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Every year, millions of us visit our GP with minor health problems that can be easily resolved without a doctor's appointment.
It is estimated that every year, 50 million visits to the GP are made for minor ailments such as coughs and colds, mild eczema, and athlete's foot. By visiting your pharmacy instead, you could save yourself time and trouble.
Keeping a well stocked medicine cabinet at home can help you treat many minor ailments. Colds, coughs, indigestion and many other minor complaints can all be treated with medicines that are available over the counter.
Your pharmacist can advise on what you might find useful to keep in your medicine cabinet. Always follow the instructions on the medicine label and consult your doctor if the illness continues or becomes more severe.
Pharmacists offer professional free health advice at any time - you don't need an appointment. From coughs and colds to aches and pains, they can give you expert help on everyday illnesses. They can answer questions about prescribed and over-the-counter medicines. Your local Pharmacist can also advise on healthy eating.
Pharmacists can also advise on health eating, obesity and giving up smoking. Some pharmacists have private areas where you can talk in confidence. They may suggest you visit your GP for more serious symptoms. It is possible to purchase many medicines from the chemist without a prescription. Watch this short video on how you can get the most out of your local pharmacy
NHS Walk-In Centres offer convenient access to a range of NHS services for patients based in England only. You can receive treatment for many ailments including:
NHS Walk In Centres treat around 3m patients a year and have proved to be a successful complementary service to traditional GP and A&E services. Some centres offer access to doctors as well as nurses. However, they are not designed for treating long-term conditions or immediately life-threatening problems.
Major A&E departments assess and treat patients who have serious injuries or illnesses. Generally, you should visit A&E or call 999 for emergencies, such as:
If you're injured or seriously ill, you should go, or be taken, to A&E. If an ambulance is needed you can call 999, the emergency phone number in the UK. You can also dial 112, which is the equivalent for the European Union.
Major A&E departments offer access 365 days a year and usually open 24 hours a day. Be aware that not all hospitals have an A&E department.
Acute diarrhoea is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection and affects almost everyone from time to time. A common cause in both children and adults is gastroenteritis, an infection of the bowel.
Bouts of diarrhoea in adults may also be brought on by anxiety or drinking too much coffee or alcohol. Diarrhoea may also be a side effect of a medication
NHS Choices Symptoms, causes, treatment and information
Macmillan Cancer Support Diarrhoea as a result of cancer treatments
To save them on your computer, right-click on any of the links below and then click 'Save Target As..." . Click on any of the links below to play the audio files:
Burns - Explains the immediate treatment for burns and scalds.
Fits - How to deal with fits (convulsions/seizures) in adults and young children.
Wounds - Immediate actions for wounds, bleeding, and bleeding associated with fractures.
Unconscious patient who is breathing - How to deal with an unrousable patient who IS breathing (includes recovery position)
CPR for adults - Adults who have collapsed, unrousable and NOT breathing.
CPR for babies - Babies who are unrousable and NOT breathing.
Collapsed patient in detail - Explains the complete scenario including checks for breathing, circulation, etc.
These files have been prepared by Sussex Ambulance Service and comply with European Resuscitation Council Guidelines.
British Red Cross - First Aid Tips Simple, straightforward and easy to understand first aid tips
St Johns Ambulance St John Ambulance believes that everyone should learn at least the basic first aid techniques.
These links all come from trusted resources but if you are unsure about these or any other medical matters please contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
The common cold (adults)
This fact sheet helps you to know what’s ‘normal’ and what you can expect to happen if you develop a cold. It also tells you when you should become concerned and seek advice from a health professional.
What is the common cold? Mild viral infections can cause symptoms of the cold, including a blocked and then runny nose, sneezing, cough, a sore throat, a slightly raised body temperature (fever) up to 39°C and feeling generally unwell.
How dangerous are colds? Colds are harmless infections that in the vast majority of cases get better by themselves without any complications.
How common are they? Colds are very common, and adults get an average of two to four colds a year.
Are there any complications? While the symptoms are unpleasant, the common cold is harmless. Complications, such as chest, ear and other infections, are rare.
Will I need antibiotics? Most colds get better on their own without treatment. Antibiotics are ineffective for treating the common cold and may cause side effects.
Effect of smoking: Cold symptoms such as coughing tend to be more severe if you smoke, and the infection usually lasts longer.
What can I expect to happen?
Symptoms: In adults and older children, cold symptoms last for about a week and a half, and in younger children for up to two weeks. Symptoms are usually worst in the first two to three days, before they gradually start to improve. Coughs may last up to three weeks.
