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How long do colds or flu usually last? When should someone seek medical attention?

Symptoms of cold or flu usually last for about a week to ten days. You should contact your health care provider if you experience fever that doesn’t go away, a severe sore throat and painful swallowing, or a cough that lasts more than two or three weeks. Signs of a sinus infection include headache with pain around the eyes, congestion, and thick nasal discharge. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends emergency medical attention for adults if they experience difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain in the chest or abdomen, dizziness, confusion or severe vomiting. For children, the CDC recommends emergency care for the following symptoms: trouble breathing, bluish skin color, not drinking enough fluids, not waking or interacting, extreme irritability, fever with a rash, or flu-like symptoms that improve but return with fever and worse cough. While these recommendations are helpful, always contact your health care provider anytime you feel concerned about your illness. Young children, elderly people, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions may be at greater risk for developing complications from colds and flu.

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