BACKGROUND: Common cold is the most frequently seen ambulatory disease in primary care clinic of Korea. This study investigated the perspectives and expected pattern of health care utilization of patients who visit a primary care clinic in order to understand patients' health care behavior for treating common cold and to consider how to educate them effectively. METHODS: We surveyed 570 patients and their accompanying people who visited family medicine clinic and the health promotion center of a university hospital by questionnaire, in which we asked the patients what they think of the cause, symptom, and treatment of common cold and their pattern of health care utilization. RESULTS: The respondents replied that the cause of common cold was a virus (446, 85.3%), a bacteria (58, 11.3%) or others (18, 3.4%). Among the total, 475 respondents (88.6%) replied that they had taken cold medicine before and 264 respondents (55.7%) reported that the symptoms took 1-2 weeks to recover. A total of 285 respondents (58.3%) replied that they prefer red to go to the doctor and 198 (40.5%) replied that they prefer to go to a pharmacy. The respondents who thought that symptoms of common cold takes longer than one week tended to choose to visit a doctor. Patients thought that antibiotics (54.4%) and those that relieved common cold symptoms earlier (30.1%) were 'strong' cold medicine. CONCLUSION: The results of this survey showed that the difference in patients' perspectives made an effect on the patients' treatment seeking behavior. Even though medicine did not take effect to relieve symptoms, most patients wanted to continue to visit physicians. The family physician should not give only the prescription, but also make an effort to provide pertinent information to patients and educate them to acquire appropriate perspectives.