Coughs, colds, earache, and sore throats

  • Coughs, colds, earache, and sore throats

Coughs, colds, earache, and sore throats

Non-urgent advice: Could it be coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Please consider if you might have Covid 19.

The main symptoms are:

– a high temperature
– a new continuous cough
– you’ve lost your sense of smell or taste or it’s changed

If you have symptoms please check a rapid Lateral Flow Tests which can be purchased or are available for those with vulnerable medical conditions or work in certain sectors.

Non-urgent advice: Call 999 if you or your child:

– are struggling to breathe or talk in sentences
– are drowsy, hard to wake, or not responding like usual
– are not drinking or passing any urine in the past 4 hours
– has a rash that does not fade when you press a glass against it (use the “glass test” from Meningitis Now)

Not all coughs are due to infection. If you have a cough that has been present more than 3 weeks, you cough blood up, or feel out of breath (but not suddenly or severely which would require 999), or are worried please make an appointment.


We all get minor infections like coughs, colds, earache, and sore throats from time to time but most will improve without needing any medical attention. These conditions are sometimes known as ‘upper respiratory tract infections‘.

We receive a lot of contacts from patients requesting antibiotics but in the majority of cases antibiotics are not needed as most ‘upper respiratory tract’ infections are caused by viruses rather than bacteria (antibiotics only work against bacteria) or the body’s immune system will deal with the infection itself just as quickly as antibiotics take to work.

Pharmacist advice

Your local pharmacist can also provide help for medications to help, can answer questions about minor illnesses, and help you decide if you may need to see a GP.

Severe infection or at-risk groups

Some patients have problems already with their lungs such as COPD (which was previously known as ’emphysema’), have a weakened immune system, or are at higher risk as they are pregnant or over 65. As they are at higher risk they are more likely to need antibiotics.

Only a very small number of adults and children without any underlying conditions become very unwell due to upper respiratory tracts infections but even if you are not at higher risk if you feel very unwell or have read the information above and it recommends you contact a GP then please make an appointment.


Minor infections in children are very common but they can have different symptoms from adults and we need to look for different signs of serious illness if they can’t talk.

All babies under 3 months of age with a fever need assessing in an Emergency Department. This because they are especially vulnerable to infection when so young.

Page last reviewed: 15 July 2022