Treatment of minor ailments

Many common illnesses can be treated at home without needing to see the doctor. Remember also that the pharmacist at the chemist's shop is highly trained to advise you about medicines to help you treat illnesses yourself.


Colds are caused by viruses. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses. Take paracetamol for fever or aching. Drink plenty of fluids.

There are innumerable other remedies your chemist will advise you about. Consult your doctor if you are concerned, particularly for babies and the infirm.

Sore Throats/Tonsillitis:

Sore throats invariably get better within a few days whatever treatment is given. Mostly they are caused by viruses which do not respond to antibiotics. Take paracetamol and suck lozenges for relief of symptoms.


Influenza is another viral infection. It causes fever, aching, shivering and coughing. Usually it subsides in a few days, but may leave the sufferer feeling washed out for a while. Treatment of symptoms with paracetamol and cough linctus is usually all that is possible.

If you are concerned consult your doctor, as complications are possible, particularly in the elderly or infirm. For these groups of people a yearly vaccination is advisable.

Diarrhoea and Vomiting:

The main treatment aim here is to prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of clear fluids. Rehydration powders (e.g. Dioralyte) help the fluid to be absorbed. Vomiting usually settles within a few hours.

If it persists beyond 24 hours, sooner in babies and young children, consult your doctor. In adults and older children, kaolin mixture will help reduce the Diarrhoea after the worst is over.

German Measles (Rubella):

This rash is harmless to the sufferer and usually gives a few other symptoms. It consists of small pink patches, 2-4mm and covers the body, arms and legs. It is infectious from two days before the rash appears, until about seven days afterwards. It can be harmful to the unborn child, therefore it is important to inform all contacts of the diagnosis.

All children should be immunised by the MMR vaccine at about 12 months.


This usually causes a high temperature, cough and sore eyes, before the typical rash appears. This rash is red, blotchy and occurs on the face and trunk. It is contagious until 10 days after the rash began.

Severe illness is unusual, but complications can occur, so vaccination of every child by the MMR vaccine is strongly recommended.


Painful swelling of the gland in front of one or both ears occurs. The patient is infectious for about 10 days after the onset. Serious complications can follow and all children should be immunised by the MMR vaccine.


This rash is of small red patches which blister and then crust over. The rash is itchy and fever may occur. Calamine lotion and paracetamol will give relief. Children may return to school when all the crusts have gone.

Back Pain:

Most episodes of back pain settle within a few days. 90% of attacks settle within six weeks. Painkillers (e.g. paracetamol, aspirin, ibuprofen) should be taken regularly at first. Sit upright and support the small of the back, or lie flat on a firm bed.

Consult your doctor if the pain is not controlled or persists.


Elevate the injured limb and apply a cold compress or ice pack to reduce swelling. Take regular painkillers.

Minor Cuts:

Wash the wound thoroughly. Stop bleeding by applying a clean dressing firmly to the wound for five minutes. Cover with a clean dry dressing.


Apply large quantities of cold water to the affected area as soon as possible and continue until the pain subsides. This may take 15 minutes. If the skin is unbroken, but blistered, apply a loose dry dressing.

If the burn is larger than 4 inches across, or the skin is broken, consult the hospital casualty department.


Sunburn is harmful, particularly to children's skin. Avoid it at all costs by using a high factor sun cream. Treat sunburn as for other burns.

Nose Bleeds:

Sit forwards, blow the nose clear, then pinch the fleshy part of the nose for at least 10 minutes, to stem the bleeding point.

If bleeding persists consult the hospital casualty department.

Head Lice:

These creatures prefer clean hair and are not a sign of poor hygiene. Medication lotions are available from the chemist.

Insect Bites and Stings:

Antihistamine tablets are usually effective and can be obtained direct from the chemist.


You can contact NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 for medical advice 24 hours a day