When will I feel better?

Taking Care of Common Ailments

Here is a helpful guide on how to take care of yourself, how long you can expect common symptoms to last,  and the warning signs to look out for which mean you may need to seek medical help. Treat yourself better. Visit www.nhs.uk/staywell for more information.

Did you know? Antibiotics are not an effective treatment for common ailments such as a cough, cold, sore throat, flu or nasal congestion.

These symptoms are caused by viruses and antibiotics only work against bacteria.

If you take antibiotics unnecessarily then they may not work when you need them to treat a bacterial infection.

Why not save yourself a trip to your GP and
pop into your local pharmacy first for
expert advice?

Fed up of having a runny nose?

Sick of sneezing?

Tired of having a sore throat?

Over the counter medicines are available to help relieve your symptoms. Speak to your pharmacist who can help you choose the medicine that will work best for you, advise you on whether you need to see a doctor and provide guidance on self-care and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

I’ve got a COUGH, when will I feel better?

You can expect symptoms to last for up to 3 weeks.

What can I do to treat myself better?            

  • You may be able to cough less often by trying not to. Our desire to cough can sometimes be influenced by our brain.
  • Try simple home remedies such as honey and lemon – just add freshly squeezed juice from one lemon and a teaspoon of honey to a mug of hot water.
  • Drink at least 6 to 9 glasses of water in a day and suck lozenges.
  • Smoking is one of the most common reasons for a chronic cough. Stopping smoking, or at least smoking less not only improves your cough, but also benefits your health in many other ways (reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and lung cancer, for example)
  • Get some rest until you feel better – we usually know when we’re well enough to return to normal activities 
  • Eat healthily, including at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day 
  • Drink plenty of fluids to replace those lost from sweating and a runny nose.

So what do I need to look out for?

  • You cough up blood for no obvious reason.
  • Your cough is not getting better within three to four weeks
  • In addition to your cough, you have chest and/or shoulder pain.
  • You also find it difficult to breathe
  • You’re losing weight for no apparent reason over a period of six weeks or more
  • Your voice becomes hoarse for longer than three weeks, and the hoarseness persists after the cough has settled
  • You notice new swellings anywhere in the neck or above your collarbones
  • Your symptoms started after you’ve choked on something

I’ve got a COLD, when will I feel better?

You can expect symptoms to last for around 1½ weeks.

What can I do to treat myself better?

  • Get some rest until you feel better – we usually know when we’re well enough to return to normal activities
  • Eat healthily, including at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day
  • Drink plenty of fluids to replace those lost from sweating and a runny nose

So what do I need to look out for?

  • You develop a high temperature (above 39°C), which can be a sign of a more serious type of infection
  • You’re feeling confused or disorientated
  • You notice a sharp pain in your chest
  • You cough up blood-stained phlegm (thick mucus)
  • You find it difficult to breathe
  • You notice a marked swelling of the glands in your neck and/or armpits
  • Your symptoms last longer than three weeks

I’ve got a SORE THROAT, when will I feel better?

You can expect symptoms to last for around 1 week

What can I do to treat myself better?

  • You can relieve symptoms by eating cool, soft food, as well as sucking lozenges, ice cubes, ice lollies or hard sweets.
  • Gargling with warm, salty water may also help reduce swelling and pain
  • Avoid smoking and smoky environments as much as you can
  • Drink at least 6 to 9 glasses of fluid (preferably water) every day particularly if you also have a fever

So what do I need to look out for?

  • Your symptoms are no better after two weeks
  • You have frequent sore throats that do not respond to painkillers
  • You have a persistent high temperature over 38°C for more than three days that does not come down even if you take ibuprofen and/or paracetamol
  • A sore throat that doesn’t get better within 10 to 14 days or that gets worse rather than better may suggest glandular fever
  • You find it hard to breathe in, and your throat feels like it’s closing up
  • You’re drooling and find it difficult to swallow – this is an emergency
  • Your pain is severe and does not respond to over the counter painkillers
  • Your voice becomes muffled
  • You find it difficult to drink enough fluids and become dehydrated
  • Your symptoms are so bad that they severely affect your quality of life and prevent you from functioning normally
  • If you suffer from a sore throat and have a deficient immune system  because, for example, you have HIV/AIDS or you take certain medication (such as chemotherapy, highdose steroids disease- modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, or a drug called carbimazole)

I’ve got NASAL CONGESTION, when will I feel better?

You can expect symptoms to last for around 2½ weeks

What can I do to treat myself better?

  • Rest: Get some rest until you feel better
  • Face pack: Applying a warm face pack may help
  • Saline solution: Wash out the nose with a steady stream of saline solution (available from your pharmacy)
  • Fluids: Drink plenty of fluids to replace those lost from sweating and a runny nose
  • Food: Eat healthily, including at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day

So what do I need to look out for?

  • High fever: You develop a high temperature (above 39°C), which can be a sign of a more serious type of infection
  • Confused: You’re confused or disorientated
  • Other medical conditions: You’re at high risk of complications because you suffer other medical conditions
  • Facial pain: You suffer severe pain or discomfort in your face
  • Green/yellow fluid: Your nose produces lots of thick green/yellow fluid