Common Conditions

Minor Injuries Unit

For walking wounded where it seems the full panoply of a major casualty department seems slightly excessive, there is an excellent walk in minor injuries Unit at Finchley Memorial Hospital, Granville Rd N12 (Tel: 020 8349 7500). It is open between 08:00 and 22:00.  They deal with minor injuries such as lacerations and fractures.  For more details click here.

Information on common complaints

These are just a few general guidelines and should be backed up with a good dose of common sense from yourself.  See the links page for more information.

Coughs and colds

Colds are a regular occurrence in life, a nuisance and mildly unpleasant.  They are characterised by a runny nose and cough with perhaps a fever and general malaise.  They are usually caused by a virus and there is no cure apart from time.  An over the counter remedy to alleviate the symptoms is often all that is required.

A cough is the most common symptom presented to a doctor.  It is actually part of the body’s defence mechanism for clearing foreign bodies from the air passages or thick mucus.  Unfortunately we all hate having them.

Inhaling steam can help and a cough medicine from the chemist.  Doctors have no magic remedies for a cough unless it is part of an illness such as a chest infection which might require antibiotics or asthma which might need some different medication. Most of the time it is just a post viral cough and as such medicines such as antibiotics will have no effect.

The colour of the mucus is an unreliable guide to whether infection is there or not.

As a general guide antibiotics may be necessary if the illness is out of all proportion to what you have experienced before or if after a week or so the symptoms are  getting worse rather than better.  Also there are certain groups of people such as the elderly or those with chronic lung conditions where it may be prudent to prescribe a course.


A commonly abused term, but this is an illness characterised by fever, shivering, aching all over and often a persistent hacking cough and runny eyes and nose.  Again antibiotics make no difference and the best thing to do is stay in bed with regular hot drinks and paracetamol.

Low back pain.

The second commonest cause (after colds and flu) of time off work.

Find a comfortable position and take something for the pain such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (or both).  Local heat can help.  If the pain is severe and persists or is associated with other physical symptoms consult a doctor.  Many people consult a physiotherapist or osteopath after a few days as well if the pain is not settling.


Apply large quantities of cold water to the affected area as soon as possible and maintain until the pain subsides.  This may take as long as 15 minutes.  If the skin is unbroken but blistered apply a dry loose dressing.  If the area is larger than 8-10cm or there is a large area of broken skin then consult a nurse or doctor.


Treat as for a burn with cold water to remove the heat.  Calamine lotion will relieve the irritation as will an antihistamine tablet.

Nose bleeds

The vast majority will stop if the following guidance is followed.

Lean forward and pinch the nose for 5 minutes (the soft bit, just below the bone).  Try to avoid blowing your nose or rubbing it which will dislodge the clot.

Minor cuts and grazes

Wash the wound with a little soap and cold water.  Press to stop the bleeding.  Animal bites need good cleaning as they often get infected.  Deep penetrating dirty wounds in someone who has never had a primary tetanus injection need a tetanus booster.

Vomiting and Diarrohoea

The majority of cases are caused by a virus.  The best thing to do is take frequent small sips of cooled, boiled water and then as the interval between vomits increases, increase the fluid intake.  The majority of cases settle by the end of the day, although some nausea can persist for a few days, and there are over the counter remedies which will help.  Some flat coca cola often helps to brighten you up after a lot of vomiting.  If it is still getting worse in an adult after 12-14 hrs then consult a doctor.  Very small children, have a lower threshold so contact for the practice for advice.

New onset diarrohoea is also generally caused by a virus.  If you feel like eating then aim for stodgy food such as mashed potato, boiled rice, pasta and bananas.  Medication is also available over the counter.  Consult a doctor if there is blood in the motions or the illness is associated with fever and shivering that persists for more than 24 hrs.


Is characterised by burning on passing urine, frequent trips to the toilet and aching just above the pubic bone.

Drink plenty of water and aim for about 3 litres over 2 hrs.  Some over the counter remedies can help too.  If after 24 hrs it is the same or getting worse then come and see a nurse or doctor, especially if it is associated with fever and aching in the back.

Sprained ankles

Elevate the leg and apply an ice pack.  Take some ibuprofen.  If you are still unable to weight bear after 24 hrs then it might be prudent to attend Casualty.