Advice for Common Illnesses


Antibiotics only work on bacteria, but do not have an effect on common virus infections. This means that most coughs, colds, sore throats, ear ache and flu symptoms will not be helped by antibiotics. Using too many antibiotics leads to problems of side effects and allows germs to become resistant to them, so that they may not be effective for more serious infections.

Colds & sinus symptoms

Take plenty of fluids and Paracetamol. Inhaling steam and Karvol, Olbas oil or similar decongestants can help clear congestion. Decongestants like Sudafed (available from Pharmacies) may also help. Symptoms can last 7-10 days, and should usually be better within 2 weeks. You should see a doctor if symptoms are not improving by then. You should contact your doctor straight away if cold or flu symptoms are accompanied by a severe headache, vomiting or a rash.


These can be helped by drinking plenty of fluids. If particularly irritating, steam inhalations may be useful, or taking your favourite cough medicine. If you are breathless or have chest pain, or suffer from asthma or bronchitis, we may need to check your chest sounds.

Sore throats

Gargle with soluble Paracetamol or Aspirin (if you are over 12 and do not have stomach problems). Drink plenty of fluids and use lozenges if you find them helpful. Most sore throats will settle within 3-5 days. We should check your throat if your symptoms persist or you are having difficulty swallowing.


Flu causes symptoms of temperature and aches and pains. Paracetamol or Aspirin, fluids and rest are the best treatment. You should contact a doctor straight away if cold or flu symptoms are accompanied by a severe headache, vomiting or a rash. If you are over 65 or suffer from diabetes, respiratory disease or asthma, heart or vascular disease, kidney or liver disease or immune deficiency make sure you take advantage of the annual anti-flu vaccination campaign and get your flu jab. This will protect against the most common forms of flu circulating in the community each year.

High Temperatures

Children often get high temperatures with coughs and colds. Use paracetamol (Calpol/Disprol), remove their clothes down to vest and pants and if necessary sponge them down with lukewarm water. If there is no improvement after 48 hours we will need to see them. You should contact a doctor straight away if a high temperature is accompanied by a severe headache, vomiting or a rash.

Diarrhoea & Vomiting

This usually settles in 2-3 days. It is best to avoid all food for 12-24 hours but take plenty of clear fluids in small amounts. When you are able to eat again, begin with simple foods such as toast or thin soups. If diarrhoea and vomiting persists beyond 3 days, we will need to see you.

Childhood rashes

If your child is generally well but has a rash it is usually due to a virus and will settle in a few days. Children who are ill with a rash should be seen by a doctor straight away.

NHS Choices Health Information – Make better choices about your health. Access in-depth information on over 850 conditions and treatments.

Click on the links below to view some of our most frequently requested patient information leaflets:

Coughs and colds in young children

Colds in adults and older children

High temperature (fever) in children

Sore throat

Ear infection (otitis media)


Diarrhoea and vomiting (gastroenteritis) in children

Diarrhoea and vomiting (gastroenteritis) in adults

Cystitis in women


Why no antibiotic?





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