Colds and most coughs, sinusitis, otitis media (earache) and sore throats often get better without antibiotics.
The information below shows you how long some illnesses normally last, what you can do to ease your symptoms and when you should go back to your GP or contact NHS.
Lasts on average 4 days.
Lasts on average 1 week.
Lasts on average 1 1/2 weeks.
Lasts on average 2 1/2 weeks.
Cough or Bronchitis:
Lasts on average 3 weeks.
What can you do to ease the symptoms?
- Have plenty of rest
- Drink enough fluids to avoid feeling thirsty.
- Ask your local pharmacist to recommend medicines to bring down your temperature or control pain (or both).
- Other things you can do suggested by GP or nurse.
When should you (or your child) go back to your GP practice or contact NHS Direct?
(Listed in order of urgency, with the most urgent symptoms first.)
- If you develop a severe headache and are sick.
- If your skin is very cold or has a strange colour, or you develop an unusual rash.
- If you feel confused or have slurred speech or are very drowsy.
- If you have difficulty breathing. Signs that suggest breathing problems can include:
- turning blue around the lips and the skin below the mouth
- skin between or above the ribs getting sucked or pulled in with every breath.
- If you develop chest pain.
- If you have difficulty swallowing or are drooling.
- If you cough up blood.
- If hearing problems develop or if there is fluid coming out of your ears.
Why you should only take antibiotics when they are needed:
- Bacteria can adapt and find ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic. They become ‘antibiotic resistant’ so that the antibiotic no longer works. The more you use an antibiotic, the more bacteria become resistant to it.
- Antibiotic-resistant bacteria don’t just infect you, they can spread to other people in close contact with you.
- Antibiotics can upset the natural balance of bacteria in your body. This allows other more harmful bacteria to increase. This may result in diarrhoea and thrush.
- Some antibiotics can cause allergic reactions such as rashes, being sick if you also drink alcohol and reactions to sunlight – and other symptoms.
A-Z of Self Help
Many simple problems can be treated effectively at home by yourself. This guide is intended to explain something about common illnesses and how to treat them at home. However, if you are concerned or they persist you should always contact your doctor or nurse.
90% of the British population will suffer from back pain at some stage of their lives. In many instances an acute back strain will settle with a few days of rest. Simple painkillers such as Paracetamol or Aspirin may help. If the pain is severe or persists for more than a few days, it is advisable to see your doctor in view of the complex nature of the spine.
Bed sores are far easier to prevent than cure, and are usually seen in the elderly and infirm. It is important that somebody confined to bed should change position from time to time. If a red mark appears at a pressure point, such as heels, elbows, buttocks or hips, it is important to inform the doctor or nurse before they worsen.
Apply large quantities of cold water to the affected area as soon as possible and maintain this until the pain subsides. If the skin is unbroken but blistered apply a loose dry dressing. If the burn is larger than 4 or 5 cms in diameter, or if the skin is broken, consult your doctor or nurse as soon as possible. Serious burns need immediate attention at an Accident and Emergency Department.
Coughs and Colds
These can be caused by the many viruses that are always present in the environment. Unfortunately we still have no magic cure for the common cold. Symptomatic treatment such as Aspirin or Paracetamol plus plenty of fluids is the most appropriate treatment. Coughs are most commonly associated with colds and in most instances again have no specific treatment. If a cough is associated with a persistent temperature, shortness of breath or chest pain, then it is important to consult your doctor. It is also important to have a persistent cough checked out.
Cuts and Grazes
Minor cuts and grazes should be washed thoroughly with soap and water. To stop bleeding apply a clean handkerchief or dressing firmly to the wound for about 5 minutes and cover with a clean dry dressing (eg Elastoplast). Larger cuts and grazes, especially if they persistently bleed or are very dirty, should be seen in our Treatment Area. Remember you may need a Tetanus booster.
