Common Cold Checklist

When you have a cold, use this checklist to decide whether a visit to the doctor is necessary.

This checklist is for anyone over 2 years old who is in good general health. People with other health problems and children below age 2 may need to see a doctor even before these warning signs are present.

Always listen to your doctor if he or she gives you advice that is different from this checklist.

See your doctor if there are any of these warning signs:

  • Oral temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius).
  • Bad pain in any of these places: chest, head, stomach, ears or glands in neck.
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing.
  • Sore throat that is getting worse and oral temperature above 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 degrees Celsius) for 24 hours.
  • Sore throat and oral temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius) for two days.
  • Oral temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius) for three days.
  • Any of these signs that have lasted a full week: fever, sore throat or very runny nose.
This checklist was developed and tested by researchers at the MU School of Medicine, Department of Family and Community Medicine, and originally published in the following article: Carl R. Roberts, Peter B. Imrey, James D. Turner, Michael C. Hosokawa, Joan M. Alster, Reducing Physician Visits for Colds Through Consumer Education, Journal of the American Medical Association, volume 250 (Oct. 21, 1983) 1986-89.