Self Help for Common Health Problems


Many common conditions can simply be treated at home without the need to consult a doctor.

Many of you treat your own minor illnesses such as coughs, colds, diarrhoea etc, by going to the chemist for medicines. We think this is correct and by doing this you leave the practice team free to cope with more serious problems.

Everyone worries about “leaving it too late”. We are often asked to give a prescription to “stop it developing into something serious”. This virtually never happens but we do see many people come too early, either before we can make a diagnosis, or before they have given the illness a chance to get better on its own.

Most minor illnesses will get better without treatment. Do not expect to receive a prescription every time you come. There is not “a pill for every ill”. Below is some simple advice to follow for common complaints. We do expect you to have tried this before you come to see us. Most of the time following our advice you will avoid a visit to the surgery and more importantly you will have started your treatment sooner, so feeling better, faster.

How to look after your child with a temperature

A child will develop a temperature usually because of an infection. Most childhood infections are caused by viruses. These do not respond to antibiotics. The following advice is to help you bring your child’s temperature down and make them feel better. We expect you to keep a supply of paracetamol syrup (Calpol, Disprol etc) at home. If you wait until you need it there will be none close to hand. Take your child's temperature if you have a thermometer. The normal temperature is 37.0 degrees Celsius. If the temperature is raised or you don’t have a thermometer, but you think that your child has a temperature, try to lower it as follows:

  1. Give your child paracetamol syrup, the maximum dosage for their age.
  2. Undress and unwrap the child. Most people wrap up children with raised temperatures. This can be dangerous and will make them feel worse. Clothing retains heat. Remove as much as you can. Much heat is lost through the head so leave it uncovered. Cool down the room by opening windows and lowering the heating.
  3. Give plenty of cool drinks as fluid is lost with a fever. If reluctant to drink encourage small amounts of fluid from a favourite cup. For older children ice lollies are usually successful.
  4. Repeat the dose of paracetamol every four hours as necessary.

Most children will respond to this but fevers often come and go over several days. You may need to repeat the treatment several times as most common infections last at least five days. If the above does not seem to be working or your child remains listless and appears particularly ill, call the doctor for advice. It is quite safe to bring a child with a temperature to the surgery. They will come to no harm by being outside, indeed the cooler air may well make them feel better. We therefore expect to see children in the surgery rather than be asked to visit at home.


There is no cure for the common cold. These are always caused by viruses and antibiotics are quite useless. Children and babies get a lot of them as they develop their resistance to disease. Treat with rest, fluids, regular paracetamol. For children use Vicks, Karvol or Snuffle Babe to help unblock the nose. A cold will last for five to seven days and will then subside. If after five days you are feeling worse, then consult the doctor. Please note catarrhal symptoms may persist for several weeks after a cold.

Sore Throats

Four out of every five sore throats are caused by viruses and therefore antibiotics are useless. If your throat is sore but you are otherwise fine, there is no need to see a doctor. Simply give paracetamol syrup and fluids. For adults and children over 16, gargling with soluble aspirin is the most effective remedy. Dissolve two aspirins in one inch of warm water in a glass. Take sips of the solution and gargle with each sip for as long as you can before swallowing. If you are very hot and unwell and can see white spots on your tonsils you may have a true tonsillitis and you should come and see us at the surgery.


Most coughs are associated with colds. If you do not feel particularly ill there is no need to see a doctor. We do not usually prescribe cough medicines. If you are hot and unwell and coughing up green spit you may need antibiotics and should come to the surgery. If you have sharp pains in your chest, are breathless or cough up more that a few specks of blood then you should see a doctor.

Coughs can go on for up to six weeks after a cold. Smokers are much more prone to coughs. Children of parents who smoke are much more likely to develop bronchitis and asthma. Please try and stop smoking! If your cough persists for a few weeks please come to the surgery as further tests may be indicated.


These do not usually require emergency treatment. The common childhood infections that cause rashes (eg Chickenpox etc) will settle without any specific treatment. A rash which looks like bruising and does not fade temporarily if you press on it could be associated with meningitis and medical advice should be sought immediately.

Diarrhoea & Vomiting (Gastroenteritis, Food Poisoning etc)

This is usually caused by a virus which will settle in 24 hours if you do the right things. Usually no prescription is needed. Avoid all food and milk as well as tea and coffee for a full 24 hours. Drink plenty of clear fluids starting with small amounts first if vomiting is a problem. Rehydration sachets are available from chemists. After 24 hours, and if symptoms have been absent for at least six hours, start to eat a light diet.

A normal diet can be resumed a day later. In young children there is a danger of dehydration if symptoms are severe or prolonged. Give plenty of fluids and paracetamol if hot. If the child is listless and wetting nappies rarely, contact the doctor. If symptoms persist longer than 48 hours or come on after a trip abroad come and see us at the surgery for further advice.

Back Pain

This is usually caused by lifting, gardening etc. Rest is the mainstay of treatment. If the pain is not severe and does not go down your leg, take it easy and take any simple painkiller for a few days and things should settle. If sharp pain consistently goes down one or other leg (Sciatica), take painkillers and move around gently, gradually increasing your exercise as your back improves. If pain persists for longer than three days, contact your doctor in surgery hours. If you develop persistent numbness or weakness of your leg, difficulty in passing water or opening the bowels, seek medical advice.


Frequently passing urine which stings or burns suggests cystitis, which is sometimes caused by infection. If drinking plenty of fluids (you may wish to try medication available from your pharmacist) does not relieve symptoms in three days, or if you pass any blood in the urine, see the doctor in surgery. Please bring a specimen of urine in a clean container to be tested.