There is no cure: We have no cure for the common cold. But while our bodies fight the infection, there are various ways of relieving our symptoms.
Catching a cold: We can catch a cold by either breathing in droplets of fluid containing the cold virus (when someone sneezes), or by touching something that someone has sneezed on, and then touching our mouth or nose.
What can I do – now and in the future?
Simple measures: Get some rest until you feel better – we usually know when we’re well enough to return to normal activities.
Diet and fluids: Eat healthily, including at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Drink plenty of fluids to replace those lost from sweating and a runny nose.
Over the counter medicines: Paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin can help reduce the symptoms of a cold. Avoid giving aspirin to children under the age of 16 and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Talk to your pharmacist about supplements that may help ease your symptoms.
When should I seek medical help?
Most colds are not serious and get better by themselves. Contact your GP surgery for urgent advice if you notice one or more of the following:
You develop a high temperature (above 39°C or 102.2°F), which can be a sign of a more serious type of infection;
You’re feeling confused or disorientated;
You notice a sharp pain in your chest;
You cough up blood-stained phlegm (thick mucus);
You find it difficult to breathe;
You notice a marked swelling of the glands in your neck and/or armpits;
Your symptoms last longer than three weeks.
Where can I find out more?
Visit NHS Choices (http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Cold-common/Pages/Introduction.aspx) or Patient.co.uk http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Common-Cold.htm for more information on what you can do if you suffer from a cold. Remember that your pharmacist can also assist you in assessing your symptoms.
Cough in Adults
This fact sheet helps you to know what’s ‘normal’ and what you can expect to happen if you develop a cough. It also tells you when you should become concerned and seek advice from a health professional.
Types of cough A cough may be acute, lasting less than three weeks, or chronic, when it may go on for more than eight weeks. Cough can also be dry or productive of sputum (phlegm).
Frequency Most adults experience episodes of coughing between two and five times a year, and about one in five people suffer from coughs during the winter months.
Rarely serious Although coughing often impairs people’s quality of life, it is rarely due to serious causes and usually gets better by itself.
What causes coughs? Acute cough is most commonly caused by a viral upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) due to a cold. A chronic cough is common in smokers and can sometimes suggest an underlying lung problem, but may also be caused by conditions outside the lung, such as heartburn (gastric reflux). Cough may also result from taking certain drugs (check the label), asthma, and environmental factors (dusty workplaces, for example).
Coughing is usually harmless Although coughs can be distressing (both for yourself and others living or working with you) and a nuisance because they often last for several weeks, acute coughs are almost always harmless and usually start to improve within three weeks.
No need for antibiotics Antibiotics do not work against viral infections, which cause most acute coughs, and so they may do more harm than good.
Duration You may easily suffer a dry cough for 3 to 4 weeks after an infection has settled.
Tests You don’t normally need any tests if you suffer from an acute cough.
What can I do myself to get better – now and in the future?
Try not to cough Although this may sound easier said than done, you may be able to cough less often by trying not to cough, because our desire to cough can sometimes be influenced by our brain.
Home remedies Try simple home remedies, such as ‘honey and lemon’ – just add freshly squeezed juice from one lemon and a teaspoon of honey to a mug of hot water. Drink at least 6 to 9 glasses of water in a day and suck lozenges.
Stop smoking Smoking is one of the commonest reasons for a chronic cough. Stopping smoking – or at least smoking less – not only improves your cough, but also benefits your health in other ways (reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and lung cancer, for example).
Cough mixtures There is little evidence to say whether over the counter medicines are effective for relieving cough symptoms. Despite the lack of research evidence, you may still get some subjective benefit from over the counter preparations – speak to your pharmacist.
Paracetamol Paracetamol can help with relieving symptoms that may accompany a cough, such as a sore throat, fevers, and not feeling well.
Seek medical advice immediately if you feel more unwell than you’d expect, if it starts after you’ve choked on something, or if you notice any of the warning symptoms below, which in rare cases can suggest a more serious underlying cause:
Coughing up blood You cough up blood for no obvious reason.
Duration Your cough is not getting better within three to four weeks.
Chest or shoulder pain In addition to your cough, you have chest and/or shoulder pain.
Breathlessness You also find it difficult to breathe.
Weight loss You’re losing weight for no apparent reason over a period of six weeks or more.
Voice changes Your voice becomes hoarse for longer than three weeks, and the hoarseness persists after the cough has settled.
New lumps or swellings You notice new swellings anywhere in the neck or above your collarbones.
