Every single one of us will have experienced a cough, cold or flu at some point in our lives, with the majority of us experiencing such illnesses at least once a year. With such a common mild illness, it’s not always necessary to see a doctor. In this blog post, we’ve outlined when it’s recommended to seek medical advice when suffering cough or cold symptoms!


First things first – what exactly is a cold?


 A cold is an infection of the nose, throat, sinuses and ‘upper airways’. It’s usually caused by a virus, and although symptoms generally pass within a week or so, they can cause a lot of discomfort in the mean time!


For those lucky enough to have not experienced a cold recently, here’s a refresher of those common symptoms:

  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Blocked nose
  • Sneezing
  • Hoarse throat
  • General malaise


On top of these, other symptoms may include:

  • High temperature, aches and pains (head, ears, muscles)
  • Loss of taste or smell,
  • Eye irritation
  • Pressure


Symptoms should subside within 7 to 10 days, or slightly longer in children. If you’re really struggling with a cough or cold, there’s no harm in popping in to see a GP to ensure it’s nothing more serious. Although there’s no cure to a common cough or cold, there are plenty of remedies a doctor can recommend for symptom relief.


If you’re experiencing pressure or pain around the face too (in the forehead or between the eyes), this could be the sign of a sinus infection (sinusitis). These symptoms may also be accompanied by nasal discharge, stuffiness and general congestion, as well as possible fever, bad breath and tooth pain. Sinus infections is due to swelling inside the nose, and blocked drainage. Symptoms usually last between 10-14 days, and may cause some discomfort. If you’re experiencing recurrent sinus infections; this may be an indication of immune system deficiency – something to get checked out!


When to see the doctor?

Older coughing patient checking in with doctor


 Generally, a cough or cold is not a serious medical problem, so doesn’t always require medical attention. Sometimes, the best option is just to sit tight, while drinking lots of water and taking simple painkillers to treat the uncomfortable symptoms. Eating healthily and getting plenty of rest is also important.

You can also try a variety of other recommendations:

  • Nasal or oral decongestants
  • Cold and flu medications
  • Paracetamol and Ibuprofen
  • Vapour rubs
  • Nasal saline drops
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements – such as Zinc, may help speed recovery


Antibiotics are rarely prescribed for colds, since they only work against bacterial infections, whereas most coughs and colds are caused by viral infections. Antibiotic resistance is also a growing problem internationally, therefore use of antibiotics is restricted and minimized, to help tackle this issue.


It’s recommended you visit a GP, however, if you experience any of the following:

  • Symptoms persisting three or more weeks
  • A sudden worsening of symptoms
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Coughing up blood, or blood-stained mucus
  • Chest pain


It’s also advised for the elderly, pregnant, children, or anyone living with another long-term illness such as a lung condition to visit their GP sooner if suffering from cold symptoms.


One very important condition to look out for with regard to infants’ coughs is Pertussis. , also known as whooping cough. This is generally vaccinated against, with a vaccine provided for pregnant women at 20 weeks’ gestation, and booster vaccines throughout childhood.


Pertussis is caused by the bacteria Bordella pertussis, and leads to uncontrollable, violent coughing, with a characteristic ‘whooping’ sound. It’s highly contagious, and symptoms can last up to 10 weeks. Pertussis infection can affect people of any age, but is very serious in babies younger than a year old. If you have any suspicions of whooping cough in your baby, book in to see a GP immediately.  Additionally, if an older child or adult is struggling with what appears to be whooping cough, it’s always best to get checked out by a doctor.


So if you’re struggling with a cough or cold, and you’d like some advice from a doctor, book in today for a 15-minute GP consultation, costing just from £89. We cater especially to short-notice bookings, with same-day appointments often available.