of Common Illnesses
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This is general advice only and not a substitute for seeing
your doctor. If you have any further concerns please seek
attention from your GP.How your Local
Pharmacist Can Help:
Advice is available from your pharmacists or calling NHS
Direct on 0845 4647 or your doctor.
Many common illnesses and accidents can be treated at home
without needing to see a doctor. We hope that you will find
the following advice helpful. If you are uncertain as to
what to do or are worried please ask us for advice. We do
have standard advice leaflets available for the conditions
mentioned below. If you would like a copy of one of these
please ask the receptionists for the relevant patient
• Ask your pharmacist for advice
about choosing the right medicines for common ailments
• Your pharmacist will advise you if you are unsure
about seeing a doctor
• He/She can offer advice about a problem if you are not
sure what is causing it
• Ask for advice about staying healthy
• Be sure to tell your pharmacist if you are taking
other medicines – some medicines are not compatible
First, a note on these commonly prescribed and powerful
medicines. They only work on bacteria and are without effect
on viruses. Unfortunately, this means that they will not
help the common infections, like coughs, colds and flu, at
all. The correct treatments are the simple remedies outlined
below and we only use antibiotics when they fail and we
suspect that there is a secondary bacterial infection.
Overuse of antibiotics may lead to their not working in
future and more complications like in thrush, skin rashes,
sickness and diarrhoea.
Apply large quantities of cold water to the affected area as
soon as possible and maintain this until the pain subsides.
This may take as long as 15 to 20 minutes! If the skin is
unbroken but blistered, apply a loose, dry dressing. If the
burn is larger than 4 or 5 inches in diameter or if the skin
is broken, consult the nurse as soon as possible.
On the first day a rash appears as small red patches about
3-4mm across. Within a few hours of these developing, small
blisters appear in the centre of these patches. During the
next three to four days’ further patches will appear and the
earlier ones will turn ‘crusty’ and fall off. Oily calamine
lotion may be applied to soothe the often severe itching.
Cool baths may also help. The most infectious period is
between two to three days before the rash appears and up to
five days after this date. Children may return to school so
long as all the spots are crusted over.
Colds and Sinus Pains
Even in this day and age there is still no magic cure for
the common cold. Get plenty of rest, take plenty of fluids. If you
have a headache or are feverish take paracetamol or
ibuprofen. Inhalations with steam and Karvol/menthol
crystals/Olbas Oil can help clear the nasal passages. You
should be on the mend after seven to ten days and usually
better in two weeks. We would only want to see you if you
are getting any worse instead of better by then.
These can be soothed by a drink made from honey and freshly
squeezed lemon juice (full of vitamins) in hot water. If
particularly irritating, steam inhalations can be
worthwhile. If you bring up coloured phlegm, we may need to
check your chest.
In adults diarrhoea is usually caused by a viral infection
and is therefore unable to be treated directly. Consult your
doctor if the symptoms persist for more than a few days or
if you suspect dehydration. Diarrhoea in very young children
and babies needs careful attention. Most babies have loose
bowel action during their first six months due to their
predominantly liquid diet. Taking the baby off solids and
feeding Dioralyte or similar medication should treat sudden
bouts of unusually watery diarrhoea. Breast-feeding mothers
should simply continue breast-feeding. If the symptoms
persist for more than 24 hours, or are accompanied by
vomiting or weakness, consult your doctor.
Gastroenteritis describes a group of diseases affecting the
stomach or part of the intestine. Symptoms are often
diarrhoea, sickness and stomach-ache. Because the lining of
the stomach is likely to be inflamed, medicines are often
immediately vomited up. If nausea or vomiting are present,
water or diluted fruit juice which is at room temperature,
should be drunk in smaller but more frequent quantities at
first (i.e. sip ‘little and often’). Drink more clear
fluids. Thirst is not always a good guide. Always try to
make sure you drink sufficient fluids to replace fluids lost
by the diarrhoea. If the symptoms are severe consult your
These creatures, contrary to popular belief prefer clean
hair and are, therefore, not a sign of poor personal
hygiene. Medicated head lotion can be obtained from the
chemist without prescription. Alternatively, try wet combing
using a generous amount of conditioner.
Insect Bites and Stings
Antihistamine tablets can be obtained from the chemist
without prescription and will usually relieve most symptoms.
Note: bee stings should be scraped away rather than
‘plucked’ in order to avoid squeezing the contents of the
venom sac into the wound.
Firstly apply a cold compress, containing ice if possible or
frozen peas, for 5-10 minutes to reduce the swelling. Remove
compress for 5-10minutes and then reapply. Ensure that any
ice/frozen peas etc. are not applied directly to the skin
but within a towel. Apply, firmly, a crepe bandage or
tubigrip. This dressing must be removed during the night.
Treat as for other burns with cold water to remove the heat.
Calamine lotion will relieve the irritation whilst
paracetamol will also help. Children are particularly
susceptible to sunburn and great care should be taken to
avoid overexposure to the harmful effects of the sun.
Everyone should use appropriate sun block especially
children. Avoid the midday sun and remember to cover up
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We feel it is important that all families should keep a
reasonably stocked medical cabinet at home to deal with
Please read the instructions and cautions on the medication
before you decide to use them and consult your community
pharmacist if in doubt.
Pharmacists can now sell antibiotic eye drops for clear cut
cases of uncomplicated conjunctivitis.
Remember all medicines should be stored in a box or cupboard
with a lock and kept well out of the reach of children.
Always check the expiry dates on medicines.
Suggested items for such a cabinet are:
Useful for headaches, fevers, colds, sore throats, painful
bruises, aches and pains
Paracetamol mixture (ie Calpol,
For relief of pain and fever in babies and young children.
Ibuprofen (tablets or syrup)
Also for pain and fever in adults and children.
Electrolyte sachets (Dioralyte)
For use in diarrhoea and vomiting.
Menthol or similar inhalants
For mixing with hot water to make steam inhalations for
treating dry and painful coughs, catarrh and sinusitis.
Vapour rub/Karvol capsules
For relieving stuffy noses and dry coughs
For cleaning cuts and grazes.
For treating grazes, bites and septic spots.
For insect bites, stings, itchy rashes and sunburn.
For bites and itchy rashes.
Dressing for minor cuts.
To support bruised and sprained joints.
For cleaning cuts and grazes.
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Please note: Woodlands Surgery is
not responsible for the content of any of these sites nor do
we endorse them.
BBC Health Web Guide
(A site sharing and talking about the experience of illness
for both patients and healthcare professionals)
Lab Tests Online UK
to Frank (Drugs Information)
The Child Bereavement Trust
Cambridge Student Health
MacMillan Cancer Relief
Curie Cancer Care
Colitis and Crohns disease
National Association for Colitis and Crohn's Disease
(DISC is Dementia Information Service for Carers, designed
to assist individuals and organisations caring for older
people with dementia)
Mental health problems
Don't Give Up Giving Up
Fit for Travel
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