Where can I go for help when I’m ill in winter?

Feeling unwell? Read on for advice about where you can go for help with your health during the winter months.
Woman at counter of a pharmacy talking to a pharmacist

Cold weather can trigger or worsen health problems, so it’s important that you know where to go for help if you become unwell.

This winter, the NHS is running a campaign called ‘Help us help you’ to help people understand how to stay well during the winter and which services to use when they need support.

Take a look at the information below to find out which is the most appropriate service to meet your needs.

At risk groups: Get advice if you feel unwell

Some people are more vulnerable to the effects of cold weather, especially if you are 65 or older, or if you have a long-term health condition.

If you are 65 or over, or in one of the other at-risk groups, see a pharmacist as soon as you feel unwell, even if it’s just a cough or cold.

The sooner you get advice, the sooner you are likely to get better.

Click here to find out if you are in one of the at-risk groups, and for tips on how to stay well this winter.

Get your free flu vaccination

To help at-risk groups stay well this winter, the NHS is offering free flu vaccinations to:

•         People who are 65 or over

•         People with some long term health conditions

•         Pregnant women

•         Toddlers aged 2-3 years

Contact your GP or local pharmacist for more information.

Call NHS 111 if you’re:

  • Unsure
  • Unwell
  • Confused
  • Need to know where to go

For confidential health service advice and information, call NHS 111. This service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They will direct you to the best place to get treatment and advise you of locally available services. 

Visit NHS 111 to get more information.

Visit your local pharmacy if you’re experiencing:

  • Runny nose
  • Headache flu-like symptoms

Your local pharmacist is fully qualified to give you advice on common illnesses and injuries, and medicines to treat them. They will also tell you if you need to see a doctor.

Click here to find your local pharmacy.

Contact your GP and out of hours if you have:

  • Ear discharge/ pain
  • Rashes
  • Stomach pain
  • Concerns regarding ongoing conditions

Contact your GP surgery if you have an illness or injury that won’t go away. You can call NHS 111 for advice if you need help outside your GP surgery opening hours.

Click here to find your local GP service.

Call 999 in a medical emergency.

A medical emergency is when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk.

These can include:

Click here for further information about the 999 emergency services.

For less serious injuries…

Go to your local Minor Injuries Unit for less serious injuries, such as:

  • Strains
  • Sprains
  • Stitches

You can visit an NHS Minor Injuries Unit without an appointment for the treatment of minor illnesses and injuries.

Click here for more information regarding the minor injury units.


The main symptoms of norovirus are:

  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • diarrhoea
  • being sick (vomiting)

You may also have:

  • a high temperature of 38C or above
  • a headache
  • aching arms and legs

The symptoms start suddenly within 1 to 2 days of being infected. It is very contagious but the good news is you can treat yourself and loved ones at home. The best way to stop the spread of the virus is to regularly wash your hands.

Make sure you're symptom free before returning to work or school.

If the symptoms do not clear up then go to see your pharmacist.

Looking after yourself

Many illnesses and injuries can be treated at home, and this can also help to stop spreading some viral infections.

  • Cough or cold
  • Sore throat
  • Grazed knee
  • Hangover

Ensure your medicine cabinet is stocked with things like paracetamol, plasters, rehydration mixture, a thermometer and indigestion remedy.

If you are feeling worried, do not wait until you feel worse, visit a pharmacy for advice about your symptoms.

For more information about conditions, symptoms and services, visit the NHS website.

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