Winter bug? Treat yourself better!

At this time of year, GP surgeries get very busy dealing with common winter ailments and it isn’t always possible for them to see people as quickly as they would like. Winter bugs such as colds, flu and tummy upsets take their toll and GPs across the country have reported a 40% increase in visits in recent weeks.

However, most people do not need to see a GP for winter ailments. You can treat a lot of these relatively mild illnesses at home and save yourself a trip to the doctor’s.

If you are living with a long term health condition, it's really important you visit a pharmacist for advice if you feel a winter illness - such as a cold or flu - coming on so you can prevent it becoming more serious.

Coughs, colds, headaches and other common illnesses as well as injuries such as sprains or strains can leave you feeling unwell and struggling to carry on as normal. Be prepared by keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet at home.

Remember, antibiotics are not an effective treatment for winter symptoms such as a cough, cold, sore throat, flu or nasal congestion. These symptoms are caused by viruses and antibiotics only work against bacteria. If you take antibiotics unnecessarily then they may not work when you need them to treat a bacterial infection.

“Self-care is the best choice for most people to treat minor illnesses and injuries,” explained local GP Dr Thomas Maliyil. “For the vast majority of people, a large range of common illnesses and injuries can be treated at home simply with over-the-counter medicines and plenty of rest. You’ll often feel better not having to go out in the cold to the surgery.

“In the case of common winter stomach bugs, it’s definitely best to stay at home and not visit your doctor’s and risk passing it on to other people. If you’re not sure, you can always ring for advice.”

GPs recommend you keep the following in your medicine cabinet (securely away from children, of course):

  • Painkillers, such as paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen
    • aspirin mustn't be given to children under 16
    • ibuprofen must be taken with caution if you have certain conditions, such as asthma – check with your pharmacist if in doubt  
    • pregnant women shouldn't take ibuprofen – visit the bumps website to find out more about taking medicines when you're pregnant  
  • Oral rehydration salts and anti-diarrhoea medicines
  • Indigestion treatment
  • Antihistamines for allergies
  • Antiseptic cream for bites and stings
  • A first aid kit with plasters and bandages to manage cuts and sprains


You can find more information on stocking a medicine cabinet by visiting:

You can also get advice from your local pharmacist about many common health issues and there's no need to make an appointment. The pharmacist will advise on over the counter medicines and also tell you if you need to visit your GP.

Remember, if you don’t pay for your prescriptions then you can still obtain a wide range of over the counter medicines free of charge from your pharmacy. You can find out more by visiting

If you visit you will find a useful guide on how long you can expect symptoms of common ailments to last, what you can do to get better and the warning signs to look out for which mean you may need to see a doctor or other health professional.

If you need urgent health advice and your doctor’s or local pharmacy is closed, you can ring SPA on 01472 256256 any time, seven days a week.

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