Despite trying to do everything right keeping those nasty germs at bay, catching a cold every year around this time seems almost a given for some of us. While a common cold doesn’t usually put us down for the count, it’s important not to allow that simple cough or sniffles to hang around and develop into something more serious.

The everyday cold we’re all so familiar with will show itself with symptoms such as a scratchy throat, congested nose, or the occasional sneeze. The cough that usually accompanies your cold is another symptom, as that’s how your body is trying to remove the excess mucus that’s building up in your lungs. You don’t usually get a fever if it’s just a cold, either. The symptoms will usually last 3-4 days, but you may still be congested for several days after that.

Bronchitis is what a cold can evolve into when the airways of your lungs make too much mucus and its airways become irritated. You may hear some wheezing when you breathe or experience some shortness of breath, and your mucus may be yellow or brown. That occasional cough may be more consistent, too, along with some chest discomfort. All in all, it’s more than “just a cold,” now.

Generally, while the majority of acute bronchitis cases will run their course and be mostly gone on their own in two weeks or so (though your cough may hang on for several more weeks), some more severe cases may require medical intervention. A visit to your physician may result in a prescription for antibiotics if your doctor determines that your condition is the result of a bacterial infection rather than a viral infection (which antibiotics cannot help). Otherwise, your best medicine is plenty of fluids and rest. Also, if you smoke, quit. If you don’t smoke, try to stay away from those who do as any type of lung irritants can aggravate your symptoms and prolong any bout you’re already trying to fight.