Common Cold

You can self treat for a common cold; you do not usually need to see your GP.

The common cold is a condition that usually resolves on its own and you should start to feel better in a week or two.


Cold symptoms include:

  • A sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Coughs
  • A blocked or runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • A raised temperature
  • Pressure in your ears and face
  • Muscle aches
  • Loss of taste and smell


Self Care at home

Some tips to help you feel better quicker;

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Keep warm
  • Rest and sleep
  • Gargle salt water to soothe a sore throat

Speak to your pharmacist

Your local pharmacist can advise on the best medicines to treat cold symptoms and can advise you on which medicines are suitable for you. Some cold medicines are not suitable for children, babies, pregnant women and people taking certain medicines. Be careful not to use cough and cold medicines if you're taking paracetamol and ibuprofen tablets, as it's easy to take more than the recommended dose.

Prevention is better than cure

Colds are caused by viruses and can be easily spread to other people. You're infectious until all your symptoms have gone.

Colds are spread by germs from coughs and sneezes, which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.

To reduce the risk of spreading or catching a cold:

  • Wash your hands often with warm water and soap
  • Use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze
  • Bin used tissues as quickly as possible
  • Do not share towels or household items (like cups) with someone who has a cold
  • Do not touch your eyes or nose in case you have come into contact with the virus – it can infect the body this way
  • Stay fit and healthy

Keep Antibiotics Working

GPs do not recommend antibiotics for colds because they will not relieve your symptoms or speed up your recovery.

Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections, and colds are caused by viruses.

See your GP if;

  • Your symptoms do not improve after 3 weeks
  • Your symptoms suddenly get worse
  • Your temperature is very high or you feel hot and shivery
  • You're concerned about your child's symptoms
  • You're finding it hard to breathe or develop chest pain
  • You have a long-term medical condition – for example, diabetes, or a heart, lung, kidney or neurological disease
  • You have a weakened immune system – for example, because you're having chemotherapy.

For further information go to the NHS website or Patient UK , speak to your local pharmacist or call NHS 111.

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Page last updated 29 June 2022