Cold medicine and sick woman drinking hot beverage to get well from flu, fever and virus. Dirty paper towels and tissues on table. Ill person wearing warm woolen stocking socks in winter.

Cold and Flu Treatment: When is Urgent Care Necessary?

As we enter these colder winter months, we’re seeing an increasing number of cold and flu patients flooding into our St John Urgent Care centres. Most of these cases could be prevented with a flu vaccination from your local clinic. We already know a scratchy throat, pesky cough and stuffy nose are all part of the raw deal, but when is it time to put down the bowl of chicken noodle soup and pick up the phone to call a professional?

The last thing we want to see is you drowning in a mountain of tissues this flu season. So follow our general guide for determining whether you have a cold or the flu and find out what steps to follow to get you back to your fit and healthy self.

Remember to get a flu vaccination from your local clinic which is proven to be the most effective way to prevent and stop the spread of flu.

Do I Have a Cold or the Flu?

Since both a cold and the flu can present with similar symptoms, it can be hard to tell the difference between the two. The main indicator is the severity and duration of these symptoms, so it’s important to know exactly what you’re looking for.

Some of the signs and symptoms of a cold or the flu may include:


  • An initial tickle in the throat
  • A runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Mild fever
  • Mild fatigue
  • Mild muscle aches
  • Loss of appetite


  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Extreme exhaustion or fatigue
  • Muscles aches and soreness
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry cough
  • Congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Tiredness and weakness
  • Ear infection
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea

When do I Need Urgent Care?

Acting Fast

Now you’ve identified whether you have a common cold or the flu, it’s important to act fast during the early stages, as a doctor can provide you with the treatment needed to ease your symptoms faster. Generally, there’s a 48-hour window to get medication for the flu that can help – so the sooner you see someone, the better for your body.

So if you’re feeling uncomfortable with one or more of your symptoms, you should seek medical evaluation, ideally in an urgent care setting where you can be seen sooner. If you’re still unsure whether your symptoms fall into the urgent care category, visit your closest centre if you’re experiencing any of the following flu symptoms:

  • Sinus pressure or pain
  • A persistent worsening sore throat
  • Hurts to swallow
  • A deep cough that’s making you hack up yellow or green phlegm
  • Fast or difficult breathing
  • Dehydration or dizziness
  • Fever that cannot be controlled with medication
  • Ear pain

Before it Gets Worse

Another reason to seek urgent care is that a severe cold or flu can sometimes turn into something more serious without proper care. Sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia and strep throat are all common conditions that are especially rife during flu season. Older people, young children, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems are at higher risk, so need to be extra alert.

If you’re experiencing wheezing, paleness or a severe cough, you may have pneumonia, which can be confirmed with an x-ray. Or if your sore throat leaves you with a fever, swollen lymph nodes, difficulty swallowing, and red and swollen tonsils, you may have strep throat and should see a doctor for antibiotics.


It’s important to remember that the most effective prevention is to get a flu vaccination from your local clinic. It will protect you and the people around you and is especially important for older people, pregnant women and those with an underlying medical condition or reduced immunity.

St John Urgent Care is Here to Help

If you’re wondering whether you have the cold, flu or something else, visit your nearest St John Urgent Care centre for an evaluation. Our Cockburn, Joondalup and soon-to-be Armadale clinics are open 7 days a week from 8am to 10pm and no appointment is required. Simply walk in when it’s urgent but not an emergency and our team of highly skilled health care providers will be able to treat you.

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