Respiratory Problems, Age 11 and Younger

    Symptoms of difficulty breathing can range from mild to severe. For example:

    • You may feel a little out of breath but still be able to talk (mild difficulty breathing), or you may be so out of breath that you cannot talk at all (severe difficulty breathing).
    • It may be getting hard to breathe with activity (mild difficulty breathing), or you may have to work very hard to breathe even when you?re at rest (severe difficulty breathing).

    If you're not sure if a fever is high, moderate, or mild, think about these issues:

    With a high fever:

    • You feel very hot.
    • It is likely one of the highest fevers you've ever had. High fevers are not that common, especially in adults.

    With a moderate fever:

    • You feel warm or hot.
    • You know you have a fever.

    With a mild fever:

    • You may feel a little warm.
    • You think you might have a fever, but you're not sure.
    Swallowed or Inhaled Objects

    Call 911 Now

    Based on your answers, you need emergency care.

    Call 911 or other emergency services now.

    After you call 911 , the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength (325 mg) or 2 to 4 low-dose (81 mg) aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.

    Seek Care Today

    Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.

    • Call your doctor today to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
    • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care today.
    • If it is evening, watch the symptoms and seek care in the morning.
    • If the symptoms get worse, seek care sooner.

    Home Treatment

    Home treatment can help you feel more comfortable when you have mild to moderate respiratory symptoms.

    • Prevent dehydration . Hot fluids, such as tea or soup, may help relieve congestion in your nose and throat. If you have a productive cough, fluids may help thin the mucus in your lungs so your cough can clear it out.
    • Get extra rest; let your symptoms be your guide. If you have a cold, you may be able to stick to your usual routine and just get some extra sleep.
    • Let yourself cough if you have a cough that brings up mucus from the lungs. It can help prevent bacterial infections. People who have chronic bronchitis or emphysema need to cough to help clear mucus from their lungs.
    • For a sore throat, gargle at least once each hour with warm salt water [1 tsp (5 g) of salt in 8 fl oz (240 mL) of water] to reduce swelling and discomfort. For more information, see the topic Sore Throat and Other Throat Problems.
    • Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air. Use only water in the humidifier.

    Keep in mind the following guidelines for taking nonprescription medicine for your symptoms:

    • Use decongestant nasal sprays sparingly and for only 3 days or less. Continued use may lead to a rebound effect, which causes the mucous membranes to become more swollen than they were before you started using the spray. With the right recipe, you can make saline nose drops at home that will not cause a rebound effect.
    • Nonprescription medicines may not work very well for respiratory problems. And some of these medicines can cause problems if you use too much of them. It is important to use medicines correctly and to keep them out of the reach of children to prevent accidental use. Check with the doctor before giving these medicines to children.
    • If you have a dry, hacking cough that does not bring up any sputum, ask your doctor about an effective cough suppressant medicine. For more information, see the topic Coughs, Age 12 and Older.
    Medicine you can buy without a prescription
    Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:
    Safety tips
    Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
    • Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
    • Do not take more than the recommended dose.
    • Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
    • If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
    • If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
    • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.

    Alternative medicines or supplements

    Many people use alternative medicines or supplements to prevent colds or to shorten their cold symptoms. Before using any treatment for your cold symptoms, it is important to consider the risks and benefits of the treatment. For more information, see the topic Complementary Medicine. Some of the common alternative medicines or supplements used are:

    • Echinacea. Study results differ about whether echinacea can keep you from getting a cold or can help you get better faster. Echinacea can cause severe allergic reactions in some people with a history of asthma , allergies, hay fever, or eczema.
    • Vitamin C. Long-term daily use of vitamin C in large doses does not appear to keep you from getting a cold or help you get better faster. There may be a slight reduction in the length of time cold symptoms last when high doses are taken. Additional studies must be done to determine how much vitamin C is needed to reduce the length of time cold symptoms are present.
    • Zinc. Using a product containing zinc may help shorten the length of your cold by up to a day. 1 But you have to take the zinc as soon as you have any cold symptoms. In some cases, zinc products that you spray or place into your nose can cause permanent loss of the sense of smell. 2

