When to see a doctor about your cold

It’s cold and flu season again, and it’s quite common to have to wait to see a GP. But when is the right time to see a GP about cold or flu symptoms? And what are your options if the wait time at your regular clinic is too long?

Almost all colds and upper respiratory tract infections are caused by a virus, and most will get better without medical treatment. However, there are definitely times when it’s wise to check in with a GP.

Most Australian medical authorities suggest seeing a GP if you have any of the following symptoms;

  • Frequent vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • A rash
  • An inability or resistance to drink fluids
  • An intense headache
  • A high fever
  • Any other symptoms you are worried about.

Generally, if you’re not feeling better within 48 hours, it’s recommended that you go to the doctors. This will ensure that your cold hasn’t turned into something else – like the flu, which is serious, especially for pregnant women, children, severe asthmatics and the elderly.

If you have a regular GP who understands your medical history, it’s wise to check to see if they have an available appointment first. However, recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals that 20% of Australians feel that they have to wait too long to get an appointment with their doctor.

If there are times when your regular doctor simply isn’t available, especially during peak cold and flu times like winter, it’s worth finding another clinic in your area that can see you at a more convenient time.

Are body aches more common in colds or flu?

Body aches are not usual in a simple cold, however they are very common and prevalent in flu. Aches can get very severe and be accompanied with exhaustion in flu.

What is the average duration of the common cold?

The common cold typically lasts for about a week, while the flu may go longer for 2-3 weeks on the average.

Next step

If you need to see a GP sooner rather than later, HealthEngine can help you find and book an available appointment with your regular GP, or another available GP in your area. 

If you feel that you are experiencing a medical emergency, dial 000.







This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If in doubt, HealthEngine recommends consulting with a registered health practitioner.



A: Use HealthEngine to find and book your next GP appointment. Click on the following locations to find a GP clinic in your state or territory.


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If in doubt, HealthEngine recommends consulting with a registered health practitioner.

All content and media on the HealthEngine Blog is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. Never disregard the advice of a medical professional, or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, go to the nearest hospital emergency department, or call the emergency services immediately.