Only about half of visits to emergency departments across America are actual emergencies, needing rapid care [source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation]. That means the other half of the people there are exhausting emergency resources that could probably be better spent on other cases. A major culprit needlessly driving people to emergency care: the common cold.
The hallmarks of the common cold are known to virtually everyone: coughing, sneezing and sore throat. On average, adults can expect to suffer through two to four colds every year; kids have it worse and may catch as many as eight colds in just one year [source: American Lung Association]. During 2009-2010, cold symptoms were the most common reason kids were brought to the ER (accounting for about one out of five visits). And make no mistake, a cold can make you feel utterly miserable. But unless you (or your child) develop breathing difficulty, chest pains or a fever of 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) or higher, common cold and flu symptoms don't need emergency care [sources: CDC, Olisemeka].