Chickenpox may start with a non specific illness for 24 hours before any spots are seen. A typical chickenpox spot starts as a tiny red mark which becomes raised, and within a few hours forms a small central blister. This will then form a crust and dry up. The spots tend to occur in crops, so that there may be several spots in different phases. The symptoms can be helped with Calamine Lotion applied to the skin, and also lukewarm baths. Paracetamol, eg Calpol and Phenergan, may also be helpful in relieving symptoms. Usually chickenpox is a minor self limiting infection, however occasionally chickenpox may be more severe and need medical attention. Chickenpox is infectious from 2 or 3 days before the rash appears until the last spot has crusted over.
For more information
DO REMEMBER MOST PEOPLE WITH CHLAMYDIA WILL NOT HAVE ANY SYMPTOMS.
The possible symptoms in women may be:
- An unusual vaginal discharge.
- The need to pass urine more often.
- Pain on passing urine or during sex
- Pain in the pelvis or lower abdomen.
- Any irregular bleeding, between periods, after sex or if you are using contraception.
The possible symptoms in men may be:
- A discharge from the tip of the penis.
- Pain and/or burning when passing urine.
- Irritation at the tip of the penis.
- Painful swelling of the testicles.
- For more information please visit
Most episodes of acute diarrhoea are caused by a virus infection. Whether due to a virus or other cause the immediate treatment is taking plenty of clear fluids and you may continue to eat a normal diet. Dioralyte (or equivalent) replaces salts as well as sugars in severe diarrhoea. It is not necessary to stop breast feeding small babies with diarrhoea. If the diarrhoea shows blood or there is severe pain or a high fever, contact your doctor. Extra care is needed with small babies and the elderly. Persistent diarrhoea for more than a few days in either adults or small children should be seen by the doctor. Food handlers also require special attention.
Rubella (German Measles)
The rash appears during the first day and usually covers the body, arms and legs in small patches approximately 2-4 mm that do not itch. Often there are no other symptoms, however there may occasionally be a mild conjunctivitis and a slight cough. Rubella is infectious from 2 days before the rash until the rash disappears about 4 or 5 days later. The only danger is to unborn babies and therefore it is important that all contacts are informed in case of pregnancy. Immunisation can prevent this disease.
For more information:
The rash is blotchy and red and appears on the face and body around the fourth day of illness. There is usually an associated fever, cough, runny nose and conjunctivitis. Paracetamol, eg Calpol, may help with the symptoms, however if the child is unwell please consult your doctor. With current vaccination schedules measles should hopefully become a rare illness. It is at its most infectious from 2-3 days before the rash appears until 8 or 10 days after this date. Immunisation can prevent this disease.
Symptoms are swelling of the glands in front of one or other ear, often followed after a couple of days by a swelling in front of the other ear. It is infectious from 2 or 3 days before the swelling until 8 or 10 days after this date. If the pain is severe you should consult your doctor. Immunisation can prevent this disease.
Contrary to popular belief, head lice prefer clean hair and are therefore not a sign of poor personal hygiene. Medicated head lotion can be obtained from the chemist without prescription. All members of the family should be treated at the same time.
Insect Bites and Stings
Antihistamine tablets can be obtained from the chemist without a prescription and will usually relieve most symptoms. These stings should be scraped away rather than plucked in order to avoid squeezing the contents of the venom sac into the wounds.
The ideal treatment for acute injuries such as sprains, is the combination of rest, ice, compression ( e.g. crepe bandage or tubigrip) and elevation. Serious injuries need attention from the doctor or nurse and if you have doubts about a fracture, it is advised to attend the Accident and Emergency Department.
Most attacks are not serious and are usually caused by indigestion or wind. In the case of indigestion a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in half a glass of water will help. Do not use any medication using Aspirin or Ibuprofen as this may worsen the problem. If the pain is severe or persistent you should consult your doctor.
