Self Treatment Of Common Illnesses
Many common illnesses and accidents can be treated at home without needing to see the doctor. We hope that you will find the following advice helpful. If you are uncertain as to what to do or are worried, please ask us for advice.
Below you will find information on the following:
- Back Pain
- Burns and Scalds
- Colds and Runny Noses
- Head Injuries
- Insect Bites and Stings
- Sore Throats
- Sprains and Strains
- How to Look After a Child with a Temperature
Most episodes of back pain are caused by twisting or lifting injuries or bad posture. The main treatment is to rest and to take paracetamol. You may need a few days' rest on a firm bed. Put a board under the mattress if your mattress is soft. When sitting, sit upright and support the small of your back. If the pain is particularly severe or persists for more than a few days, contact your doctor.
Burns and Scalds
Apply large quantities of cold water to the affected area immediately and continue until the pain eases and the skin cools. Any blisters that are present should not be burst and may be covered by a loose, dry dressing. Take paracetamol for the pain. If the skin is broken or a large area is affected, consult your doctor.
This is caused by a virus. Over a few days a rash develops with tiny blisters scattered all over the skin. The spots, which are very itchy turn 'crusty'. Oily calamine lotion may be applied to soothe the skin. Dressing in light clothing and taking cool baths may help. Children may return to school as soon as the last 'crusts' have dropped off.
Colds and Runny Noses
Colds are caused by viruses and cannot be cured by antibiotics. Various treatments can be of benefit though. Adults should take two paracetamol or soluble aspirin tablets every four hours (to a maximum of eight in 24 hours) to help lower temperatures and ease aching muscles. If a sore throat is present gargling with soluble aspirin will help. Take plenty of drinks. Children under 16 should not take aspirin and the appropriate dose of paracetamol mixture can be given every 24 hours. Steam inhalations are helpful. Vick, menthol crystals and Karvol can be used, but not for babies under three months old. The illness can last up to seven to 10 days. Children have repeated colds and these build up a resistance to infection.
This is a common problem as we get older, since we do not eat so much, not do we take as much exercise. Often drugs prescribed by the doctor (e.g. water tablets) lead to constipation. It doesn't matter if you don't go to the toilet every day or even only once or twice a week. It is more important that the motions are not hard. By drinking plenty of fluids and eating fibre e.g. brown bead, bran, vegetables and fruit, most people can manage alright. Do not take laxatives such as senna on a regular basis. If this is a change to your normal bowel habit - make an appointment to see your doctor.
Coughs are usually caused by viral infections. They can be eased by inhaling steam from Vick, menthol crystals or Karvol added to very hot water. A dry cough may be helped by a cough suppressant from a chemist. Soothing lozenges may help. A troublesome night time cough can be helped by hot drinks prepared in a Thermos flask at bedtime. Cigarette smoke in the house will make a cough worse. If a cough persists or produces blood, or is associated with chest pain or shortness of breath, seek medical advice.
Wash the wound thoroughly. Apply clean dressing and put on pressure until the bleeding stops. If the wound is gaping or you are worried, seek medical advice. Dirty cuts especially, may need to be seen and if tetanus immunisation is not up to date, a booster should be given within 24 hours. We recommend a full course of tetanus as a child / young adult. Booster injections every 10 years are no longer routinely recommended.
Cystitis is due to an inflammation of the bladder which causes pain on passing water and a feeling that you need to go again straight away. Drink at least six pints of water a day. Simple preparations from the chemist can help make the urine less acid and ease the burning pains. Take paracetamol or aspirin for pain and physically rest. If the symptoms do not improve, or you are ill in yourself, develop backache or pass blood, contact your doctor. Take a urine sample (in a sterilised bottle) with you when you attend.
It is important for the stomach and bowel to 'rest' completely. Therefore rest as completely as possible (ideally in bed) and no food should be given (including milk) until there has been no vomiting or diarrhoea for 12 hours then start giving lightly toasted bread or biscuits e.g. Rich Tea biscuits. Continue giving plenty of fluid. Normal food (including milk) should not be resumed until there has been no vomiting or diarrhoea for 24 hours. If there is no improvement in two days or if all or most of the water is being vomited back or if you are worried then please contact the surgery.
