Got a Cold: Pharmacist or Doctor?

| October 27, 2012

man with a cold Chances are a cold will go away within a week or two, with or without treatment. Colds are caused by viruses and aren’t receptive to antibiotics. It’s just a matter of waiting for them to end. A trip to the family physician isn’t necessary in most cases. Your community pharmacist can often provide some answers as far as which over-the-counter medicines can treat the symptoms.

But there are times when you may want to see your doctor. Read on to learn more about whether you should see a pharmacist or a doctor.

How pharmacists can help

Pharmacists, according to the website KidsHealth.org, can’t diagnose medical conditions. They can answer questions you have about medicine and recommend non-prescription, or over-the-counter, medications. Pharmacists can also answer questions about possible side effects or allergic reactions that may be caused by certain medications or drug combinations. For example, as WebMD.com says, pharmacists can help people decide whether they need a decongestant or an antihistamine.

Pharmacists are also generally more reachable when it comes to questions. Although they are busy filling prescriptions, they are available to answer questions without the need to make an appointment.

When to see a doctor

If over-the-counter medicines haven’t helped with your symptoms, WebMD.com states that there are prescriptions that can help. It is also recommended that you see a primary care physician if you experience tightness of the chest, have difficulty breathing or are wheezing. There could be a complication like bronchitis or asthma or another serious problem that requires treatment.

A sore ear during a cold could be a sign of an ear infection, while facial pain, tooth pain or yellow drainage from your nose could be a sign that you have a sinus infection. Extended illnesses may mean you need an antibiotic.

EverydayHealth.com advises that a cold that lasts more than two weeks or keeps returning could be a sign of another problem. Fevers are a sign because they aren’t common with colds. Colds can also wear down the body and open you up to other problems.

A difference in training

A pharmacist, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, can dispense prescription medications and offer advice. Training requires earning a four-year professional degree. A student wanting to go to pharmacy school must go to college for at least two years, then enter the four-year program. Once done, they must pass a state board of pharmacy licensing exam.

A physician’s job is to diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses. They examine patients and prescribe medications. The Department of Labor states that to become a doctor takes at least four years of undergraduate college, four years of medical school, and three to eight years of an internship and residency.

There is a difference and a time to see each. While starting with a pharmacist is appropriate for the common cold, don’t hesitate to call a physician if symptoms linger or other problems result.

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Category: Evergreen, Health & Fitness, Primary Care

About the Author ()

Central Ohio journalist with 15 years experience at daily newspapers. Freelance writer and amateur photographer. Storytellers are my heroes, poets my idols and photographers my looking glass.