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Talking to Your Doctor About Viral Upper Respiratory Infections (Colds and Influenza)

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:

Condition InDepth

Talking to Your Doctor About Viral Upper Respiratory Infections (Colds and Influenza)

You have your own health history. Talk with your doctor about your risk factors and background with colds and the flu. By talking openly and often with your doctor, you can take an active role in your care.

Tips for Getting Information

To make it easier for you to talk to your doctor:

  • Bring someone with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and think of questions to ask. They may also be able to give more details.
  • Write down the answers you get and make sure you understand what you are hearing. Write down your questions so do you do not forget them.
  • Ask for help if you need it. Do not be afraid to ask questions or ask where you can find more information. You have a right to know.

Specific Questions to Ask Your Healthcare Provider

About Viruses

  • Can this be more serious than a cold or the flu?

About Your Risk of Developing More Problems

  • Do I have any health problems that might get worse because of this virus?
  • What can I do to prevent other health problems?

About Treatment and Prevention Options

  • What treatments do you advise?
  • Do I need anything besides rest, good nutrition, humidified air, over the counter (OTC) drugs, and maybe a warm bath?
  • Do you have a favorite remedy, like honey and vinegar or certain herbs?
  • Should I get a flu shot each year?
  • Is there anyone around me who might need protection because of my virus?
  • Should I, or anyone I live with, take medicine to prevent the flu?

About Your Outlook

  • Should I call if I am not getting better in 10 days?
  • Should I call if I am getting worse at any time?
  • What other symptoms should I watch for?


  • Common cold. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/infectious-diseases/respiratory-viruses/common-cold. Accessed March 11, 2022.
  • Influenza. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/infectious-diseases/respiratory-viruses/influenza. Accessed March 11, 2022.
  • Influenza in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/influenza-in-adults. Accessed March 11, 2022
  • Upper respiratory infection (URI) in adults and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/upper-respiratory-infection-uri-in-adults-and-adolescents-18. Accessed March 11, 2022.


  • David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.