Check out NHS Choices (http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Cough/Pages/ Introduction.aspx) or the Choose Well website (www.choosewellmanchester.org.uk/self-care) for more information on how you can treat and prevent cough. Remember that your pharmacist can also help you with assessing your symptoms.
This fact sheet helps you to know what’s ‘normal’ and what you can expect to happen if you develop a sore throat. It also tells you when you should become concerned and seek medical advice from a health professional.
How common is sore throat? Sore throats are extremely common.
What’s causing sore throat? Sore throat is usually caused by a harmless viral throat infection that gets better by itself. You may suffer from bacterial tonsillitis if you have pus on your tonsils (the two clumps of tissue on either side of your throat), painful glands in your neck and fever – but no cough. The Epstein-Barr virus, which causes glandular fever, is responsible for about 1 to 10 out of 100 cases.
How long are my symptoms likely to last? Your sore throat is likely to get better within 3 to 7 days (and a maximum of 2 weeks) without the need for treatment by a health professional. Most sore throats last for an average of eight days.
Will I need antibiotics? You won’t normally need antibiotics (which can often do more harm than good if given unnecessarily) for most throat infections.
Will I need any tests? You’re unlikely to need any tests, such as a throat swab.
Home remedies You can relieve symptoms of sore throat by eating cool, soft food and drinking cool or warm drinks, as well as sucking lozenges, ice cubes, ice lollies or hard sweets. Gargling with warm, salty water may also help reduce swelling and pain.
Smoking Avoid smoking and smoky environments as much as you can.
Fluids Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of fluid (preferably water) every day, particularly if you also have a fever.
Pain killers Painkillers help to relieve symptoms of sore throat, fever, and headaches in adults. Use what suits you best and talk to your pharmacist if you’re unsure.
Gargles, lozenges and sprays There is not enough good quality evidence to recommend non-prescription gargles, lozenges and throat sprays – although you may still find them helpful.
Seek medical advice if your symptoms are no better after two weeks or if you have frequent sore throats that do not respond to pain killers.
Warning symptoms and signs include:
High fever You have a persistent high temperature over 38°C for more than three days that does not come down even if you take ibuprofen and/or paracetamol.
Glandular fever A sore throat that doesn’t get better within 10 to 14 days or that gets worse rather than better may suggest glandular fever.
Breathing You find it hard to breathe in, and your throat feels like it’s closing up
Drooling and swallowing You’re drooling and find it difficult to swallow – this is an emergency!
Severity Your pain is severe and does not respond to over the counter pain killers.
Voice changes Your voice becomes muffled.
Fluid intake You find it difficult to drink enough fluids and become dehydrated
Effect on day to day life Your symptoms are so bad that they severely affect your quality of life and prevent you from functioning normally.
HIV/AIDS or other causes of reduced immunity If you suffer from a sore throat and have a deficient immune system because, for example, you have HIV/AIDS, or you take certain medication (such as chemotherapy, high dose steroids, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, or a drug called carbimazole), you should seek medical advice if you develop a sore throat.
Visit NHS Choices (http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sore-throat/Pages/Introduction.aspx) or the Choose Well website (www.choosewellmanchester.org.uk/self-care) for further information and advice. Remember that your pharmacist can also help you with assessing your symptoms.
Middle ear infection (acute otitis media)
This fact sheet helps you to know what’s ‘normal’ and what you can expect to happen if your child develops an infection of the space behind the ear drum (‘middle ear infection’, or acute otitis media). It also tells you when you should become concerned and seek advice from a health professional. Middle ear infection mainly affects children.
What is middle ear infection? Behind the ear drum is a small space that’s usually filled with air: the middle ear. To let air in and out, a small channel called the Eustachian tube connects this space to the throat. When germs (such as viruses or bacteria) enter during a cold, an ear infection can develop.
How dangerous is it? In most children, otitis media is a harmless infection that gets better by itself without any complications.
How common is it? Middle ear infection is very common, mostly affecting small children aged between six and 18 months. More than half of all children suffer at least one middle ear infection by the time they’re seven.
What are the symptoms? Older children usually complain of ear ache, while younger children often pull or rub their ears. Other common symptoms include runny nose, a raised body temperature (fever), being irritable, crying, sleep problems, cough and poor feeding.
Who’s affected? Middle ear infections are more common in children who breathe in tobacco smoke, attend day care (nursery,) or who drink formula milk rather than breast milk.
Does my child need antibiotics? Most children with a mild middle ear infection will not benefit from antibiotics. Antibiotics can be useful in children younger than 2 years who have infections in both ears, or who have an infection together with a leaking ear.
