Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

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

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 83 results

Influenza

Influenza is an infection caused by a virus. It is spread from person to person by tiny drops produced during a cough or sneeze and by hand to hand contact. While we often call it the “flu”, the common cold is rarely due to the influenza virus. True influenza causes a much more severe illness than the usual cold.

Read more on Lung Foundation Australia website

Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Influenza

Many people are unsure whether they have a cold or influenza (the flu). The flu is quite different to a cold. It lasts longer and people are usually much more unwell with it. The flu is caused by a few slightly different types of influenza viruses, while colds are caused by many different viruses.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Teen Health - Health Topics - Influenza - the flu

Many people are unsure whether they have a cold or influenza (the flu). The flu is quite different to a cold. It lasts longer and people are usually much more unwell with it. The flu is caused by a few slightly different types of influenza viruses, while colds are caused by many different viruses.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Flu (influenza)

Flu (influenza) is a common, highly contagious virus that affects your respiratory system. It is not the same as the common cold.

Read more on WA Health website

Cold and flu

The common cold is not the same as flu (influenza). Find out more about cold and flu, including symptoms, treatment and prevention.

Read more on WA Health website

Influenza or flu: children & teenagers | Raising Children Network

Influenza is a viral illness, often mild in children. Flu symptoms include runny nose, sore throat and muscle aches. You can usually treat symptoms at home.

Read more on Raising Children Network website

Colds: commonsense not antibiotics - myDr.com.au

If you have a cold, commonsense self-care measures and over-the-counter medicines can help to relieve symptoms. Antibiotics are not helpful in treating the common cold, which is caused by a virus.

Read more on myDr website

Asthma winter checklist - National Asthma Council Australia

Colds and flu can hit hard if you have asthma. In fact, the common cold is behind around 4 out of 5 bad asthma attacks. Make sure your lungs are in the best pos

Read more on National Asthma Council Australia website

Young Adult Health - Health Topics - Colds and flu (influenza)

We all get colds and can feel really miserable when we have one.The flu is different from colds - it comes on more quickly and there is more fever, headaches, aches in the rest of the body, shivering and feeling hot and cold than with colds.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Winter Wise

Winter is a busy time for the health system with many people exposed to illnesses such as cold and flu. NSW Health is preparing for a potentially serious flu season and we urge the community to do the same by being winter wise.

Read more on NSW Health website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback