Management of Common Ailments

Many conditions get better on their own, and can be treated successfully at home. 111 is available 24 hours a day for advice on all medical matters.

Your pharmacist may be able to help you with these common ailments and advise on medicines you can buy over the counter.

Colds and Flu

These usually start with a runny nose, cough, temperature and aches. They are caused by viruses, and antibiotics are of no use in treating them. Treatment consists of taking recommended doses of paracetamol for the temperature and aches, and drinking plenty of fluids. Seek advice if symptoms persist after one week BUT earlier for a child or if you are worried.

Diarrhoea and Vomiting

In adults and older children, diarrhoea and vomiting will usually get better on their own. Treatment consists of replacing the fluid you have lost and resting the digestive system. Sachets of powder such as Dioralyte and Rehidrat, which can be made into a drink, are available from the chemist. If the diarrhoea contains blood or there is severe pain or high fever, you should discuss it with the doctor. Diarrhoea and vomiting in small babies should be treated with caution and the doctor will be happy to advise you over the phone or arrange to see you if necessary.

Backache, Strains and Sprains

Many acute strains, sprains and backache will respond to a few days rest with paracetamol taken for pain. If symptoms persist, contact the doctor.

Head Lice

These creatures prefer clean hair and are not a sign of poor personal hygiene. Medicated shampoos can be obtained from the chemist without a prescription, or for children from the health visitor.

Insect Bites and Stings

Most of these need no treatment. Anti-histamine tablets can be obtained from the chemist without prescription and will relieve most symptoms.


Sit in a chair (leaning forward with your mouth open) and pinch your nose just below the bone for about ten minutes, by which time the bleeding usually stops. If the bleeding continues, place a plug of cotton wool in your nostril and ask for advice from 111 or your doctor


First apply a cold compress containing ice for 15 to 30 minutes to reduce swelling. Apply a firm crepe bandage and give a sprain plenty of rest
elevated if ankle) until the discomfort has subsided.