When to see a doctor?

When it comes to respiratory tract infections (RTIs), one common question we ask ourselves is “Do I need to see a doctor?”

Most RTIs will clear up by themselves in one to two weeks, and symptoms can usually be treated at home.1

However, some people are more at risk for complications from the infection and should see a healthcare professional. They may need extra care and additional treatment.

See a doctor if you or someone you are caring for has an RTI and:2

  • Feels very unwell or symptoms get worse
  • Has had a cough for more than three weeks
  • Is pregnant
  • Is over 65 years old
  • Is a child under 2 years old
  • Has a weakened immune system
  • Has a long-term health condition, such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or COPD

See a doctor immediately if you or another adult has: 2,3

  • A high fever that does not come down (sweating, shivering, chills)
  • Fast or difficult breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Signs of dehydration (feeling thirsty, dizzy, tired, a dry mouth/lips/eyes, dark yellow and strong-smelling urine, urinating little and fewer than four times a day)

See a doctor immediately if you are worried that something is not right or if your baby or child:2

  • Is breathing fast or noisily, or if they are wheezing or grunting
  • Is very pale, drowsy, limp, or difficult to stay awake
  • Is severely irritable, not wanting to be held
  • Has dry diaper or no tears when they are crying, which means they are dehydrated

Remember, it is crucial to consult a doctor in the following cases:
– You have an RTI and your condition is deteriorating
– if you, or people in your entourage, are in the risk group and have an RTI.


  1. National Health Service. Respiratory tract infections, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/respiratory-tract-infection, Accessed October 21, 2020.
  2. Health Navigator New Zealand. Respiratory tract infections, https://www.healthnavigator.org.nz/health-a-z/r/respiratory-tract-infections//, Accessed October 21, 2020.
  3. National Health Service. Dehydration. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dehydration/, Accessed October 21, 2020.