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Generally, you should consult your healthcare provider if you have or think you may have an infectious disease. These trained professionals can determine whether you have been infected, determine the seriousness of your infection, and give you the best advice for treating or preventing disease. Sometimes, however, a visit to the doctor may not be necessary.

Some infectious diseases, such as the common cold, usually do not require a visit to your doctor. They often last a short time and are not life-threatening, or there is no specific treatment. We’ve all heard the advice to rest and drink plenty of liquids to treat colds. Unless there are complications, most victims of colds find that their immune systems successfully fight off the viral culprits. In fact, the coughing and sneezing that make you feel miserable are part of your immune system’s way of fighting off the culprits.

If, however, you have other conditions in which your immune system doesn’t function properly, you should be in contact with your healthcare provider whenever you suspect you have any infectious disease, even the common cold. Such conditions can include asthma and immune deficiency diseases like HIV/AIDS.

In addition, some common, usually mild infectious diseases, such as chickenpox or seasonal flu, can cause serious harm in very young children and the elderly.

You should call a healthcare provider immediately if…

  • You have been bitten by an animal
  • You are having difficulty breathing
  • You have a cough that has lasted for more than a week
  • You have a fever higher than 100ºF
  • You have episodes of rapid heartbeat
  • You have a rash (especially if you have a fever at the same time)
  • You have swelling
  • You suddenly start having difficulty with seeing (blurry vision, for example)
  • You have been vomiting

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Last Updated November 03, 2010