Minor Illness

Get the Right Treatment

Every year, millions of us visit our GP with minor health problems that can be easily resolved without a doctor’s appointment.

It is estimated that every year, 50 million visits to the GP are made for minor ailments such as coughs and colds, mild eczema, and athlete’s foot. By visiting your pharmacy instead, you could save yourself time and trouble.


Keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet at home can help you treat many minor ailments. Colds, coughs, indigestion and many other minor complaints can all be treated with medicines that are available over the counter.

Your pharmacist can advise on what you might find useful to keep in your medicine cabinet. Always follow the instructions on the medicine label and consult your doctor if the illness continues or becomes more severe.

Your Local Pharmacist

Pharmacists offer professional free health advice at any time – you don’t need an appointment. From coughs and colds to aches and pains, they can give you expert help on everyday illnesses. They can answer questions about prescribed and over-the-counter medicines. Your local Pharmacist can also advise on healthy eating. 

Pharmacists can also advise on health eating, obesity and giving up smoking. Some pharmacists have private areas where you can talk in confidence. They may suggest you visit your GP for more serious symptoms. It is possible to purchase many medicines from the chemist without a prescription. Watch this short video on how you can get the most out of your local pharmacy.

NHS Walk-In Centres

NHS Walk-In Centres offer convenient access to a range of NHS services for patients based in England only. You can receive treatment for many ailments including:

  • Infection and rashes,
  • Fractures and lacerations,
  • Emergency contraception and advice,
  • Stomach upsets,
  • Cuts and bruises, or
  • Burns and strains.

NHS Walk In Centres treat around 3m patients a year and have proved to be a successful complementary service to traditional GP and A&E services. Some centres offer access to doctors as well as nurses. However, they are not designed for treating long-term conditions or immediately life-threatening problems.

Accident & Emergency (A&E)

Major A&E departments assess and treat patients who have serious injuries or illnesses. Generally, you should visit A&E or call 999 for emergencies, such as:

  • Loss of consciousness,
  • Pain that is not relieved by simple analgesia,
  • Acute confused state,
  • Persistent, severe chest pain, or
  • Breathing difficulties.

If you’re injured or seriously ill, you should go, or be taken, to A&E. If an ambulance is needed you can call 999, the emergency phone number in the UK. You can also dial 112, which is the equivalent of the European Union.

Major A&E departments offer access 365 days a year and usually open 24 hours a day. Be aware that not all hospitals have an A&E department.


From: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Tonsillitis/Pages/Introduction.aspx

Tonsillitis is inflammation of the tonsils. It’s usually caused by a viral infection or, less commonly, a bacterial infection.

Tonsillitis is a common condition in children, teenagers and young adults.

The symptoms of tonsillitis include:

Symptoms usually pass within three to four days.

When to See Your GP

Tonsillitis isn’t usually a serious condition. You only need to see your GP if symptoms:

  • Last longer than four days and don’t show any signs of improvement.
  • Are severe – for example, if you’re unable to eat or drink due to the pain, or you have difficulty breathing.

Your GP will examine your throat and ask you some questions about your symptoms. If necessary, a throat swab can be taken to confirm the diagnosis. The results usually take a few days to return.

If your tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection, they may prescribeantibiotics. Typical signs of a bacterial infection include white pus-filled spots on the tonsils, no cough and swollen or tender lymph glands.

If you develop severe tonsillitis as a teenager or adult, your GP may recommend a blood test for glandular fever.

The Tonsils

The tonsils are two small glands that sit on either side of the throat. In young children, they help to fight germs and act as a barrier against infection.

When the tonsils become infected, they isolate the infection and stop it spreading further into the body.

As a child’s immune system develops and gets stronger, the tonsils become less important and usually shrink. In most people, the body is able to fight infection without the tonsils.

Removal of the tonsils is usually only recommended if they’re causing problems, such as severe or repeated episodes of tonsillitis (see below).

What Causes Tonsillitis?

Most cases of tonsillitis are caused by a viral infection, such as the viruses that cause the common cold or flu virus (influenza).

