Earwax is a normal build-up of dead cells, hair, foreign material such as dust, and natural wax which forms a protective coating on the skin in the ear canal. The quantity of earwax produced varies greatly from person to person.
A doctor or nurse can look into the ear canal and confirm a plug of earwax has formed, though this isn’t always necessary. A plug of earwax is not a serious problem, more a nuisance. You only need to remove earwax if it is causing symptoms such as dulled hearing or when fitting a hearing aid.
Do not put anything in your ear if you have pain or if you are aware that you have a perforation (hole in the ear drum)- see your nurse/GP.
Do not try to remove wax using a cotton bud or any other small item – this only stimulates the wax secreting glands – to make more wax – and gives a serious risk of infection and perforation! Nothing smaller than your elbow should go into your ear!
Note: If you think you have ear wax, do not try to clean the ear canal with cotton wool buds. This can make things worse, as you will push some earwax deeper inside. It may also cause an ear infection.
Ear drops alone will clear a plug of earwax in most cases. Put 2 or 3 drops of ordinary olive oil down the ear 2 or 3 times a day for 2-3 weeks. This softens the wax so that it then runs out of its own accord without harming the ear. You can continue for any length of time, but 3 weeks is usually enough. Surprisingly, you will not necessarily see wax come out. It often seems to come out unnoticed.
If you are prone to repeated wax built up you can continue to use olive oil drops twice a week to prevent recurrence.
If olive/almond/coconut oil does not work you can buy drops from pharmacies.
How to use ear drops:
Bulb syringing is a safe, alternate way to remove ear wax. Bulb syringes can be easily purchased from a pharmacy and allow you to clear your ears from wax in your own home.
If your ears are painful or have fluid coming out of them, or if you have a hole in their ear drum (perforation) or have recently had surgery on your ear you should see a doctor or nurse and don’t use this method.
Instructions for Bulb Syringing:
Use olive oil drops twice a day for at least 14 days prior to bulb syringing. Or alternatively use sodium bicarbonate ear drops purchased from your pharmacy (please read the manufacturers leaflet.)
Ear irrigation is only recommended in the rare occasions where ear drops and bulb syringing has failed to work. Ear syringing can lead to ear infections, perforated ear drum and tinnitus (persistent noise) and therefore it is only performed in exceptional circumstances. If you think you have persisting wax despite taking the above measures please make an appointment with your doctor or nurse to discuss.
For patients who are not physically able to self-manage please discuss with the surgery.
Hay fever is a common allergic condition that affects up to one in five people at some point in their life.
Symptoms of hay fever include:
You’ll experience hay fever symptoms if you have an allergic reaction to pollen.
Pollen is a fine powder released by plants as part of their reproductive cycle. It contains proteins that can cause the nose, eyes, throat and sinuses (small air-filled cavities behind your cheekbones and forehead) to become swollen, irritated and inflamed.
There’s currently no cure for hay fever, but most people are able to relieve symptoms with treatment, at least to a certain extent.
The most effective way to control hay fever would be to avoid exposure to pollen. However, it’s very difficult to avoid pollen, particularly during the summer months when you want to spend more time outdoors.
It’s sometimes possible to prevent the symptoms of hay fever by taking some basic precautions, such as:
Hay fever can often be controlled using over-the-counter medication from your pharmacist.
If your symptoms are more troublesome, it’s worth speaking to your GP as you may require prescription medication.
A cough is a reflex action to clear your airways of mucus and irritants such as dust or smoke. It’s rarely a sign of anything serious.
A “dry cough” means it’s tickly and doesn’t produce any phlegm (thick mucus). A “chesty cough” means phlegm is produced to help clear your airways.
Most coughs clear up within three weeks and don’t require any treatment.
Some things you can try to help ease your cough are:
Your local Pharmacy can recommend treatments to help ease your cough.
There’s usually no need to see your GP if you have a mild cough for a week or two. However, you should seek medical advice if:
Sore throats are very common and usually nothing to worry about. They normally get better within a week. Most are caused by minor illnesses such as colds or flu and can be treated at home.
