Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you or your child has a cold, you're likely to start by seeing your family doctor, a general practitioner or your child's pediatrician.

Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.

Information to prepare in advance

  • Write down any symptoms you or your child has had, and for how long.
  • Note any recent exposure to people who've been ill with similar signs and symptoms.
  • Write down key medical information, including any other health problems and the names of any medications you or your child is taking.
  • Write down your questions for the doctor.

Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For the common cold, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What is the most likely cause of these signs and symptoms?
  • Are there any other possible causes?
  • Are any tests needed?
  • What treatment approach do you recommend?
  • What treatments should be avoided?
  • How soon do you expect symptoms to improve?
  • Am I or my child contagious? When is it safe to return to school or work?
  • What self-care steps might help?
  • I or my child has these other health conditions. How can they best be managed together?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may allow more time later to cover other points you want to address. Your doctor may ask:

  • What signs and symptoms have you noticed, and how severe are they?
  • Have these symptoms changed over time?
  • Did symptoms improve and then worsen?
  • Have these signs and symptoms included a fever? How high?
  • Have you or your child been exposed to anyone with a similar illness in the last couple of weeks?
  • Does anything seem to make your or your child's symptoms better or worse?
  • What medications are you or your child currently taking, including vitamins and supplements?
  • Have you or your child been diagnosed with any other medical conditions?
  • Have you or your child lost weight?

What you can do in the meantime

While you're waiting for your appointment, get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids.

Apr. 17, 2013

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