Some cases can also be caused by a bacterial infection, typically a strain of bacteria called group A streptococcus bacteria.

These types of infections spread easily, so it’s important to try to avoid passing the infection on to others by:

  • Staying away from public places, such as work, school or nursery, until your GP says it’s safe to return (usually after the symptoms have passed).
  • Coughing and sneezing into a tissue and disposing of the tissue.
  • Washing hands before eating, after going to the toilet and, if possible, after coughing and sneezing.

Treating Tonsillitis

There’s no specific treatment for tonsillitis, but you may be able to reduce the symptoms by:

  • Taking paracetamol or ibuprofen to help relieve pain.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Getting plenty of rest.

If test results show that your tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection, a short course of oral antibiotics may be prescribed.

If oral antibiotics aren’t effective at treating bacterial tonsillitis, intravenous antibiotics (given directly into a vein) may be needed in hospital.

Chronic Tonsillitis

In most cases, tonsillitis gets better within a week. However, a small number of children and adults have tonsillitis for longer, or it keeps returning. This is known as chronic tonsillitis and surgical treatment may be needed.

Surgery to remove the tonsils (a tonsillectomy) is usually only recommended if:

  • You’ve had several severe episodes of tonsillitis over a long period of time.
  • Repeated episodes are disrupting normal activities.

Complications of Tonsillitis

Complications of tonsillitis are rare and usually only occur if it’s caused by a bacterial infection. They’re usually the result of the infection spreading to another part of the body.

Possible complications of tonsillitis include:

Other complications of tonsillitis are very rare and usually only occur if an underlying bacterial infection is left untreated. They include:

  • Scarlet fever – a condition that causes a distinctive pink-red skin rash.
  • Rheumatic fever – this causes widespread inflammation throughout the body, leading to symptoms such as joint pain, rashes and jerky body movements.
  • Glomerulonephritis – an infection (swelling) of the filters in the kidneys that can cause vomiting and a loss of appetite.

First Aid

First Aid – MP3 Downloads

To save them on your computer, right-click on any of the links below and then click ‘Save Target As…” Click on any of the links below to play the audio files: 

  • Burns – Explains the immediate treatment for burns and scalds.
  • Fits – How to deal with fits (convulsions/seizures) in adults and young children.
  • Wounds  – Immediate actions for wounds, bleeding, and bleeding associated with fractures.

These files have been prepared by Sussex Ambulance Service and comply with European Resuscitation Council Guidelines.

Other Links

  • St Johns Ambulance – St John Ambulance believes that everyone should learn at least the basic first aid techniques.

These links all come from trusted resources but if you are unsure about these or any other medical matters please contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Coughs and Colds

A cold is a mild viral infection of the nose, throat, sinuses and upper airways. It can cause nasal stuffiness, a runny nose, sneezing, a sore throat and a cough. Usually it’s a self-limiting infection – this means it gets better by itself without the need for treatment.

On average, adults have two to five colds each year and school-age children can have up to eight colds a year. Adults who come into contact with children tend to get more colds. This is because children usually carry more of the virus, for longer.

In the UK, you’re more likely to get a cold during the winter months although the reasons why aren’t fully understood at present.

Treatment of a Cold

For most people, a cold will get better on its own within a week of the symptoms starting without any specific treatment. However, there are treatments that can help to ease your symptoms and make you feel more comfortable. These are available from your pharmacy, which means that you can treat yourself, rather than needing to see your GP.

There is no cure for colds. Antibiotics, which treat infections caused by bacteria, don’t work on cold viruses.


There are a number of self-help measures that may help to ease the symptoms of a cold.

  • Drinking enough fluids to prevent dehydration.
  • Steam inhalations with menthol, salt water nasal sprays or drops may be helpful.
  • Vapour rubs may help relieve symptoms in children.
  • Hot drinks (particularly with lemon), hot soups and spicy foods can help to ease irritation and pain in your throat.
  • Sucking sweets or lozenges which contain menthol or eucalyptus may soothe your throat.
  • Gargling with salt water may help a sore throat.

You should try to make sure you get enough rest if you have a cold. It’s not usually necessary to stay off work or school.

