Is it a cold, or something worse?

Dr. Jason F. White

I’m a healthy 32-year-old who only goes to the doctor as a last resort when I’m sick. At what age should I consider getting an annual checkup or physical? The benefits of annual physicals have recently been debated, however, seeing a health care provider annually provides an opportunity to discuss age-appropriate preventive medical services, to develop a comfortable rapport and to address non-urgent questions about your health.  If you have any new health concerns arise, you will have an established relationship with your provider to be sure it is effectively addressed.

I’ve had a cough and some sinus pressure for a week or two now, but I thought it was just a cold. How do I know when it’s time to see a doctor? Most colds are caused are by viral infections.  They usually last 7-10 days and respond to care focused to relieve the symptoms.  They can include a runny nose, nasal congestion, cough, post-nasal drip and malaise.  However symptoms that should prompt need for immediate medical care including severe headaches, prominent neck stiffness, high fevers or severe abdominal pain.  Bacterial infections can present with fever and more severe symptoms.  If initial symptoms are not improving, evaluation by a medical provider would be appropriate.

What are the benefits of getting more Vitamin D in my diet? Vitamins play an important role in vital functions in our bodies.  The essential vitamins and minerals have been assigned a RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance is set by the National Institutes of Medicine) to be sure we avoid symptoms of deficiency.  Severe deficiency of vitamin D can cause softening of the bones of children and adults.  These are printed on the labels of most supplements.  Recently there have been some changes in the blood tests levels that are considered to be consistent with optimal health.  If you are concerned about a potential need for additional vitamin D can speak to your health care provider further about your situation.

Every winter I see advertisements for medication to treat seasonal depression, what’s the difference between the normal winter blues and actual depression? The difference is simply the severity of the symptoms and length of time affected. Symptoms of depression are defined to include sleep difficulties, loss of interests, excessive feelings of guilt, lack of energy, inability to concentration, appetite changes and thoughts of hurting oneself or others. If these symptoms accompany the blues and last beyond one to two weeks, medical attention is appropriate. Suicidal thoughts never should be taken as normal and always should be fully evaluated by appropriate professionals.

I am concerned about joint health as I age, is glucosamine and chondroitin my best bet to protect my joints in the future? Joint health is best maintained with by overall body health with appropriate diet and exercise.  There no evidence that a specific supplements maintain joint health, but as women age there are suggested intake of vitamins and minerals for optimal bone health (for example calcium and vitamin D).  Individuals with healthy diet and low impact exercise stand the best chance of having healthy joints for years to come.

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