Minor Illnesses. Home Remedies For Common Conditions.

Some symptoms can be treated at home or with advice from your local pharmacy:

Colds and coughs

These are most likely caused by viruses and do not respond to antibiotics. Given time your body’s own immune system will fight the infection. This can take several weeks.

  • Drink plenty of fluids and try to rest.
  • There is limited evidence that cough mixtures help and in children under 2 years old they may be harmful.
  • Paracetamol and honey & lemon in hot water may help.
  • You need to see a doctor if: you are very breathless, you cough up blood, you have been coughing more than three weeks, or your cough is progressively getting worse.

Back Pain

This a common symptom and is normally self limiting. Most cases of back pain do not need any x-rays or scans.

  • Take paracetamol and an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen.
  • Use heat such as a hot water bottle.
  • It is important to try and keep active as long periods of being immobile may worsen pain.
  • You need to see a doctor if: you have very severe pain, the pain is no better after three weeks, or if you develop problems with passing urine or opening your bowels.

The arthritis and research campaign website have exercises on back pain.

Diarrhoea and vomiting

Most cases are caused by viruses and will settle without any antibiotics

  • It is important to drink plenty of fluids as you risk becoming dehydrated.
  • Your local pharmacy can give you rehydration powders to help avoid dehydration.
  • Avoid dairy products and fruit juices as these may make diarrhoea worse.
  • Try a light diet such as biscuits, crackers, toast, pasta -you are infectious whilst you have the diarrhoea and vomiting, ensure you maintain good hygiene such as washing your hands.
  • See your doctor if you are dehydrated (signs of this include reduced urine output, dry lips, drowsiness), if you pass blood in the diarrhoea, if you have been abroad recently, if diarrhoea lasts longer than two weeks or if it is particularly severe.


There are different types of headaches. The vast majority of these are benign and will settle with time.

  • Take paracetamol or an anti-inflammatory tablet such as ibuprofen.
  • Drink plenty of fluids but avoid caffeine-based drinks.
  • If the headache is associated with nausea, vomiting or difficulty tolerating bright lights it may be a migraine.
  • Your local pharmacist can give you some tablets which work specifically for migraines.
  • Arrange an eye check with the optician as headaches can sometimes be secondary to eye strain.
  • Symptoms which suggest a more serious cause for the headache include: fever, rash, neck stiffness, black-outs, weakness in the face or a limb.