Tell me what I should do when I experience these symptoms?
Help and advice on some of the most common symptoms below:
I have a headache
Most headaches go away on their own and are not a sign of something more serious. Headaches can last between 30 minutes and several hours.
How you can treat headaches yourself:
- Drink plenty of water
- Get plenty of rest if you have a cold or the flu
- Try to relax – stress can make headaches worse
- Try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people if you have a high temperature or you do not feel well enough to do your normal activities.
For more information visit: Headaches – NHS (www.nhs.uk).
I have a sore throat
Sore throats are very common and usually nothing to worry about. They normally get better by themselves within a week.
How you can treat a sore throat yourself:
- Gargle with warm, salty water (children should not try this)
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat cool or soft foods
- Avoid smoking or smoky places
- Suck ice cubes, ice lollies or hard sweets – but do not give young children anything small and hard to suck because of the risk of choking
More information at: Sore throat – NHS (www.nhs.uk).
I have earache
Earache and ear pain is common, particularly in young children. It can be painful, but is not usually a sign of anything serious.
How long do earache lasts? It depends on what’s causing it. Most earaches in children are caused by an ear infection, which usually start to improve after a few days.
Spotting earache in babies and young children. A young child might have earache if they:
- Rub or pull their ear
- Do not react to some sounds
- Have a temperature of 38C or above
- Are irritable or restless
- Are off their food
- Keep losing their balance
Earache and ear pain can affect one or both ears.
How to treat earache yourself:
- Use painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (children under 16 should not take aspirin)
- Place a warm or cold flannel on the ear
More information at: Earache – NHS (www.nhs.uk).
I have toothache
See a dentist if you have toothache that:
- Lasts more than 2 days
- Does not go away when you take painkillers
- Comes with a high temperature, pain when you bite, red gums, or a bad taste in your mouth
- If your cheek or jaw is swollen
Do not go to your GP as they will not be able to give you dental treatment.
How to ease toothache while waiting for an appointment:
- Take painkillers, like ibuprofen or paracetamol (children under 16 should not take aspirin) – a pharmacist can advise you
- Try rinsing your mouth with salt water (children should not try this)
- Use a pain-relieving gel for your mouth – this can be bought from pharmacies or supermarkets
- Eat soft foods, like yoghurt or scrambled eggs, and try to avoid chewing with the sore tooth
For more information visit: Toothache – NHS (www.nhs.uk).
I feel nauseous
Feeling sick (nausea) is common and usually goes away on its own. There are some things you can try that might help.
Things that may help you stop feeling sick:
- Get plenty of fresh air
- Distract yourself – for example, listen to music or watch a film
- Take regular sips of a cold drink
- Drink ginger or peppermint tea
- Eat foods containing ginger – such as ginger biscuits
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals
For more information on nausea please visit: Feeling sick (nausea) – NHS (www.nhs.uk).
I am vomiting and have diarrhoea
Diarrhoea and vomiting are common in adults, children and babies. They’re often caused by a stomach bug and should stop in a few days.
The advice is the same if you have diarrhoea and vomiting together or separately. You can usually treat yourself or your child at home. The most important thing is to have lots of fluids to avoid dehydration.
How to treat diarrhoea and vomiting yourself:
- Stay at home and get plenty of rest
- Drink lots of fluids, such as water or squash – take small sips if you feel sick
- Carry on breast or bottle feeding your baby – if they’re being sick, try giving small feeds more often than usual
- Give babies on formula or solid foods small sips of water between feeds
- Eat when you feel able to – you do not need to eat or avoid any specific foods
- Take paracetamol if you’re in discomfort – check the leaflet before giving it to your child
For more information, visit: Diarrhoea and vomiting – NHS (www.nhs.uk).
I have a bad cold / flu
Flu will often get better on its own, but it can make some people seriously ill. It’s important to get the flu vaccine if you’re advised to.
Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include:
- A sudden high temperature
- An aching body
- Feeling tired or exhausted
- A dry cough
- A sore throat
- A headache
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Diarrhoea or tummy pain
- Feeling sick and being sick
The symptoms are similar for children, but they can also get pain in their ear and appear less active.
If you have flu, there are some things you can do to help get better more quickly.
- Rest and sleep
- Keep warm
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (your pee should be light yellow or clear)
A pharmacist can give treatment advice and recommend flu remedies find your nearest pharmacy here: Find a pharmacy – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
Do not take paracetamol and flu remedies that contain paracetamol at the same time as it’s easy to take more than the recommended dose.
For more information, visit: Flu – NHS (www.nhs.uk).
I think I have broken a bone
Broken bones can happen after an accident like a fall, or by being hit by something.
The 3 most common signs of a broken bone (also known as a fracture) are:
More signs that a bone may be broken can be found at: How do I know if I have broken a bone? – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
Get medical help as soon as possible if you think you’ve broken a bone. If you think you may have broken your toe or finger, you can go to a minor injury unit or urgent care centre.
Go to your nearest A&E for a broken arm or leg. Call 999 for an ambulance if the injury to the leg seems severe or you’re not able to get to A&E quickly.
Always call 999 for very severe suspected breaks, such as a broken hip, neck or back. If you’re not sure what to do, call 111 or get help from 111 online.
Respiratory Tract Infections
Respiratory tract infections (RTIs) are infections of parts of the body involved in breathing, such as the sinuses, throat, airways or lungs. Most RTIs get better without treatment, but sometimes you may need to see a GP.
Symptoms of an RTI include:
- A cough – you may bring up mucus (phlegm)
- A stuffy or runny nose
- Muscle aches
- Breathlessness, tight chest or wheezing
- A high temperature
- Feeling generally unwell
Most RTIs pass within 1 to 2 weeks. You can usually treat your symptoms at home.
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink lots of water to loosen any mucus and make it easier to cough up
- Drink a hot lemon and honey drink to help soothe a cough (not suitable for babies under 1 year old)
- Gargle with warm salty water if you have a sore throat (children should not try this)
- Raise your head up while sleeping using extra pillows to make breathing easier and clear your chest of mucus
- Use painkillers to bring down a fever and help ease a sore throat, headaches and muscle pain
For more information, visit: Respiratory tract infections (RTIs) – NHS (www.nhs.uk).
I’ve bumped my head and I’m worried
Most head injuries are not serious, but you should get medical help if you or your child have any symptoms after a head injury. Find out when and where to get help.
A-Z Health Guide
Visit the NHS A to Z Health Guide – Your complete guide to conditions, symptoms and treatments, including what to do and when to get help. Health A to Z – NHS (www.nhs.uk)