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There’s no cure for the common cold and other bugs - but here’s what you can do to feel better

Feeling under the weather? Here’s what you can do about it.

WE ALL KNOW that sinking feeling.

Struck down by feeling under the weather.

It might range from a blocked up or runny nose, a cough, sore throat, headache, tummy upset… but one symptom is consistent: not feeling ourselves and desperately in need of a little TLC at home.

So what can you do? Let’s take a look at the best course of action for the following common ailments.

1. A cold

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First things first: the common cold. You’ll feel the worst in the first three days of a cold, so take heart that things will get better. Children will take a little longer to recover, but should be on the mend by day four to seven. After a week, everyone should have made a full recovery.


  • Do not take antibiotics as colds are caused by viruses and antibiotics fight bacteria 
  • Drink plenty of fluids to replace those lost from sweating and runny noses
  • Get lots of rest and eat well

2. Cough

Coughs can last up to three weeks, a little bit different from colds. There’s no quick way of getting rid of a cough and it will usually clear up once your immune system has beaten the bug causing it. The simplest and cheapest way to deal with a cough is over-the-counter remedies – coughs are usually viral, so antibiotics won’t help. For chesty coughs, take a cough expectorant to bring up phlegm.

See a doctor if a cough persists past three weeks.

3. Earache

Sore ears often come out of the blue and the pain can be quite sharp. You don’t usually need to see the doctor, as they pass quickly (unless you have discharge from your ear). Over-the-counter pain relief can help.

4. Flu

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The timeline usually starts with a sore throat and muscle ache, coupled with a fever. You will feel very unwell and it will develop quickly. After three to five days you will feel at your worst, and after eight days it should have passed – although you may be tired and have a cough for a time afterward.

Flu can be treated at home, with plenty of fluid and rest. People who are at risk of complications of flu may need to see a doctor, as there are specific anti-viral medicines available which you might need. These work best if started within 48 hours of flu symptoms.

5. Temperature

A normal temperature is between 36 and 36.8ºC (96.8 and 98.24ºF). Temperatures above  38°C (100.4°F) are regarded as high. Your child’s high temperature can be caused by a number of things and usually indicates that they have an infection of some kind.

Parents often worry if their child’s temperature goes above 38°C (100.4°F) but is the child’s overall alertness and responsiveness that is more important than the height of the temperature.

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If your child has any of the below symptoms with a temperature, it is time to take action:

  • cannot be woken up, or will not stay awake
  • has a weak or high-pitched continuous cry
  • pale or mottled skin
  • breathing very rapidly
  • continuously vomiting 

If you are worried your child is seriously ill but has no temperature, you should still seek medical assistance.

If your child is content and smiling, staying awake, taking drinks and responding normally, then there is a lower risk of serious illness.

6. Dodgy tummy

Vomiting and diarrhoea can occur alone or together and are usually picked up as a bug from a sick person or food. Antibiotics won’t help. Usually you will need to let the illness run its course. Drink plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration. You don’t need to take anti-diarrhoeals unless you need to for a specific reason, and children should not take these medicines. It may take five days for diarrhoea to clear, but vomiting should stop after 24 hours.

Got any tips for weathering the storm when common ailments strike you down? Share the wealth in the comments section.

Feeling under the weather? Well, check out Under the Weather. It’s there to give you practical advice on how to mind yourself or your family when you’re sick. A collaborative effort from the HSE, GPs and pharmacists. Get well soon.

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