Antibiotics vs. Cold and Flu

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It’s the time of year when lots of viruses are circulating, including the common cold and people are experiencing sore throat, earache and cold symptoms. It’s important to self care and treat minor illnesses at home as there is very rarely a need for antibiotic treatment. We have had lots of calls recently from patients saying they want to have antibiotics prescribed for what is a simple head cold and sore throat when antibiotics will not help. 

There is no cure for a cold. It will get better on its own—without antibiotics. Antibiotics won’t help you get better if you have a cold. When antibiotics aren’t needed, they won’t help you, and their side effects could still cause harm.

Stock up on essential over-the-counter medicines to treat common conditions at home such as colds, sore throats, upset stomachs and aches and pains. Most of these medicines are available at low cost from your local pharmacy or from most supermarkets, with no GP appointment or prescription required. This will help save you time so you feel better quicker. Self care for common conditions can also help free up GPs’ time, making it easier for you to get an appointment when you have a more serious condition.

A good medicine box or cabinet will include:

  • pain relief (such as paracetamol)
  • cold and sore throat remedies
  • upset stomach treatment
  • rehydration sachets (useful when you have diarrhoea)
  • heartburn and indigestion treatment
  • first aid kit (including plasters and bandages).

Remember, your pharmacist can provide expert clinical advice and treatment for many minor illnesses and common conditions. You can also visit or the NHS App for health advice.

You can expect the following minor illness to last for a limited time and they will get better if you self treat:

  • Blocked nose – two to three weeks
  • Cold – one to two weeks
  • Sore throat – around one week
  • Ear infection – around four days
  • Flu – around two weeks

Here are some helpful resources: