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Upper respiratory infections—such as the common cold or flu—are caused by many different viruses. Most colds last about 10 days and do not require a doctor’s care. Click here for information specific to COVID-19.

If you experience symptoms (see below) of an upper respiratory infection:

  • Stay home or wear a high-quality mask if you need to go in public.
  • Take an at-home COVID-19 antigen test to determine whether you’re infected with COVID-19. If your test result is positive, see guidance below.
  • There are no specific treatments for mild upper respiratory infections. The majority of people will recover on their own. 

Antibiotics will not treat a cold, cough, or the flu. This is because antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, while common colds and the flu are caused by viruses. Antibiotics will not help you when you have a viral infection. In most cases, the best only thing you can do for a bad cold is rest and soothe your symptoms. 

Symptom relief

  • Take pain or fever medications.  
  • Take a hot shower to help ease a sore throat and cough. 
  • Drink plenty of liquids to stay hydrated. 

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  • Cough
  • Stuffy nose
  • Yellow-green nasal discharge
  • Runny nose
  • Mucus in the throat
  • Scratchy or sore throat
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Cough, with or without mucus
  • Fever above 101°F
  • Muscle and body aches
  • Mild headache

When to contact a health care provider

  • Rapidly worsening symptoms
  • Symptoms last more than 10 to 14 days after trying self-care measures
  • Ear pain
  • A fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for more than two days (be sure to check with a thermometer)
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Persistent and severe sore throat, particularly if unable to swallow or open the mouth
  • A stiff neck or sensitivity to bright lights

Make an appointment

Call 608-265-5600 or schedule a phone appointment in MyUHS.