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Colds and flu diagnosis

How is a cold diagnosed?

If you are generally healthy, you probably won't need to see a doctor to diagnose a cold. A healthy immune system will fight the infection and symptoms will usually clear up in 7-10 days without any treatment.

See your doctor if you, or your child, has cold or flu-like symptoms and 1 or more of the following:

See Fever in children and Spotting signs of serious illness in babies and children for more information.

How is the flu diagnosed?

If you are otherwise fit and healthy, there is usually no need to see a doctor if you have flu-like symptoms. You should see your doctor if you, or your child have flu-like symptoms and any of the following:

This is because flu can be serious for you and your doctor may want to prescribe antiviral medication.

Your doctor may diagnose a probable influenza infection based on your symptoms alone. They will listen to your chest using a stethoscope.

If your doctor wants to be sure of the diagnosis they may take a sample of cells and mucus from your nose or throat using a sterile cotton swab. This sample will be sent to a pathology laboratory for testing.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your cold or flu, why not use healthdirect's online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it's self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Last reviewed: September 2016

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