Managing and preventing minor illnesses

There is a lot of information about how to manage minor illnesses and accidents on the internet and it can be tricky knowing which advice to follow.

If you or your parents/carers are worried about whether you should go to school, The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has lots of useful information on common infectious diseases including the length of time before a child can return to school after an infectious illness here and here.

There is a lot of information about how to manage minor illnesses and accidents on the internet and it can be tricky knowing which advice to follow, which course of action to take and when an appointment with the GP or going to the Emergency Department is necessary.

School Nurses are a trusted source of support and can provide help and advice to young people and/or their parent/carers on a range of common minor illnesses, such as fever, cough and colds and vomiting.

If you ever need non-emergency medical and health advice, you can also call NHS 111.

Minor illnesses

There are many common illnesses that can be dealt with yourself (self care), with advice from your pharmacist. Here are just some of the things your pharmacy can help with:

  • mild skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, impetigo, athlete’s foot
  • coughs and colds, including blocked nose (nasal congestion), and sore throats
  • bruises, sunburn, and minor burns and scalds
  • constipation and piles (haemorrhoids)
  • hay fever, dry eyes and allergies (including rashes, bites and stings)
  • aches and pains, including earache, headache, migraine, back pain and toothache
  • vomiting, heartburn, indigestion, diarrhoea and threadworms
  • period pain, thrush and cystitis
  • head lice (nits)
  • conjunctivitis, cold sores and mouth ulcers
  • warts and verrucas

Self Care Aware

Being more ‘Self Care Aware’ will help reduce the number of people seeking GP appointments or attending the Emergency Department. This will free up appointments for when people really need medical care.

Coughs & colds

Caused by viruses, colds can’t be cured by antibiotics. But  you can help relieve the symptoms and support your body as it fights the virus. Sore throats can be caused by both viruses and bacteria but are not usually serious. Dry coughs are caused by inflammation in the throat while chesty coughs are the result of phlegm being produced by the lungs. Mucus cough occurs when the phlegm is extra thick and needs thinning before the coughing action can work properly.


Our skin is amazing. It insulates us, protects us from germs and bacteria, regulates temperature and water loss and constantly renews itself. But it will suffer if the weather is too sunny, too wet, too cold or too dry. And unless it’s clean and healthy it is more prone to infection and damage from cuts, bruises and grazes. Skin needs protecting from the sun and to be hydrated, you will find all you need at your pharmacy

Hayfever & allergies

Airborne allergens from pets, dust and pollen enter the nose, causing the body to release histamine and triggering headaches, runny eyes, constant sneezing and an itchy nose. Antihistamines from the pharmacy work by blocking that histamine, consult with the pharmacist before use as they can often have side effects.

Digestive health

Heartburn, indigestion, constipation and diarrhoea are very common problems which can be very uncomfortable, and in some cases upsetting. All four conditions are caused by a range of factors and are often lifestyle related. In most cases, over the counter preparations can control symptoms and balance can be regained within a few days.

Female health

Thrush is a fungal infection and cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder, which are both very common conditions that most women will experience at some point in their lives.  Fortunately, the symptoms associated with these conditions can usually be relieved by products that do not need a prescription.

Pain relief

Many everyday pains are temporary and can be managed without the need to see your doctor. Everyday pains usually only last till the stimulus is removed or the underlying damage is healed. Some pains are best treated with a tablet or oral liquid and others with a cream, oil or gel, your pharmacist will give you individual advice.

Managing headaches and migraines

Most headaches will go away on their own and aren’t a sign of something more serious. 70% of young people experience a headache at least once a year. Young people’s headaches may be different to adult’s headache.

For more information and advice when medical help is needed click here.

Migraine is not just a headache and we know that it can have a huge impact on your life. For more information of where you can get support help and resources:-

  • Feeling sick or vomiting,
  • Being extra sensitive to light or sound
  • Tummy pain
  • “Aura”-visual disturbances, confusion, numbness and/or pins and needles.

Migraine can be easily be overlooked so you should seek help from your GP if you have any of these symptoms.

Migraine triggers

It is often not just one thing that triggers a migraine attack. If potential causes can be identified, it may be possible to reduce the number of attacks by making changes to your lifestyle and diet.

Common triggers to migraine can include:

  • Dehydration – not drinking enough water
  • Stress and anxiety including exams
  • Certain foods including chocolate, cheese, citrus fruit
  • Puberty & hormonal changes
  • Not eating regularly
  • Changes in sleep pattern
  • Too much TV/video games
  • Not enough fresh air
  • Change in weather
  • Flickering lights or reflections in water
  • Exercise without food

Watch the film to find out more about managing your migraine:

Warning signs

These warning signs may tell you something is wrong and that you should contact the GP soon.

  • Losing weight by seven pounds (three kilograms) or more without obvious reason
  • Feeling thirsty without obvious reason
  • Feeling very tired or exhausted without good reason
  • Losing blood when coughing or vomiting or going to the toilet
  • A change in a mole (changing colour, getting bigger or thicker, itching or bleeding)
  • A change in the voice (getting husky or hoarse and continuing that way for more than three weeks)
  • Indigestion or belching acid, lasting more than a month (especially in the over-45s)
  • A change in a breast or nipple.

Danger signs

In children and young people, these warning signs mean you should get medical advice immediately.

  • Violet-coloured spots that don’t fade when pressed
  • Breathing difficulties gulping, gasping, wheezing and being unable to speak or drink
  • The person seems to be in pain when breathing in
  • The person is weak, drowsy or confused and doesn’t react to you or its surroundings
  • The person is vomiting a lot and seems ill
  • The person cannot sit up or bend the head forward.

Managing and preventing accidents

If someone is injured you should:

  • first check that you and the casualty aren’t in any danger, and, if possible, make the situation safe
  • if necessary, dial 999 or 112 for an ambulance when it’s safe to do so
  • carry out basic First Aid

For more information on how to carry out First Aid visit:

If you are unsure how to call the emergency services this short film will help you:

Meet Esmae, who’s here to remind everyone how – and when – to call 999.