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Prevention is Cheaper than Cure – Winter Bugs

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Stop Those Winter Bugs! We can’t avoid them all, but simple remedies can relieve the misery.

Most winter bugs are viral, so antibiotics won’t touch them, but knowing how/when to self treat will make us feel better more quickly. Check with a pharmacist first if you take prescribed medication or have medical problems heart, lung, kidney disease, indigestion, diabetes or raised blood pressure.

Adults get two or three colds a year there are around 200 different cold viruses! You’ll get a runny/blocked nose, watery/green mucus, a sore throat, headache, and/or slight cough; you may get a tingling, blistering cold sore too. Congestion can spread to your sinuses (air spaces behind the nose) producing facial pain, or along your Eustachian tubes to your ears.

Painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen will soothe pain. They’re often combined with decongestants and/or caffeine in ‘cold remedies’. Saline or decongestant nasal sprays can help too; drink extra fluids to stay well hydrated. Vapour rubs can aid sleep and steam inhalations can help clear your head. If congestion lasts more than three weeks, see your GP.

Sore throat/laryngitis

A sore throat without a cold/cough may be viral or bacterial; your throat/tonsils may look red, swollen or covered in white spots/pus. You may also have a headache, fever, swollen neck glands, bad breath, a coated tongue, a skin rash or hoarseness. Try paracetamol/ibuprofen, throat lozenges/sprays and warm drinks; whispering and steam inhaling will help your voice. See your GP if you’re struggling to swallow, or symptoms last more than a few days; you may need antibiotics or a blood test for glandular fever.


Blocked Eustachian tubes produce pressure and muffled hearing. They may be relieved by blowing with your mouth closed while holding your nose. Middle ear infections cause increased throbbing pain. See your GP if this lasts more than 48 hours (you may need antibiotics), or you develop a discharge, dizziness/vomiting, or facial numbness.


This is common in colds and flu and may be dry/irritating, or produce clear/yellow/green phlegm. Cough linctus, vapour rubs, extra fluids and steam inhaling can all soothe. If you’ve asthma or chronic obstructive Pulmonary disease you may need to increase your inhalers. Coughs can linger for weeks, but see your GP if it’s more than three weeks, or urgently if you’re breathless, cough up blood or have chest pain.


Chills, muscle/joint aching, headache and a sore throat will drive you to rest in bed. Treat as for a cold, but you may feel exhausted for a couple of weeks. If you’re in an at risk group or have worrying symptoms call for advice.

When to Worry over Winter Bugs

The early stages of serious conditions, such as sepsis, meningitis or malaria, can mimic winter bugs, which can also turn nasty if you have ongoing medical or immune problems. Seek urgent medical advice if you’re very unwell with a very high/low temperature, rapid pulse, rapid/laboured breathing, severe limb pains, sickness, faintness, severe headache and/or dizziness, or if you’re pale, clammy, seem confused, or have a stiff neck, sensitivity to light and/or a rash that doesn’t disappear when pressed with a glass.

5 Ways to Reduce Infection

1. Avoid socialising in crowded, poorly ventilated rooms.

2. Try nasal gels designed to stop germs entering your nose.

3. Bugs lurk in droplets on surfaces (door handles and towels). Wash hands regularly, or use sanitiser gel.

4. Cough/sneeze into a tissue to ‘catch it, bin it and kill it’.

5. Get immunised against flu and/or pneumonia if you’re pregnant, over 65, or have/care for someone with heart, lung, stroke or kidney disease, diabetes or reduced immunity.

E261 –  Prevention is Cheaper than Cure – Winter Bugs –

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