Self management of common ailments

Many conditions get better on their own and can be treated successfully at home. Your pharmacist may be able to help you with these and advise about medicines that you can buy over the counter.

The community pharmacist is an excellent source of advice for many common ailments such as:

  • Low back pain
  • Eczema
  • Coughs in adults
  • Sinusitis
  • Fever in children
  • Sore throat
  • Acne
  • Heartburn and indigestion
  • Constipation
  • Common cold
  • Sprains
  • Headaches
  • Earache

Backache and strains

Many acute strains and backache will settle without medical intervention over a few days or weeks. Staying mobile improves recovery and using simple pain-relieving measures such as ice, heat and over the counter pain relief medication. If the symptoms persist or get worse, please contact the doctor.

Colds and flu-like symptoms

Colds usually start with a sore throat, temperature and aches, coughs and runny nose. They are caused by viruses, and antibiotics are of no use in treating them. Treatment consists of drinking plenty of fluids and taking recommended doses of Paracetamol for temperatures and aches. If symptoms are associated with shortness of breath, then further advice should be sought.

Diarrhoea and vomiting

In adults and older children, diarrhoea and vomiting will usually get better on its own. Treatment consists of replacing the fluid that you have lost and resting the digestive system by having nothing solid to eat for 24 hours. If the diarrhoea contains blood or there is a severe pain or high fever, you should discuss it with your doctor. Diarrhoea and vomiting in small babies and young children should be treated with caution, and the doctor will be happy to advise you about this over the telephone and arrange to see you if necessary.

Insect bites and stings

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

Nose bleeds

Sit on 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, consult your doctor.


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


With sunburn, prevention is better than cure. Use ‘High Factor’ sun creams before exposure, especially on children. Short-term over exposure to sun can cause burning. The skin becomes hot, red and painful. After a few days, the burnt skin may peel. A cool shower or bath will help. Soothing creams such as aqueous cream will help and Paracetamol will help with the pain.

If vomiting, fever and headaches occur, this may be due to sun stroke. If this occurs please make sure you have plenty to drink to prevent dehydration.

Paracetamol or Ibuprofen will help to ease headaches and fever. Please see your doctor if your symptoms are not settling.