The following can often help soothe a sore throat:
Antibiotics aren’t usually prescribed for a sore throat, even if it’s caused by a bacterial infection, as they’re unlikely to make you feel better any quicker and they can have unpleasant side effects.
You can visit your local pharmacy who may be able to offer advice and over-the-counter medicines to help combat a sore throat.
You can find your nearest pharmacy and check their opening hours at www.nhs.uk
Most headaches aren’t serious, and are usually relieved by medicines, relaxation techniques and lifestyle changes.
You can self-care for a common headache.
Be aware that taking painkillers more than two or three times a week can actually cause headaches. Read more about painkiller headaches.
Most headaches will clear within a few hours.
Contact your GP or call NHS 111 if your headache gets worse, if you get them more often, or you develop other symptoms, such as a stiff neck or sensitivity to light.
Constipation is a common condition that affects people of all ages. It can mean that you’re not passing stools regularly or you’re unable to completely empty your bowel.
If you’re constipated, changing your diet may be all that’s needed to ease it.
There are some self-care techniques that you can do at home to help:
Find more information on treating constipation.
If changes to your diet don’t help and the problem continues, you should see your GP.
Also speak to your GP if you think your child might be constipated.
Indigestion is a general term for pain or discomfort felt in the stomach and under the ribs.
Heartburn is when acid moves up from the stomach into the gullet (oesophagus) and causes a burning pain behind your breastbone.
Indigestion and heartburn can occur together or on their own.
It’s a common problem that affects most people at some point. In most cases it’s mild and only occurs occasionally.
Some simple self-care techniques are:
For short-term relief, your pharmacist can recommend antacid medicines to neutralise stomach acid, or alginates to protect your food pipe (oesophagus) from acid.
There’s usually no need to seek medical advice for indigestion as it’s often mild and infrequent and specialist treatment isn’t required.
However, you should see your GP if you have recurring indigestion and any of the following apply:
These symptoms may be a sign of a more serious underlying health problem, such as a stomach ulcer or stomach cancer.
Also see your GP if you get indigestion regularly, if it causes you severe pain or discomfort, or if your regular anti-reflux remedies stop working.
Conjunctivitis is also known as red or pink eye.
It usually affects both eyes and makes them:
There are things you can do at home to help ease the symptoms of Conjunctivitis.
Use clean cotton wool (one piece for each eye). Boil water and then let it cool down before you:
Your local Pharmacist can give you advice and suggest eye drops or antihistamines to help with your symptoms. Find your nearest Pharmacy at NHS Choices.
You should see your GP if:
your baby has red eyes – get an urgent appointment if your baby is less than 28 days old
you wear contact lenses and you have conjunctivitis symptoms as well as spots on your eyelids – you might be allergic to the lenses
You don’t need to avoid work or school unless you or your child are feeling very unwell.
If there are a few children with conjunctivitis at your child’s school you might be asked to keep yours at home.
Advice for nurseries and schools can be read here.
Vaginal thrush is a common yeast infection that affects most women at some point.
Typical symptoms of vaginal thrush include:
Sometimes the skin around the vagina can be red, swollen or cracked.
Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder, usually caused by a bladder infection. It’s a common type of urinary tract infection (UTI), particularly in women, and is usually more of a nuisance than a cause for serious concern. Mild cases will often get better by themselves within a few days.
The main symptoms of cystitis include:
Women don’t necessarily need to see their GP if they have cystitis, as mild cases often get better without treatment.
Until you’re feeling better, it may help to:
Cystitis is part of the ‘Think Pharmacy Minor Ailments Scheme’ so your local Pharmacist can recommend and prescribe treatment.
You can find your nearest pharmacy at NHS Choices.
You should see your GP if your symptoms are severe or don’t start to get better in a few days, you get cystitis frequently, or you’re pregnant.
Children and men should always be seen by a GP if they have symptoms of cystitis, as the condition is less common and could be more serious in these groups.