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Self Treatment

Self treatment of common illnesses and accidents

Many common aches and pains can be simply treated at home without the need to consult a doctor.

Back Pain

Back pain causes 13 million working days to be lost in Britain each year. The spine being made up of 24 fragile bones and associated cartilage and tendons supports the whole weight of the upper body and therefore it is understandable that it sometimes goes wrong.

Because of the complex nature or the spine it is advisable to consult your doctor if back pain persists for more than a few days. If, as usual the pain has bee caused by abuse, i.e. lifting too heavy weights etc, be sensible and take things easy. Take care to sit as upright as possible with support for the small of the back. Take Aspirin or Paracetamol, which will not only relieve the pain but will help to relieve inflammation.

Your doctor may well prescribe stronger drugs, heat treatment, gentle exercise or some kind of supportive corset.

Bed Sores

Bed sores are far easier to prevent than cure. They are caused by prolonged pressure to certain parts of the body when lying in bed for long periods. They can be prevented by encouraging the patient to shift position as often as possible and taking care to smooth out creases in the bottom sheet which could lead to localized irritation. Keep your eyes open for red marks appearing at the pressure points such as heels, elbows, buttocks and hips and if they start to appear, inform the doctor before they get worse.

Burns

Apply large quantities of cold water to the affected area as soon as possible and maintain this until the pain subsides. This may take as long as 15 minutes! If the skin is unbroken but blistered, apply a loose, dry dressing. If the burn is larger than 4 or 5 inches in diameter or if the skin is broken, consult the Accident and emergency department as soon as possible.

Colds

Even in this day and age there is still no magic cure for the common cold. Go to bed, take plenty drinks. If you have a headache or are feverish, take aspirin or Paracetamol. Do not bother to take any anti-biotics you may have in the house—these will have no effect!

Chicken Pox

On the first day a rash appears as small red patches about 3-4mm across. Within a few hours of these developing, small blisters appear in the centre of these patches. During the next 3 or 4 days further patches will appear and the earlier ones will turn “crusty” and fall off. Oily calamine lotion may be applied to sooth the often severe itching. Cool baths may also help.

The most infectious period is from 2 or 3 days before the rash appears and up to five days after this date. Children may return to school as soon as the last “crusts” have dropped off.

Minor Cuts & Grazes

Wash the wound thoroughly with water and a little soap. To stop bleeding apply a clean dry dressing firmly to the wound for about 5 minutes. Cover with a clean dry dressing.

Diarrhoea

In Adults diarrhoea is usually caused by a virus infection and is therefore not possible to be treated directly.

Holiday diarrhoea is often due to a bacteria.

In both the above cases, consult your doctor if the symptoms persist for more than a few days Diarrhoea in very young children and babies needs careful attention. Most babies have loose bowel action during the first six months due to their predominantly liquid diet. Sudden bouts of usually watery diarrhoea should be treated by taking the baby off solids and feeding it a solution of boiled water with a teaspoon of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt to the pint. If the symptoms persist for more that 24 hours, or are accompanied by vomiting or weakness, consult your doctor.

Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis describes a group of diseases affecting the stomach or part of the intestine. Symptoms are often diarrhoea, sickness and stomach ache.

Due to the lining of the stomach likely being inflamed, medicines are often immediately vomited up.

Large quantities of water, orange juice or thin soup should be taken to counter the effects of dehydration, avoid all dairy products (milk, cheese, eggs etc) Consult you doctor if symptoms persist for more than a day or, in the case of babies and young children, six hours.

German Measles (Rubella)

The rash appears during the first day and usually covers the body, arms and legs in small pink patches about 2-4mm in size and does not itch. No other symptoms are usually present apart from occasional aching joints. It is infectious from 2 days before the rash appears, until the rash disappears in about 4-5 days from that date.

The only danger is to unborn babies, therefore it is important that all contacts are informed in order that anyone who may be pregnant can inform their doctor.

Measles

The rash is blotchy and red and appears on the face and body around the fourth day of illness. It is at its most infectious from 2 or 3 days before the rash appears until 8 or 10 days after that date. If the pain is severe you should consult your doctor.

Immunisation can prevent this disease.

Mumps

Symptoms are swelling of the glands in front of one or other of the ears.

Often followed a couple of days later by swelling in front of the other ear. It is infectious from 2 or 3 days before the swelling appears until 8—10 days after that date. If the pain is severe you should consult your doctor.

Nose Bleeds

Sit in the chair, leaning forward with your mouth open and pinch your nose just below the bone for approximately 10 minutes. By which time the bleeding should have stopped. Avoid hot drinks for 24 hours. If symptoms persist, consult your doctor.

Sprains

Firstly apply a cold compress, containing ice if possible, for 15 to 30 minutes to reduce the swelling. Apply a crepe bandage and give the sprain plenty of rest until all discomfort has subsided. Further strain will inevitably lead to further swelling and a longer recovery period

Stomach Ache

Most attacks are not serious and are usually cause by indigestion or wind. A hot water bottle will often relieve the symptoms and, in the case of indigestion, a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in half a glass of water will help. If pain lasts for longer than 8 hours or increases in intensity you should consult your doctor.

Sunburn

Treat as for other burns with cold water to remove the heat. Calamine lotion will relieve the irritation whilst Paracetamol will also help. Children are particularly susceptible to sunburn and great care should be taken to avoid over-exposure to the harmful effects of the sun.

Headlice

These creatures, contrary to popular belief, prefer clean hair and are therefore not a sign or poor personal hygiene. Medicated head lotion can be obtained from the chemist without prescription.

Insect bites & stings

Antihistamine tablets can be obtained from chemists without prescription and will usually relieve most symptoms.

Note: Bee stings should be scraped away rather than “plucked” in order to avoid squeezing the contents of the venom sac into the wound.

You can treat many minor ailments such as colds, coughs and indigestion by keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet at homes. We suggest you keep the following:

  • Paracetamol and aspirin (children under 16 and people with asthma should not take aspiring)
  • Mild laxatives
  • Rehydration mixture
  • Indigestion remedy (for example, Antacids, Gaviscon)
  • Travel Sickness tablets
  • Sunscreen—SPF15 or higher
  • Sunburn Cream (for example Calamine)
  • Tweezers and sharp scissors
  • A thermometer
  • A selection of plasters, non-absorbent cotton wool, elastic bandages and
    dressings.

Remember:

  • Keep the medicine chest in a secure, locked place out of the reach of small children.
  • Always read the instructions and use the suggested dose.
  • Watch expiry dates—don’t keep or use medicines past their sell-by date.
  • Take all unwanted and out-of-date medicines back to the pharmacy.
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