Coughs/Colds/Sore Throats

In the Winter season we see a rise in Respiratory tract infections (RTIs).

Infections such as ear infections, sore throat, sinusitis, cough and the common cold are widespread. Doctors often use the term respiratory tract infection (RTI) to include any – or all – of these infections.

Most RTIs are caused by a virus and clear up on their own. Viruses cannot be killed by antibiotics – only bacterial infections can be effectively treated with antibiotics.

Each viral infection you get is caused by a slightly different virus, and once you've fought it off, you are immune (resistant) to that particular virus.

Typical total duration of an RTI

Ear infection: 4 days

Sore throat: 1 week

Common cold: 1½ weeks

Sinusitis: 2½ weeks

Cough: 3 weeks


These viruses DO NOT RESPOND TO ANTIBIOTICS. In addition, antibiotics can cause unpleasant side effects, such as sickness, diarrhoea or skin rashes.

You can take paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve headache, aches and pains and fever. You may also wish to ask your pharmacist for advice about over-the-counter remedies such as cough medicines, decongestants or throat pastilles. Unfortunately, there is no easy fix but rest assured that your symptoms should alleviate over time and if they do not then you should book an appointment to see your GP.


Adapated from NICE Clinical Guidelines

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