If you have a cold or another illness, your surgeon may wish to postpone surgery. The timing and severity of your cold can determine whether performing surgery will be safe for you.

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In the United States, more than 1 billion colds occur every year. Many colds are mild, and people can treat them at home without contacting the doctor.

Because colds are common and typically not serious, you may wonder whether you can still have your planned surgery with a cold.

Your doctors must weigh many factors to determine whether you can have your planned surgery with a cold. This article offers more of a guide to what you can expect if you prepare for surgery and come down with a common cold beforehand.

Having surgery when you have a common cold may still be possible.

Your surgeon and anesthesiologist can determine whether you’re well enough to undergo surgery and discuss whether performing your surgery in your current condition will be right for you.

Even if you feel much better by the day of surgery, it’s important to let your doctors know that you’ve recently had a cold, so they can determine whether it may be a good idea to wait a little longer before having surgery.

While it’s possible in some cases to go under anesthesia with a slight runny nose or mild cold, if you have more intense symptoms — severe cough, sinus infection, or fever — doctors may suggest waiting on the procedure.

The necessity of the procedure and the presence of other conditions like asthma may play into this decision.

If you plan to go under anesthesia with a slight runny nose or cough, doctors might suggest inhalation therapy beforehand. The anesthesiologist may give you a face mask or an intravenous to provide anesthetic medications during the procedure instead of providing them through intubation.

Experts may recommend waiting at least 2 weeks for surgery after an infection like a cold.

But this is only a general recommendation, and discussing your specific cold symptoms and overall health with your surgeon is important to determine when your planned surgery is appropriate after your cold.

When you prepare for surgery, trying to get rid of a cold quickly is important.

Some ways to potentially help your body clear out a cold before surgery include:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), getting extra rest is important if you have a cold. Also, drink plenty of liquids to stay hydrated and loosen congestion. Over-the-counter cold medications may make it easier to sleep and perform daily activities.

Read more about getting over a cold quickly.

It’s important to let your surgeon know if you develop a cold leading up to your surgery.

It may be tempting not to reveal this information, especially if you’ve been waiting for surgery or changed your schedule to accommodate surgery on a specific date. You may hope that your symptoms won’t be noticeable. But for your safety during surgery and after, it’s important to inform your doctor about any illnesses, including colds.

Letting your surgeon know about any illnesses in advance can also benefit other individuals who can take your surgery spot. Cancellations on the day of surgery may result in significant financial and staffing time waste. Letting your doctor know about your cold in advance can help reduce this.

If you have a cold and your surgery date is approaching, there are ways you can feel better faster.

But even if you feel better, let your surgeon know whether you’ve had a cold close to your surgery date. They and the anesthesiologist must determine whether it’s safe for you to have the procedure.

Remember, feeling nervous thinking about surgery and recovery is typical. Talking with your doctors can help you feel more prepared and informed whether or not you have a cold.