Other Links

  • Colds & Flu – A factsheet on the causes, symptoms, treatment & prevention of colds & the flu.

Back Pain

Back pain is a common problem that affects most people at some point in their life.

It may be triggered by bad posture while sitting or standing, bending awkwardly, or lifting incorrectly. It’s not generally caused by a serious condition.

In most cases back pain will improve in a few weeks or months, although some people experience long-term pain or pain that keeps coming back.

Types of Back Pain

Backache is most common in the lower back (lumbago), although it can be felt anywhere along your spine, from your neck down to your hips.

Sometimes back pain can be caused by an injury or disease, such as:

  • A slipped disc – when one of the discs in the spine is damaged and presses on the nerves.
  • Sciatica – irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve, which causes pain, numbness and tingling that travels down one leg.
  • Whiplash – neck injury caused by a sudden impact.
  • Frozen shoulder – inflammation around the shoulder that causes pain and stiffness.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis – a long-term condition that causes pain and stiffness where the spine meets the pelvis.

The rest of this information will focus on back pain that doesn’t have an obvious cause. Doctors call this non-specific back pain.

What to do

Most cases of back pain get better on their own and you may not need to see a doctor.

If you’ve only had back pain for a few days or weeks, the following advice may help relieve your symptoms and speed up your recovery:

  • Remain as active as possible and try to continue with your daily activities.
  • Take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen if you feel you need to.
  • Use hot or cold compression packs – you can buy these from your local pharmacy, or a bag of frozen vegetables and a hot water bottle will work just as well.

Although it can be difficult to be cheerful or optimistic if you are in pain, it’s important to stay positive as this can help you recover faster.

Treatments for Long-Term Back Pain

If you’re worried about your back or your pain hasn’t improved by around six weeks, it’s a good idea to visit your GP, who can advise you about the treatments available.

These include:

  • Stronger painkillers.
  • Exercise classes – where you are taught specific exercises to strengthen your muscles and improve your posture.
  • Support and advice at a specialist pain clinic.

Some people choose to see a therapist for manual therapy or acupuncture without seeing their GP first. If you want to do this, you will usually need to pay for private treatment, which is likely to cost around £30-50 for each appointment.

Spinal surgery is usually only recommended when all else has failed.

Preventing Back Pain

How you sit, stand, lie and lift can all affect the health of your back. Try to avoid placing too much pressure on your back and ensure it’s strong and supple.

Regular exercise, such as walking and swimming, is an excellent way of preventing back pain. Activities such as yoga or pilates can improve your flexibility and strengthen your back muscles.

Signs of a Serious Problem

You should seek urgent medical help if you have back pain and:

  • A high temperature (fever).
  • A swelling or a deformity in your back.
  • It’s constant and doesn’t ease after lying down.
  • Pain in your chest.
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control.
  • An inability to pass urine.
  • Numbness around your genitals, buttocks or back passage.
  • It’s worse at night.
  • It started after an accident, such as after a car accident.

These problems could be a sign of something more serious and need to be assessed as soon as possible.

Back Pain Exercises

The following links have exercises that may be useful in managing and preventing back pain:

  • http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/conditions/back-pain/back-pain-exercises.aspx


Conjunctivitis is a common condition that causes redness and inflammation of the thin layer of tissue that covers the front of the eye (the conjunctiva).

People often refer to conjunctivitis as red eye.

Other symptoms of conjunctivitis include itchiness and watering of the eyes, and sometimes a sticky coating on the eyelashes (if it’s caused by an allergy)

Conjunctivitis can affect one eye at first but usually affects both eyes after a few hours.

What Causes Conjunctivitis?

The conjunctiva can become inflamed as a result of:

  • A bacterial or viral infection – this is known as infective conjunctivitis.
  • An allergic reaction to a substance such as pollen or dust mites –this is known as allergic conjunctivitis.
  • The eye coming into contact with things that can irritate the conjunctiva, such as shampoo or chlorinated water, or a loose eyelash rubbing against the eye – this is known as irritant conjunctivitis.