This often occurs with a cold as a result of catarrh. Paracetamol or aspirin (not for children) may be all that is required, but if repeated doses are needed every four hours or the painkiller does not work, contact your doctor. Sudafed can be helpful for catarrh.
This is a feature of many infections such as a cold or the flu. Remove excess clothing and sponge the forehead and body with lukewarm water (using a fan helps too). Take plenty of cool drinks. Take two paracetamol or aspirin regularly (every four hours to a maximum of eight in 24 hours). Children under 16 should not have aspirin. If fever persists after 24-48 hours, especially in the young, old or frail, this may indicate a complication so a doctor should be consulted.
It is unlikely that serious injury will result if the person can remember what happened. Consult the doctor though, if loss on consciousness occurred or if there is vomiting, blurred vision, drowsiness, difficulty in waking or a severe headache. A cold compress is soothing.
Insect Bites and Stings
Calamine or antihistamine cream eases soreness and itching. Antihistamine tablets can be obtained from the chemist. Do not remove bee stings by squeezing the sting, try to 'scrape' it away.
Sit in a chair leaning forward with your mouth open, and pinch the end of your nose. If the bleeding has not stopped after 20 minutes or if you feel faint or unwell, consult the hospital casualty department.
Most rashes in children are due to viruses and not a cause for concern. If, however, your child is unwell or has other symptoms, especially headache, vomiting, discomfort with bright light or a high temperature, contact the doctor.
Most sore throats are caused by viral infections which do not respond to antibiotics. Sip iced water regularly and soothing lozenges can help. Treat an associated fever as outlined above, but gargling with soluble aspirin before swallowing can help a lot to ease a sore throat. Contact the doctor if it is still worsening after two days, if the temperature is constantly raised or if there is marked earache. If you are worried seek our advice.
Sprains and Strains
Immediately apply a cold compress e.g. a pack of frozen peas or crushed ice wrapped in a towel or cloth to take down the swelling. A firm bandage will give support. Rest the affected area and if your leg is affected, raise it above the hip level to reduce swelling. (if you can walk on the affected leg, there is not usually anything broken.)
Sunblock creams should be used to prevent sunburn. Treat with cold water as for other burns to remove the heat. Calamine lotion may help and paracetamol will ease the discomfort. Children, especially, burn easily and care is needed to avoid overexposure.
Thrush is a very common cause of an itchy vaginal discharge in women. It can be triggered by antibiotic treatment and sometime the 'Pill' or pregnancy. Treatment may be obtained from the chemist. The doctor may be able to leave you a prescription for it, but should it recur or fail to improve, you should make an appointment.
How to Look After a Child with a Temperature
A child will develop a temperature because of an infection; usually the child will get over such an infection without the use of antibiotics. Most childhood infections are caused by viruses and these do not respond to antibiotics. The advice below is to help you bring down you child's temperature and make him/her feel better. If your child feels hot and appears unwell we recommend you undertake the following steps: 1. Give your child paracetamol (Calpol, Disprol etc). Give the maximum dose stated for a child of that age. 2. Dress your child in cool clothes e.g. t-shirt and shorts etc. Much heat is lost through the head, so leave it uncovered. Cool down the room by opening doors and windows. 3. Give you child plenty of cool drinks as fluid is lost with a fever. If they are reluctant to drink, encourage small amounts from a favourite cup. 4. Sponging your child down, particularly the head, with a tepid cloth, will make the child feel better as well as bringing down the temperature. Using tepid water is more effective than cold water. 5. Repeat the dose of paracetamol every four to six hours if necessary. NO MORE THAN FOUR DOSES IN A 24 HOUR PERIOD 6. If your child does not improve after giving paracetamol and sponging down, or appears particularly ill, call the doctors. Ill children will always be seen as soon as possible. You will not make your child worse by taking them in a pram or car to the surgery. Sometimes fresh air makes a feverish child feel better. 7. a child with a fever is likely to be restless at night. Offer cool drinks and sponge the child down if they waken. 8. Very rarely, a child under five years will have a convulsion with a high temperature. The child suddenly shakes all over and then becomes very still. If your child does have a convulsion it should subside in less than five minutes. Lie the child on their side and stay with them while it lasts. If there is another adult in the house, ask them to call the doctor, if not, call the doctor when the convulsion has stopped.