Should I see the doctor for my common cough or cold?

July 5th, 2021

Unless you have a chronic health condition that puts you at risk of complications, the short answer is no, you don’t need to see the doctor for your common cough or cold.

There are over 200 different viruses that can cause colds. These viruses spread through the air when someone with a cold sneezes or coughs. Viruses CANNOT be treated by antibiotics, so they won’t relieve your symptoms or speed up your recovery. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections and colds are caused by viruses.

Cold symptoms come on gradually and can include blocked or runny nose, sore throat, headaches, muscle aches, cough, sneezing, a raised temperature, pressure in your ears and face, loss of taste and smell. The symptoms are the same in adults and children. Sometimes, symptoms last longer in children.

There are things you can do to treat your cold at home. These include rest and sleep, keeping warm, drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration, gargle salt water to soothe a sore throat, speak to your pharmacist about over the counter medicine such a decongestants and painkillers.

You should speak to your doctor if your symptoms don’t improve after three weeks, your symptoms get suddenly worse, you have persistent rigors (sever chill, shivering not settling with paracetamol), or you feel hot and shivery, you’re finding it hard to breathe or develop chest pain, you have a long-term medical condition – for example, diabetes, or heart, lung, kidney or neurological disease or you have a weakened immune system – for example, because you’re having chemotherapy.

If you feel like you need to speak to your doctor, please PHONE FIRST. You will be triaged over the phone to determine if you need to physically come into the building for an appointment.  In some cases, issues may be resolved over the phone which offers convenience. This minimises the need for people who are potentially contagious to come into the practice.


If you have cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms, stay home and call:

Healthline for free on 0800 358 5453, your GP, or your iwi health provider.

A health professional will tell you whether you fit the criteria for testing. Call your GP before visiting.

If you’re outside New Zealand call +64 9 358 5453 or your GP.

While you have symptoms

Stay home. Do not go to work or school. Do not socialise. Call your GP or Healthline and check if you should get tested. Wash your hands. Sneeze and cough into your elbow, and disinfect shared surfaces often. If health authorities tell you to self-isolate, do so immediately. If you’re waiting for test results you’ll also need to self-isolate.