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Your local pharmacy is the best first point of call for the vast majority of winter ailments.

Common cold

If you get cold symptoms, contact your pharmacy first instead of picking up the phone to dial your GP.

You can ease aches or lower a temperature with painkillers and relieve a blocked nose with decongestant sprays or tablets.

GPs do not recommend antibiotics for colds because they will not relieve your symptoms or speed up your recovery. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections, and colds are caused by viruses.

Tummy trouble

Stomach bugs also like to do the rounds in autumn and winter and are pretty unpleasant to experience.

Norovirus, also often referred to as the ‘winter vomiting bug’, causes sickness and diarrhoea, and can usually be treated at home. The most important thing is to rest and have lots of fluids to avoid dehydration.

You’ll usually feel better in a matter of days.

Flu jab

Many pharmacies provide flu vaccinations – both privately and as an NHS service.

Flu vaccination is available every year on the NHS to help protect those at risk from flu and its complications.

Flu can be unpleasant, but if you’re otherwise healthy, it’ll usually clear up on its own in about a week.

But flu can be more severe in certain people, such as:

✚ older people

✚ pregnant women

children and adults with an underlying health condition (such as long-term heart or respiratory disease)

children and adults with weakened immune systems

Anyone in these risk groups is more likely to develop potentially serious complications of flu, such as pneumonia (a lung infection), so it’s recommended that they have a flu vaccine every year to help protect them.

It’s good to talk

It’s well worth thinking how a pharmacist can support your mental health during the winter months too.

Many people suffer from SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – throughout autumn/winter, a type of depression that’s more severe in the winter.

Your pharmacy can offer advice and suggestions such as a light therapy lamp to help boost your mood. They will also have dedicated support websites and telephone numbers to hand should you be suffering with any other form of mental illness.

Skin complaints

Winter also sees skin complaints on the rise, with psoriasis and eczema often worse in the colder months for both adults and children alike. Emollients, soap substitutes for washing and mild topical creams to soothe are all available over the counter, so always head to your pharmacy first to see if they can help alleviate the problem.

About 95% of people in the UK live within walking distance of a community pharmacy. Source: NHS England

Could it be COVID-19?

If you have a high temperature a new continuous cough, or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste, it could be Covid-19.

It’s vital you DO NOT attend your pharmacy if you or your family have any symptoms associated with COVID-19.