Self-care for Minor Ailments Over Winter

As winter approaches, more of us will get sick and suffer from various illnesses. When you start feeling unwell, don’t wait until your condition worsens – seek expert advice on what to do from your local pharmacist. They can recommend treatments and how to manage your symptoms to help you recover quicker. And remember, there is lots you can do to help yourself feel better.

Self-care: Cold

One of the most common winter illnesses is the common cold.

To help you recover quicker, drink fluids to stay hydrated and get plenty of rest and sleep at home. You can also get cold medicines from your local pharmacy or supermarket, such as painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower a temperature, or decongestant sprays / tablets to clear a blocked nose.
We do not recommend the use of antibiotics in colds – they do not work on viral infections and may cause side effects.

Colds can be self-treated and usually go away by themselves. However, there are times when you should see a GP:

  • If symptoms do not improve after 3 weeks / suddenly worsen
  • Temperature is very high, or you feel hot / shivery
  • Suffering from breathlessness or chest pain

More information on colds can be found on the NHS website at

Self-care: Cough

Coughs tend to clear up by themselves within 3-4 weeks and can be taken care of at home.

To help recover quicker, you should get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids and try to stay home. You could also try using painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen or home remedies like hot lemon and honey. These can help relieve symptoms that come with coughs and colds.

Although coughs can be self-treated and usually go away by themselves, there are times when you should see a GP. Warning symptoms include:

  • Cough duration longer than 3 weeks
  • Severe cough (cough is very bad or worsens quickly)
  • Breathlessness
  • Coughing up blood

More information on coughs can be found on the NHS website at

Self-care: Sore throat

Sore throats are a very common condition and usually resolve by themselves within a week without the need for a GP visit. You can relieve symptoms by sucking on ice cubes or hard sweets and eating cool or soft foods, while gargling with warm, salty water may also help.

To help you recover faster, make sure to drink plenty of fluids and rest at home. Over-the-counter medicines from your local pharmacy or supermarket can help manage sore throat symptoms. For example, painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can help with pain relief, while medicated lozenges with a local anaesthetic or anti-inflammatory medicine can help to reduce swelling and pain in the throat.

Antibiotics are not normally needed for a sore throat as they will not relieve your symptoms or speed up recovery.

If your sore throat doesn’t improve after a week, or you often get sore throats, we encourage you to book an appointment with a GP.

More information on sore throats can be found on the NHS website at

Self-care: Ear infection

Ear infections are very common during the winter months, especially in children. Symptoms usually start quickly, and usually include earache, fever, being sick, fatigue, and difficulty hearing. Some infections may cause discharge to run out of the ear or a feeling of pressure inside the ear. Children may also rub or pull their ear, be restless or not have any appetite.

The best way to manage an ear infection is to relieve any symptoms and allow your body to fight of the infection. Ear infections typically get better on their own within 3 days, and self-treatment at home is very easy.

To relieve pain and discomfort from ear infections, you could use over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen or place a warm or cold flannel on the ear. You could also go to your local pharmacist for expert advice on your condition. Antibiotics are not usually offered as they do not help with symptoms, and the infection should clear up within 3-7 days.

If the earache does not start improving after 3 days, or you suffer from regular ear infections, it is recommended that you book an appointment with a GP.

More information on ear infections can be found on the NHS website at

Being prepared this winter: stocking up on medicines

Everyone has an important role to prevent illness, especially during the winter months. Minor illnesses like coughs and colds, sore throats, or ear infections can be easily treated at home with cheap medicines from your local pharmacy without needing an appointment or prescription from your GP.

Medicine cabinet essentials include:

  • Pain relief (e.g. paracetamol, ibuprofen)
  • Cough or sore throat remedies
  • First aid kit (plasters, bandages, antiseptic wipes)
  • Oral rehydration salts
  • Heartburn and indigestion treatment

Stocking up on these essentials will not only help you feel better sooner and save you time, but also help the NHS save much needed resources during the winter.