Taking Care of Winter Chills and Snuffles

This page looks at helping the common cold, sore throat and snuffles, so if you need to find out more about Covid-19 symptoms, testing and self-isolation, find it here...

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Common cold

Symptoms, which can come on gradually, include:

  • Blocked or runny nose.
  • Sore throat.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Sneezing.
  • Raised temperature (Above 38 degrees).
  • Pressure in your ears and face.
  • Loss of taste and smell.

What do doctors, nurses and pharmacists advise us to do for a cough, cold or sore throat?

Common Cold

Taking control of your recovery

Sometimes, we all get a monster cough and cold, which makes us think we need urgent medical attention! But generally, we can treat even the worst ones ourselves. Remember, antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections, and colds are caused by viruses.


GPs, nurses and pharmacists advise the following if we want to help ourselves to recover…

  • Rest and get sleep.
  • Keep warm
  • Drink plenty of water or fruit juice or diluted drinks to avoid dehydration.
  • Hot honey and lemon drinks ease coughs and sore throats.
  • Buy medicated throat lozenges.
  • Relieve a blocked nose with decongestant sprays or tablets. (Decongestants should not be given to children under 6. Children aged 6 to 12 should take them for no longer than 5 days.)
  • Find a pharmacy
  • Gargle salt water to soothe a sore throat, (children shouldn’t do this).
  • Take paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce temperature and aches and pains, (use medicines that are for children).
  • Ease aches or lower a temperature with painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen.
  • GPs do not recommend antibiotics for colds because they will not relieve your symptoms or speed up your recovery. Better to have a chat with a pharmacist for more immediate and frontline advice and access to appropriate medicines.

Word of caution

  • Always read the instructions and if unsure speak to your pharmacist in the first instance.
  • Be mindful about using cough and cold medicines if you’re taking paracetamol and ibuprofen tablets because the medicines often also contain paracetamol or ibuprofen – you might be doubling up and taking more than the recommended dose.
  • Some medicines are not suitable for children, babies and pregnant women, so check the packaging or ask a pharmacist before taking anything.
  • It’s up to you, but there’s little evidence to prove that supplements such as vitamin C, echinacea or garlic, prevent colds or speed up recovery.

Have you got the right medicines at home?

They might be stored in an old biscuit tin or a specially bought First Aid Kit but like all things in life, it’s content that really matters!

But in doing so, you can look after yourself – and your family – at home if you come down with everyday ailments like coughs, colds, aches and pains or tummy troubles.

Must-have essentials

  • Painkillers such as paracetamol (or infant paracetamol for children), aspirin (not to be given to children under 16), or ibuprofen (not for pregnant women).
  • Thermometer (preferably digital).
  • Antihistamine tablets.
  • Antiseptic cream or tablets.
  • Skin rash cream, such as hydrocortisone or calendula.
  • Cream or spray to relieve insect bites and stings.
  • Oral rehydration salts (sachets) for diarrhoea.
  • Indigestion treatment (treating stomach ache too) such as antacid pills.

Always remember to…

Read the directions on packets and information leaflets, and follow the instructions. Never take more than the stated dose.

Keep medicines out of sight and reach of children.

Never use a medicine that’s past its expiry date. Take it to a pharmacy where it can be disposed of safely.

The only reasons you’d contact your GP practice if you have a common cold is when…

  • Symptoms are prolonged for over a week and you feel concerned.
  • Symptoms get suddenly worse.
  • Your temperature is raised above 38 and not reduced by medication.
  • You feel hot and shivery.
  • You’re concerned about your child’s symptoms.
  • You’re feeling short of breath or develop chest pain.
  • You have a long-term medical condition such as diabetes, or a heart, lung or kidney condition.
  • You have a weakened immune system. For example, when you’re having chemotherapy, or taking immunosuppressant medication e.g steroids.

It’s not a cake so don’t share it!

Colds are easily spread by germs in water droplets from coughs and sneezes, which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours – that’s one long opportunity to pick up the germs.

Reduce the risk of spreading a cold by…

  • Washing your hands often with warm water and soap (and remember to dry them properly).
  • Using tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze.
  • Disposing of used tissues as quickly as possible.

Stay away from colds so you don’t catch one

Once you know someone has the symptoms of a cold, try doing the below to avoid catching it – and do this until they no longer show any symptoms.

  • Don’t share towels or household items (like cups) with someone who has a cold.
  • Don’t touch your eyes or nose in case you have come into contact with the virus – it can infect the body this way.
  • Stay fit and healthy.