Treat as for other burns with cold water to remove the heat. Calamine Lotion will relieve the irritation whilst Paracetamol will also help. Prevention is much better than cure, especially with children who are particularly susceptible to sunburn.
Temperature in Children
This happens with even the most mild infection. In small children it is important to stop the temperature rising too quickly, and paracetamol syrup from your chemist should help. If they still feel hot, sponge them all over with tepid water. If the temperature is very high and does not respond to this treatment, you should contact your doctor.
NHS Choices – Fever in Children
Threadworms are common in children and are unpleasant but not harmful. They are tiny white worms about 1cm long and may be seen in the stool. The commonest symptom is anal itching. Medicine is available from your pharmacist to treat worms.
If a child or adult is vomiting, then frequent sips of clear fluid should be given, gradually increasing as tolerated. Avoid food until the patient is able to tolerate a normal volume of fluid. If vomiting is prolonged or severe and the patient is not drinking enough, it is possible that he or she may become dehydrated. In children if you can match the following questions and answers, then serious dehydration is unlikely.
|If you pinch the skin on their tummy and let go, does it immediately spring back flat?||YES|
|Is you child’s mouth and tongue moist with saliva?||YES|
|Are your child’s eyes sunken?||NO|
|Is your baby’s soft spot on top of the head sunken in?||NO|
|Has your child passed urine in the last 12 hours?||YES|
BMI healthy weight calculator
Use the calculator to check your body mass index (BMI) and find out if you’re a healthy weight. Or you can use it to check your child’s BMI.
Website: BMI healthy weight calculator
Change for Life
Change4Life aims to ensure parents have the essential support and tools they need to make healthier choices for their families.
Is your baby sleeping safely?
Information is available online which will ensure your baby is sleeping safely, and help prevent sudden deaths. It has been produced by The Lullaby Trust, to bring parents the best advice on safe sleep for their baby.
Website: Safer Sleep Advice
Long Term Conditions
Please visit the NHS website for information and advice on long term conditions.
Website: Long Term Conditions
This is a list of basic medicines and first aid items in readiness for treating minor illnesses and injuries around the home. They need replacing at regular intervals:
- Paracetamol tablets for relief of pain or fever.
- Paracetamol mixture, e.g. Calpol or Disprol for children.
- Aspirin/Nurofen as per Paracetamol. These have an additional anti-inflammatory effect therefore help joint pains. Avoid if you suffer from indigestion. Aspirin should not be given to children under 12 years of age.
- Phenergan Elixir useful in children with illness, e.g. cough disturbing the sleep, allergies and itch (eg chickenpox).
- Antihistamine tablets – adults and children over 12 for hay fever, allergic reactions and bites.
- Thermometer to monitor any fever.
- Anti-septic solution – eg Savlon or Dettol.
- Selection of plasters, dressings and bandages.
- Calamine Lotion for sunburn, insect bites and stings.
Patient.info provides a comprehensive directory of evidence-based clinical information for patients to access and view.
The NHS Website
We’re here for you
Helping you take control of your health and wellbeing.
Website: The NHS Website
Sick Day Rules Leaflets for Diabetes
Please review the following leaflets, which outline sick day rules for each type of diabetes:
Useful External Links to help you stop smoking:
- No Smoking Day – may have gone but may have gone but whenever your quit day is, browse the links on this page for motivation, information and expert advice.
- Gosmokefree – This website contains detailed information about the free NHS support services.
- Smoking Cessation – NHS Direct Site – if you smoke, giving up is probably the greatest single step you can take to improve your health.
- Quit Org. – Quit is the independent charity whose aim is to save lives by helping smokers to stop.
- Smoking Quitters Cost Tool – Calculate the money you will save with NHS Choices quitters cost calculator and plan how to spend it.
- ASH – Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is a campaigning public health charity that works to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco.