Treating Conjunctivitis

Treatment isn’t usually needed for conjunctivitis, because the symptoms often clear up within a couple of weeks. If treatment is needed, the type of treatment will depend on the cause. In severe cases, antibiotic eye drops can be used to clear the infection.

Irritant conjunctivitis will clear up as soon as whatever is causing it is removed.

Allergic conjunctivitis can usually be treated with anti-allergy medications such as antihistamines. If possible, you should avoid the substance that triggered the allergy.

It’s best not to wear contact lenses until the symptoms have cleared up. Any sticky or crusty coating on the eyelids or lashes can be cleansed with cotton wool and water.

Washing your hands regularly and not sharing pillows or towels will help prevent it spreading.

See your GP immediately if you have:

  • Eye pain,
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia),
  • Disturbed vision,
  • Intense redness in one eye or both eyes,
  • A newborn baby with conjunctivitis.

Work and school

Public Health England (PHE) advises that you don’t need to stay away from work or school if you or your child has conjunctivitis, unless you (or they) are feeling particularly unwell.

If there are a number of conjunctivitis cases at your child’s school or nursery, you may be advised to keep them away until their infection has cleared up.

Generally, adults who work in close contact with others, or share equipment such as phones and computers, shouldn’t return to work until the discharge has cleared up.

Neonatal Conjunctivitis

Neonatal conjunctivitis is a type of conjunctivitis that affects newborn babies less than 28 days old.

Most cases of neonatal conjunctivitis aren’t particularly serious. A small number of cases occur if a baby is born to a mother who has a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea.

These infections don’t necessarily cause symptoms in the mother, so many of them are unaware they’re infected. With STIs, there’s a possibility of serious complications if the infection is left untreated. Contact your GP if you notice any redness in your baby’s eyes.


Whiplash injury is a type of neck injury caused by a sudden movement of the head forwards, backwards or sideways.

It occurs when the soft tissues in the neck become stretched and damaged (sprained).

Whiplash will often get better within a few weeks or months, but for some people it can last longer and severely limit their activities.

Symptoms of whiplash

Common symptoms of whiplash include:

  • Neck pain and tenderness.
  • Neck stiffness and difficulty moving your head.
  • Headaches.
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Pain in the shoulders and arms.

Less common symptoms include pins and needles in your arms and hands, dizziness, tiredness, memory loss, poor concentration and irritability.

It can take several hours for the symptoms to develop after you injure your neck. The symptoms are often worse the day after the injury, and may continue to get worse for several days.

When to Get Medical Advice

Visit your GP if you’ve recently been involved in a road accident, or you’ve had a sudden impact to your head and you have pain and stiffness in your neck.

They’ll ask how the injury happened and about your symptoms. They may also examine your neck for muscle spasms and tenderness, and may assess the range of movement in your neck.

Scans and tests such as X-rays will usually only be carried out if a broken bone or other problem is suspected.

Causes of Whiplash

Whiplash can occur if the head is thrown forwards, backwards or sideways violently.

Common causes of whiplash include:

  • Road traffic accidents and collisions.
  • A sudden blow to the head – for example, during sports such as boxing or rugby.
  • A slip or fall where the head is suddenly jolted backwards.
  • Being stuck on the head by a heavy or solid object.

Treatments for Whiplash

Whiplash will usually get better on its own or after some basic treatment.

Treatments for whiplash include:

  • Keeping your neck mobile and continuing with your normal activities – using a neck brace or collar isn’t recommended.
  • Painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen – stronger painkillers are available on prescription if these don’t help.

If your pain lasts a long time, you may be referred for specialist treatment and support at an NHS pain clinic.

Painkilling injections and surgery aren’t normally used for whiplash.

Outlook for Whiplash

The length of time it takes to recover from whiplash can vary and is very hard to predict.

Many people will feel better within a few weeks or months, but sometimes it can last up to a year or more.

Severe or prolonged pain can make it difficult to carry out daily activities and enjoy your leisure time. It may also cause problems at work and could lead to anxiety or depression.

Try to remain positive and focus on your treatment objectives. But if you do feel depressed, speak to your GP about appropriate treatment and support.