Your healthcare professional will determine what type of illness you have by asking about your symptoms and doing a physical examination to rule out more serious conditions such as pneumonia, middle ear infection or sinusitis.
In adults, it isn’t routinely recommended that a swab is taken and sent to the laboratory to determine which virus, if any, is present and likely to be causing the cold.
This test is expensive and, because the results are not available immediately, doesn’t help with guiding treatment.
In more severe cases, or when symptoms persist beyond what’s normally expected (and sometimes with children), your doctor may want to take a swab.
Reviewed by Cape Town-based general practitioner, Dr Dalia Hack. March 2019.