Please find below a list of websites with information and resources for teenagers and teenage health:
- Contraception/Sexual Health/ Pregnancy
- Drugs/Alcohol/Smoking- Talk to Frank
- Find out the right weight for your height
- Knowing your Body
- Skin, Hair and Nails
- Chlamydia screening
- NHS Smoking How to quit
- Young Peoples Health
- Age UK
- Airline Safety
- Alcohol Concern
- Asthma UK
- British Heart Foundation
- Bourn Hall – infertility treatments
- Cervical Cancer and Human Papillomavirus
- Counsellors in Bedfordshire
- Curing Arthritis
- Diabetes UK
- Department of Health – Travel
- Different Strokes for the young survivors
- Dr Anns Virtual Surgery
- Easy Health
- Epilepsy Action: Information & Advice
- Family planning Organisation
- Find out what treatments really work
- Find your local Dentist
- Foreign & Commonwealth Office
- General Medical Council
- Health Protection Agency
- Helping people living with cancer
- Malaria Awareness for general public
- Mental Health Foundation
- MIND – The Mental Health Charity
- National Child Birth Trust
- National Institute for Clinical Excellence
- NHS Choices
- NHS Immunisations
- NHS Travel
- Northamptonshire Healthcare
- Organ donation
- Orthopeadic & Sports Injuries
- Patient UK
- Relate Counselling
- Stop Smoking – UK charity
- Stroke Association
- Travel – helping travellers look after their health
- Travel for backpackers & gap year students
- The Department of Health
- Get Well Friends
Useful Telephone Numbers
|Northampton General Hospital
Cliftonville Road, Northampton NN1 5BD
|Kettering General Hospital
Rothwell Road, Kettering NN16 8UZ
Irthlingborough Road, Wellingborough
|Midland Road, Wellingborough||03000 111222|
|Registrar of Births and Deaths Service Desk for all Northants|
|Council offices, Swanspool, Wellingborough NN8 4JQ||0300 126 1010|
|Health Related Organisations|
|Relate Marriage Guidance, 76 St Giles Street, Northampton, NN11 1JW||01604 634400|
|Samaritans, 2 St Michaels Avenue, Northamton||08457 909090|
|Samaritans, 111 Montagu Street, Kettering||01536 416999|
1 Orient Way, Wellingborough
|Age UK (Age Concern/Help the Aged)||01933 273426 (0800 009966)|
|CAN – Alcohol and drug counselling, 32/34 Derngate, Northampton, NN1 1LX||01604 622121|
|Alcoholics Anonymous||0845 7697555|
|Citizens Advice Bureau
2a High Street, Wellingborough
|Cruse Bereavement Centre, Willowbrook Health Centre, Cottingham Road, Corby, NN17 1TD||01536 400600|
|Cruse (for all Northants)||07772 428532|
|Welfare Rights Advisory Service, 6 Park Road, Wellingborough||01933 277500|
|Wellingborough Council, General Enquiries, Tithe Barn Road, Wellingborough, NN8 1BN||01933 229777|
|Housing/Council Tax/Benefits||01933 231692|
|Jobcentre Plus, Lothersdale House, West Villa Road, Wellingborough, NN8 4TA||0845 6094904|
|Redwell Leisure Centre, Barnwell Road, Wellingborough||01933 402045|
|Child & Family Guidance Services, 10 Headlands, Kettering||01536 313850|
|NHS Blood & Transplant||0300 1232323|
|Parent Line Plus||0808 800 2222|
|National Domestic Violence Helpline||0808 2000247|
|Victim Support Line||0845 3030900|
|Services for people with Sight & Hearing difficulties|
|Sensory Impairment Service, Oxford House, West Villa Road, Wellingborough||01933 220727|
|Disability Dial – UK||01302 310123|
|Local Office – Corby||01536 204742|
|Benefits for people with disabilities||0800 882200|
Winter Health Advice
Cold weather can make some health problems worse and even lead to serious complications, especially if you are 65 or older, or if you have a long-term health condition.