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Self-Management of Common Illnesses

There are many things that you can do to help you, and your family, stay healthy, including:


·  Avoid smoking and being around smokers

· Eat 5+ portions of fruit and vegetables every day

·     Exercise for at least 30 minutes 5 times a week

·  Try and find time to relax

· Have 8 hours sleep a night

·     Drink 5+ glasses of water a day and drink alcohol in moderation

Every £1 out of £5 of NHS money is spent treating lifestyle choices such as alcohol, weight and smoking etc.  You can help ensure the sustainability of the NHS by adopting a healthy lifestyle and choosing an appropriate NHS service when you need it.


You can get information and advice from our website where there is a symptom checker or, or you can ring NHS 111 to speak to an expert.  There is a quick and helpful guide for parents at


Keeping a well stocked medicine cabinet at home can help you treat many minor ailments. Colds, coughs, indigestion and many other minor complaints can all be treated with medicines that are available over the counter.


Your pharmacist can advise on what you might find useful to keep in your medicine cabinet. Always follow the instructions on the medicine label and consult your doctor if the illness continues or becomes more severe.


Use the symptom checker on to check you are accessing the right service at the right time and obtain useful advice to help you manage your own health:


The following outline some common illnesses and what to do:

Diarrhoea and Vomiting

There is no specific cure for diarrhoea and vomiting; the infection usually settles on its own within three to four days. Sufferers should drink plenty of fluids to replace that lost in the diarrhoea. Oral rehydration sachets (available from your chemist) are useful for babies and children. Made up with water, they can replace milk and help replace lost minerals. It is wise to avoid milk or dairy products and foods containing protein (e.g. meat, cheese and eggs). You should consult your doctor if the symptoms are severe, or persist, or if the diarrhoea contains blood.

Sore Throats

Sore throats are very common and are usually caused by a virus. Unfortunately, there is no treatment guaranteed to shorten the duration of these infections; simple remedies to relieve the pain are best. If the patient can gargle, regular gargles of soluble aspirin should help. Children should be given regular paracetamol (never give aspirin to children under the age of 12). Temperature, headaches and general aches and pains may also occur with sore throats. Most sore throats will settle within a week. Sometimes they will occur as part of a cold.

 Coughs, Colds and Flu

Coughs, runny nose, temperature, general aches and pains, loss of appetite, headaches and sore throats can all occur in colds and flu. There is still no cure for the common cold and simple remedies are the best. Regular paracetamol, drinking plenty of fluids and resting will make you feel better while the virus passes through your system. Most colds will settle within seven to ten days. Antibiotics will make no difference.

 High Temperature (Fever)

Every household should have a thermometer for use when family members are feverish. The normal body temperature is 37°C (98.4°F). A high temperature is a sign of infection and is usually accompanied by other symptoms; most are caused by colds. Regardless of the cause of a temperature, patients will always feel better if their temperature is lowered. This can be done with paracetamol (aspirin can be used for children over 12 years old). 

Babies and Children

It is normal for babies and children to have a lot of infections. Each infection stores up immunity for later life. Sometimes they will just get over one infection only to get another one straight away. This is quite common. Children will feel much better (and sleep better) if their temperature is lowered. Undressing and tepid sponging may also be required to cool the baby or child. If you have children you should always keep paracetamol available (in a safe place).


Sit in a chair (leaning forward with your mouth open) and pinch your nose just below the bone for about 10 minutes by which time the bleeding will usually have stopped. If the bleeding continues, consult your doctor.


On the first day a rash appears with small red spots about 3 - 4mm wide. Within a few hours these develop small blisters at the centre. During the next three or four days, further spots will appear and the earlier ones will turn crusty and fall off. Calamine lotion may be applied to help the itching. The most infectious period is two or three days before the rash appears until the last crusts have formed dry centres, usually seven to ten days after the rash started. Children may return to school as soon as the last crusts have dropped off.


Prevention is better than cure. High factor sun cream should be used. Treat as for other burns with cold water to remove the heat. Calamine lotion will relieve the irritation whilst paracetamol will also help. Children are particularly susceptible to sunburn and great care should be taken to avoid overexposure to the harmful effects of the sun. Wear a hat with a brim and stay in the shade where possible.

Back Pain

Based upon research from musculoskeletal (MSK) specialists, evidence has found that self-management of low back pain is more effective than any other treatment.  Most back pain is mechanical and not due to any serious disease.  You will usually find that you feel better when walking and worse when you remain in one position for prolonged periods.  Most people can get going quite quickly even though they still have some pain. 

For this reason bed rest is bad for backs; anxiety and stress can also increase the amount of pain you feel.  Heat or cold can help relax your back muscles in the first 48 hours.  You can apply heat using a wheat bag warmed in the microwave or a hot water bottle with a cover on it.  To apply cold pressure you can use an ice pack, or other cold compress.  Ice should never be applied directly to skin and should always be wrapped in a tea-towel or equivalent.


People who cope best with back pain are those who stay active and get on with life despite the pain.  The sooner you get going and look after your own back the less likely you are to develop chronic back pain.  There is no quick fix for back pain, you will have good days and bad days—this is normal.


For more guidance on other managing aches, pains and sprains click here.

West Wakefield Health and Wellbeing Directory

You can find out about a wide range of local services from our directory by clicking on the link below:


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