    If you decide to use an alternative medicine or supplement, follow these precautions:

    • As with all conventional medicines and supplements, it is important to follow the directions on the label.
    • Do not exceed the maximum recommended dose.
    • If you are or could be pregnant, talk with your doctor before taking any medicine or supplement.
    • If you have another health problem or take prescription medicines, talk with your doctor before taking an alternative medicine or supplement.

    Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

    Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

    • Increasing difficulty breathing develops.
    • Wheezing develops.
    • New chest pain develops.
    • Symptoms last longer than 2 weeks.
    • Symptoms become more severe or frequent.

    Prevention

    There is no sure way to prevent respiratory illnesses. To help reduce your risk:

    • Wash your hands often, especially when you are around people with colds.
    • Keep your hands away from your nose, eyes, and mouth. These are the places where viruses are most likely to enter your body.
    • Do not smoke or use other tobacco products. Smoking irritates the mucous membranes of the nose, sinuses, and lungs, which may make them more susceptible to infections. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
    • If you live an area that has problems with air pollution or smoke from wildfires:
      • Stay indoors and avoid breathing in smoke, ashes, or polluted air.
      • Do not exercise outdoors if you smell smoke or notice irritation of your eyes, nose, or throat.
      • Keep your motor vehicle windows rolled up and the vents closed when driving.
    • Avoid cleanup activities, such as raking leaves or cutting brush.
    • Avoid exposure to chemicals. Do not spray or apply chemicals unless you are wearing protective clothing, such as a particle-filtering respirator, safety goggles, and gloves.
    • Exercise regularly. For more information, see the topic Fitness.
    • Get a flu shot (influenza vaccine) each year. For more information, see the topic Influenza (Seasonal Flu).
    • Get a pneumococcal shot if you are age 65 or older; if you have chronic lung disease, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); if you smoke; or if you have a health risk that increases the seriousness of your symptoms.
    • Make sure your immunizations are current, such as pertussis to reduce your risk of getting whooping cough . For more information, see the topic Immunizations.
    • For information on preventing allergies or asthma, see the topic Allergic Rhinitis or Asthma in Teens and Adults.

    Preparing For Your Appointment

    To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

    You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:

    • When did your symptoms start?
    • Is your respiratory problem localized, such as involving only one ear, one side of your sinuses, or the lungs?
    • Did symptoms start as a cold but now appear to be worse than you would expect from a cold?
    • Have you had similar symptoms before? How were they treated?
    • Do you have a productive cough? Are you coughing up clear, white, green, yellow, or blood-tinged mucus? How much mucus are you bringing up? Are you coughing up mucus all day long or mostly at nighttime?
    • Have you had fever and chills?
    • Are you wheezing, or do you have new or worsening shortness of breath?
    • Do you have a severe headache, earache, or sore throat?
    • Do any other members of your family or work group have similar symptoms?
    • Have you recently been exposed to large amounts of dust, fumes, smoke, or chemicals?
    • Do you smoke or use other tobacco products?
    • Have you recently used an indoor hot tub, pool, or spa?
    • What home treatment have you tried? Did it help?
    • What prescription, nonprescription, or alternative medicines have you tried? Did they help?
    • Have you recently traveled inside or outside of your home country?
    • Do you have any health risks?

    References

    Citations

    1. Singh M, Das RR (2011). Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (3).
    2. Davidson TM, Smith WM (2010). The Bradford Hill criteria and zinc-induced anosmia: A causality analysis. Archives of Otolaryngology?Head and Neck Surgery, 136(7): 673?676.

    Credits

    By Healthwise Staff
    William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
    David Messenger, MD
    Last Revised February 7, 2013

    Last Revised: February 7, 2013

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