What can I expect to happen to my child?
Symptoms: Symptoms of middle ear infection tend to develop quickly and usually last an average of four days.
Fluid leaking from the ear: A hole may form in the ear drum and cause infected thick fluid (pus) to run out of the ear. This usually relieves the pain as it reduces the pressure on the ear drum.
What can I do to help my child – now and in the future?
Giving painkillers: You can give either paracetamol or ibuprofen if your child unwell or appears distressed. Neither should be given routinely just to reduce body temperature. Do not give your child paracetamol and ibuprofen at the same time unless advised to do so by a health professional. Instead, give the alternative medicine if your child does not respond to the first one you start with.
Keep your child cool: Avoid over- or under-dressing your feverish child. Keep your central heating down. Tepid sponging is no longer recommended.
Fluids: Offer your child regular fluids. If you’re a breastfeeding mother, offer as many feeds as she/he will take. Avoid dummies and feeding while lying flat.
Body checks: Check your child at night for signs of serious illness.
Most ear infections are not serious and get better by themselves. Contact your GP surgery for urgent advice if you notice one or more of the following:
High fever: A body temperature over 38°C in children age 0-3 months or over 39°C in children age 3-6 months.
Not improving: Your child is generally unwell or doesn’t start to improve after four days.
Fluid: Fluid leaks out of the ear.
Other symptoms: Your child shows additional symptoms, such as being sick repeatedly, feeling dizzy, a stiff neck, a rash, slurred speech, confusion, seizures (fits), and/or being sensitive to light.
Visit NHS Choices (http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/otitis-media/Pages/Introduction.aspx) or www.patient.co.uk for more information on what you can do if your child has symptoms of a middle ear infection. Remember that your pharmacist can also assist you in assessing your child’s symptoms.
Acute sinusitis (adults)
This fact sheet helps you to know what’s ‘normal’ and what you can expect to happen if you develop sinusitis. It also tells you when you should become concerned and seek advice from a health professional.
What are sinuses? Sinuses are cavities in our face bones that open up into the nose, helping to control the water content and temperature of the air reaching our lungs.
What is sinusitis? The body’s response to irritants or bugs (inflammation) can lead to sinusitis: a swelling and irritation of the lining of the sinuses. Viral infections, such as the common cold, can cause the lining of the nose to swell, blocking the small opening from the sinuses to the nose. Fluid inside the sinuses may build up, which can make you feel bunged up and stuffy.
What types are there? Sinusitis can be acute (resolving within 12 weeks) or chronic (lasting longer than 12 weeks).
What are the symptoms? The most common symptoms include a blocked or runny nose, pain and tenderness in the face, and a raised body temperature. Additional symptoms are headache, cough, pressure in your ears, feeling generally unwell, bad breath, tiredness, and reduced taste and smell.
Will I need antibiotics? The symptoms of sinusitis usually get better on their own without treatment. Antibiotics are unlikely to help unless the symptoms are severe (see over the page).
Duration: The symptoms of acute sinusitis last longer than the common cold and take about 2 ½ weeks to clear. Chronic sinusitis may last for months.
Need for treatment: In most people, sinusitis will get better without treatment, and about two thirds of people with sinusitis won’t need to see their GP.
Simple measures: Rest, applying warm face packs and washing out the nose with a steady stream of saline solution (available from your pharmacy) may help relieve your symptoms.
Fluids and food: Drink plenty of fluids to replace those lost from sweating and a runny nose. Get some rest until you feel better – we usually know when we’re well enough to return to normal activities. Eat healthily, including at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
Over the counter medicines: Paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin can help reduce the symptoms of sinusitis. Avoid giving aspirin to children under the age of 16 and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. A decongestant preparation for your nose (for a maximum of one week) can help if a blocked nose is the problem.
Not recommended: Complementary and alternative medicines, steam inhalation, and drugs such as antihistamines, mucolytics and steroids are currently not recommended. There is no convincing evidence that they work.
Contact your GP surgery for urgent advice if you notice one or more of the following:
You’re confused or disorientated;
You feel really unwell;
You’re at high risk of complications because you suffer other medical conditions;
You suffer severe pain or discomfort in your face;
Your nose produces lots of thick green/yellow fluid.
Visit NHS Choices (http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Sinusitis/Pages/Introduction.aspx) or Patient.co.uk http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Sinusitis-Acute.htm for more information about sinusitis. Remember that your pharmacist can also assist you in assessing your symptoms.
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