Do you have a new cough, runny nose or sore throat? Find out about symptoms, care at home and when to seek help.
The most common cause of a new cough, sore throat or runny nose is a viral infection such as a cold or the flu lasting 1–2 weeks. However, these symptoms can also be the first signs of COVID-19 infection, so it is important to test for this.
COVID-19 symptoms can include:
- a new or worsening cough in children or adults
- sore throat
- shortness of breath
- runny nose or cold symptoms
- loss of smell or change in taste
- shortness of breath
- upset stomach, possibly with diarrhoea (runny poo/hamuti) or vomiting (being sick).
Actions to take
- If you have any of these symptoms do a rapid antigen test (RAT) at home. You can get RATs from your local pharmacy or order them for free.
- Report your results at My Covid Record mycovidrecord.nz or call 0800 222 478.
- If your symptoms are mild, you can find helpful self-care tips below.
- COVID-19 positive: what steps do I need to take?
- If you have shortness of breath, this could be a sign of pneumonia (lung infection). See below for when to seek urgent medical advice.
- If you're unsure what to do, call Healthline 0800 611 116 or your pharmacy for advice.
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Self-care for colds and the flu
Rest at home so you don’t spread bugs, and give your body time to recover.
Drink plenty of fluids, warm lemon and honey drinks or soups to avoid dehydration (honey is not safe for children under 1 year old).
If you have a sore throat, suck a teaspoon of honey or gargle with salt water. Adults can also try using a gargle, throat spray or pain-relief (anaesthetic) lozenges.
For a blocked or runny nose you can try a decongestant and saline nasal spray. Also try sleeping propped up on pillows.
For a cough sip a lemon and honey drink or ask your pharmacist about cough lozenges or medicines that may be suitable for you. Cough medicine doesn’t cure a cough but may give you some relief. Read more about cough in children, cough in adults and cough medicines.
If you have post-nasal drip, sleep propped up and you can also try saline rinses, decongestants or antihistamines.
Use your inhaler if you have asthma.
For aches and pains try paracetamol, ibuprofen OR cold and flu medicines. Ask your doctor or pharmacist what is safe for you.
Check doses carefully to make sure you don't double up as many cold and flu medicines contain paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Avoid antibiotics as they can’t cure colds, flu or COVID-19 as these are caused by viruses.
Avoid strenuous exercise such as running or swimming. In rare cases, viral infections can affect your heart – at any age.
Contact your healthcare provider for advice if you:
Seek urgent medical advice if you or someone you are caring for develops any of these danger symptoms:
Call 111 urgently and ask for an ambulance.
Avoid spreading and catching bugs
- Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds and dry them well
- cover your coughs with a tissue or cough into your elbow, then wash your hands
- don’t cough near others
- avoid touching your face
- don’t share cups, utensils or towels
- clean and disinfect surfaces often
- stay home if you are sick and avoid close contact with others.