More Than a Cold – When Diagnosis, Treatment, and Recovery Require a Trained Specialist

March 1, 2023

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Mohamed Hasham.

A nasty lingering cough.  An upset stomach that sticks around for no reason. A rash that simply won’t go away. Just thinking about these types of symptoms is enough to make you miserable.

Our bodies are constantly being bombarded by microorganisms. From shopping cart handles, to computer keypads, to handshakes, we are exposed to variables in our environment that have the potential to make us…sick.

While most of the time our body’s immune system can tackle these microorganisms before they develop into a sore throat or sleepless night with the tissue box, other times they break through the gates, multiply, and end up making us ill. Sometimes, symptoms can last for long periods of time and just don’t seem to be affected by the typical care options.  What’s worse, they have the ability to spread rapidly to others unless they are stopped by proper diagnosis and swift treatment.

That’s where infectious disease doctors come in.

ID Care is New Jersey’s largest leading infectious disease practice comprised of more than 50 board-certified physicians. Our priority is getting patients the care they deserve so they can feel better fast.

Unlike a general practitioner, infectious disease doctors are trained specifically in complicated, rare, or unknown illnesses that are challenging to diagnose and, successfully treat. For those times when you’re feeling sick and the cause is unknown, or you’re unresponsive to treatment from a general practitioner, reaching out to an infectious disease doctor is your next best option.

But first, what exactly is an infectious disease, and when should you call on an infectious disease specialist?  For starters, it’s worth noting that not all illnesses are created equal — and not all are transmittable.

Infectious diseases are caused by microorganisms that are easily spread to others.  They range from the common cold to more severe illnesses like COVID-19, malaria, or AIDS.

Diseases that are non-infectious cannot be transmitted, and are caused by factors like genetics, environment, and personal habits. Examples include heart disease, Crohn’s disease, and diabetes.

Identifying and treating infectious diseases properly is critical because it can significantly reduce their spread and severity (as we’ve seen recently with the global COVID-19 pandemic and mpox) and can have large-scale (and lifesaving) outcomes.

There are four main categories of microorganisms that can lead to infectious disease, including those caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites.

These types of microorganisms are all unique in that they thrive in very different environments — meaning there are multiple ways for them to get into your body and cause infection.

Types of Disease Transmission

While some can spread through person-to-person contact or through the air, others can be contracted by animals, insects, or be found in contaminated soil, food, or water.

Some examples of infectious diseases caused by viruses besides COVID-19 and mpox include the flu, hepatitis, chicken pox, measles, and shingles.

Infectious diseases caused by bacteria include strep throat, salmonella, sexually transmitted infections, and urinary tract infections.

Those caused by fungi include ringworm (athlete’s foot), yeast infections, and thrush.

And finally, those transmitted by parasites include giardiasis and malaria, as well as Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.

The most common infectious diseases reported in New Jersey are COVID-19, the flu, hepatitis C, Lyme disease, giardiasis, and salmonella.

So, who can get them, and who is at risk? The short answer is anyone. However, individuals with a higher risk factor include those with compromised or weakened immune systems (like those undergoing cancer treatment or living with HIV), are over the age of 65, or children under the age of 2 whose immune systems have not fully developed.

When we are suffering from an infectious disease, our bodies have the remarkable ability to let us know. Symptoms depend on the type of infectious disease, but generally include fever, fatigue, muscle soreness, diarrhea, and/or coughing that can possibly persist over long periods of time. Basically, if you’re feeling ‘off’ it means your body is likely hard at work trying to fight off an infection.

It goes without saying that being sick is no fun.  While it’s nearly impossible to stay immune to illness, it is possible to keep infectious diseases at bay through preventative care.

Washing your hands, staying home if you’re feeling sick, practicing safe food handling, not sharing personal items, taking safety precautions when traveling, and getting vaccinations when available are some ways that can help.

But what if you try all these options and still get sick?  What if you experience symptoms that your primary care physician is challenged to diagnose and last longer than they should after trying “standard” treatments?

That’s when you call an infectious disease doctor, like those at ID Care.

If you are sick and symptoms are not improving, or you’ve been taking medications without seeing results, you should consider seeing an infectious disease doctor because it’s likely the proper diagnosis has not been made.  At ID Care, we are trained and work primarily with patients with hard-to-diagnose conditions — all day, every day. Because of the frequency with which we encounter these symptoms, we are able to expedite proper diagnoses and accelerate effective treatments.

We take the guesswork out of the diagnostic process, so you don’t have to suffer unnecessarily. What’s more, you don’t have to go far to get the help you need with our ten locations throughout the Garden State — in addition to our affiliate hospitals.

Our mission is simple: to provide personalized, comprehensive, and compassionate care to our patients by delivering accurate results.

We diagnose using multiple methods of lab testing to cover all bases of certainty.  These methods may include blood and urine tests, saliva swab testing, biopsies, MRI, X-ray, or CT scans of the affected area.

When a diagnosis has been determined, we have the resources to ensure treatment begins right away. In even more complex situations, if needed, symptoms are monitored before a clinical diagnosis is made to ensure an accurate and effective approach.

So the next time you feel under the weather, a wound just isn’t healing, or you’re not feeling like yourself no matter how or what you’ve tried, know that there are other options available. At ID Care, we give you the care you deserve, the expertise you need, and peace of mind you’ve been waiting for.

Hasham, Mohamed, Infectious Disease Blog