When to See a Doctor for Cold and Flu Symptoms

Most of us don't go to the doctor when we have a cold or even the flu. But there are times when our symptoms may warrant a visit for further evaluation or treatment. If you aren't sure when to see a doctor for your cold and flu symptoms, this list will help clear up the confusion.


Woman checking her temperature. France
BSIP/UIG / Getty Images

Surprisingly, when you should see a doctor for a fever usually has nothing to do with the number on the thermometer.​

It does have to do with other symptoms you are dealing with, how long it lasts and what happens when you take medications to try to bring it down.


Mother blowing daughter's nose
Bernhard Lang/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Congestion is not often a cause for ​concern, but there are times that it won't go away or it becomes so bad that it is painful.

If you have congestion like this or any of the other accompanying symptoms on the list, contact your healthcare provider.


Teenage Girl Coughing
Arthur Tilley/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Coughs are annoying at best but when do they get bad enough to need treatment? The answer to this varies a lot by what type of cough you are dealing with, what other symptoms you have, and what chronic medical conditions you might have.

If you have a cough that is painful or your chest feels tight when you breathe, you need to seek medical attention. Coughing up pink, frothy mucus is a medical emergency. Be sure to check out the complete list of when you need to see a doctor for your cough.

Sore Throat

Doctor checking girl's throat
Blend Images-REB Images/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

If your throat hurts so bad that you cannot swallow, you need to see a doctor. Although we get sore throats with many common illnesses such as the cold and flu, it should not be so bad that it interferes with your ability to eat or drink.


Eric Audras/ONOKY/Getty Images

Headaches are fairly common, especially in our stressful, busy culture, but they can also be a sign of something serious and even life-threatening.

If you have a headache that feels explosive or like "the worst headache of your life", seek medical attention immediately.

Even if your headache is not that severe, you may need to see your healthcare provider if it falls into any of the categories at the link above.

Abdominal Pain

Doctor and abdominal pain
PhotoAlto/Michele Constantini/Getty Images

Stomach pain can be a tricky symptom. Although it is common and can occur with many different illnesses, it can also be a symptom of something more serious.

Knowing the difference can be difficult. However, if you have any of these signs of potentially serious abdominal pain, you need to see your healthcare provider for further evaluation.

Vomiting and Diarrhea

A girl vomiting
Image Source/Getty Images

Vomiting and diarrhea are awful. They make us feel terrible and can lead to dehydration if they are bad enough. But when do they become so bad that you need to seek medical treatment?

If you are vomiting uncontrollably and unable to keep anything down at all, you probably need to be seen. If you are vomiting blood, a black substance or bright green bile, contact your healthcare provider. Make sure you read the full list so you know what to watch for if you have vomiting or diarrhea.

Was this page helpful?