Despite being a nurse, I am one of those people who rarely sees my doctor. I go when I have to, like for work physicals, but I really have to be hurting to seek medical care for something like a cold or sinus infection. I’m lucky to be in good health, and my immune system usually fights off anything I pick up within a few days. Rest and fluids, hot showers and homemade chicken noodle soup are my favorite remedies.
I rely on my neti pot, vitamin C, and various teas and syrups to help avoid getting sick in the first place. I’m also fanatical about hand-washing. This is all helpful, but no amount of anything is 100% guaranteed to prevent illness. Especially this time of year.
There is not much that can be done for colds or the flu, other than treat the symptoms while you wait for the bug to run its course. If I’m really symptomatic and I have to work, I’ll take over-the-counter medications, but I don’t like the way they make me feel (too buzzy or too sleepy) so I tend to avoid them. Plus, the symptoms are your immune system at work, so I’m not sure if they should be suppressed 100% of the time.
I’ve never gone to the doctor for a cold, and I’m surprised that in 2017, people would still suggest “getting a Z-pack” for the sniffles. I didn’t need nursing school to learn about antibiotic resistance and the difference between bacterial and viral infection. (Antibiotics are only effective on bacterial infections, common colds and various influenza strains are viral…always. I’ve seen patients actually yell at (or fire) their physicians for refusing to prescribe unnecessary antibiotics. I’ve also seen physicians give in and just write the prescription to keep their patient happy…this is NOT a good thing…)
Antibiotic resistance is a very real, growing problem with dangerous implications for our future. Please don’t contribute to the problem. That is a whole other post, however, so if you’re unfamiliar with what I’m referring to, please google it (for the sake of mankind lol).
Now, having said all that, there are times when you do need to see your doctor “for the sniffles.” Over a month ago, I had a bout of sinusitis that was so bad I accused my boyfriend of punching me in my sleep (!). I utilized all of my natural remedies, and eventually, I could touch my face again without wincing in pain. I knew I should have gone to the doctor, but I rationalized and procrastinated my way out of it. Sinus things come and go, and life went on.
A month later, upper respiratory infections started popping up in my workplace and it didn’t take me long to pick one up, despite masking and constant hand-washing. The typical symptoms only lasted for a few days, but I wasn’t really feeling better. I was running a low-grade temp more than a week after other flu-like symptoms disappeared, and my throat was so sore I could barely talk. My headache was constant, and I was exhausted.
It wasn’t until I noticed white spots and realized that I needed a strep test that I finally went to the doctor. Nine days later. More than a month after the first infection.
That’s not exactly “self-care” in any way that promotes wellness! I really don’t know what I was thinking…
I do not have strep. I do have a severe sinus infection and fluid in my right ear. It’s probably the same infection I thought I got rid of. I’m on my third day of antibiotics, and I’m finally starting to feel better. This wasn’t going away on its own, and my poor decisions caused it to be much worse than it otherwise would have been.
It’s not that I dislike doctors, or don’t see the very real value of modern medicine. I do. “Wellness” has to include necessary medical treatment for conditions that require medical intervention, and you won’t know this if you don’t see your doctor.
My stupidity resulted in my suffering unnecessarily for weeks. I haven’t been able to do much of anything other than rest. If it had been an ordinary cold, I would’ve been fine with my home treatments. When I wasn’t improving, and still running a fever, it was time to make an appointment…please don’t be like me!
You should seek medical advise if your symptoms do not improve after a few days. If you have a temp >102, are vomiting, wheezing, short of breath, noticing white spots on your throat, coughing up greenish mucous, or anything else that is not a typical cold or flu symptom, you should see your doctor immediately. Bacterial infections can develop secondary to viral infections, and it may not even be a cold or flu at all.
If you fall into one of the “vulnerable” categories, ie. children, the elderly, the immuno-suppressed, etc., you should NOT wait to alert your physician to your symptoms.
Take care of yourselves, and if you’re sick, please stay home! No need to share your good luck with everyone!