What Happens If You Catch a Cold or Get Sick Before Surgery?

Woman catches a cold prior to her plastic surgery operation

Scheduling plastic surgery during the fall or winter can be convenient, but it also happens to be the time of year when people tend to get colds, the flu, and other viruses. What should you do if you wake up with a sore throat and runny nose before your scheduled surgery?

While it is important to be healthy when you undergo elective surgery, a minor cold might not require rescheduling. The timing and the severity of the illness are important in making the decision to postpone a procedure, and patient safety is always my priority when I weigh the options.

In this blog post, I’ll explain the guidelines we use for making decisions about whether to reschedule surgeries. It’s important that patients contact us when they first notice symptoms of a cold before surgery. Whether it’s a few days or a few weeks before your scheduled surgery date, it’s a good idea to let us know and provide updates on your condition.

Should I Postpone My Surgery?

The decision to postpone your surgery will depend on your symptoms. Here are a few cold-like symptoms we consider when determining whether you can go ahead with your surgery or if we need to delay it.

  • Cough: A significant, nagging cough most likely will require us to reschedule most surgical procedures, especially if they’re performed using a general anesthetic. General anesthesia can irritate the airway and make a cough worse. Certain procedures, such as a tummy tuck or mommy makeover, are especially difficult for a patient with a cough. On the other hand, a minor cough that is associated with post-nasal drip probably won’t require a delay.
  • Sore throat: A mild sore throat with no other symptoms is probably not a reason to cancel your surgery. You should be aware, though, that the anesthetic may make your sore throat a little worse for a day or two. A raging sore throat with swollen tonsils is certainly a good reason to cancel surgery.
  • Runny nose: If no other symptoms exist, a runny or drippy nose shouldn’t interfere with anesthesia or recovery. A sinus infection, whether it’s viral or bacterial, will result in postponing surgery.
  • Fever: Any fever indicates your body is fighting off some type of infection or illness. We will need to reschedule your surgery if you have a fever.

If you’re unsure about whether or not to contact us, I recommend erring on the side of caution. The earlier we hear from patients about potential illness, the sooner we can determine whether surgery needs to be rescheduled. VeryWell Health offers additional information about symptoms and conditions that may warrant rescheduling your procedure.

Tips for Staying Healthy Before Surgery

Being proactive when it comes to your health is always a good idea. It especially holds true if you’re planning elective surgery during the fall or winter when co-workers, family, and friends are more likely to get sick. Here are a few simple tips to help you avoid becoming ill:

  • Increase vitamin C: Consuming foods rich in vitamin C or taking supplements can boost your immune system.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water and minimizing alcohol consumption is important to maintaining your health.
  • Eat healthy foods: Be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Wash your hands: This can’t be repeated enough. Wash your hands throughout the day.
  • Get adequate sleep: If you’re run-down and tired, the chances of getting sick are much higher.

Additionally, patients who smoke need to stop at least 4 weeks before surgery (something that’s required for all patients year-round).

If you’re considering cosmetic plastic surgery in the Boston area, you can contact us using the online form to request a consultation or call us at (781) 740-7840 .

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