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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

Most back pain is caused by misuse such as lifting heavy objects; be sensible and take things easy.  Make sure you sit upright as possible or lie on a hard, flat surface, and use a support in the small of the back.  Aspirin, Paracetamol or Ibuprofen will not only help relieve the pain but may also help to relieve inflammation.  It is advisable to consult the doctor if pain persists for more than one week.


Apply as much clean, cold water as possible to the whole area as fast as possible-seconds count.  Keep cool water flowing over all the area until the pain subsides.  This may take as long as 15 minutes.  If the skin is unbroken or blistered, apply a loose, dry dressing.  If the burn is larger than 3 or 5 inches (10-12cms) in diameter or if the skin is broken, consult your local A&E or practice nurse as soon as possible.  Paracetamol may help with the pain.

Chicken Pox

On day one 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 the patches.  During the next 3 or 4 days further spots may appear and the earlier ones will turn crusty and fall off.  Oily calamine lotion may be applied to soothe the often severe itching.  Cool baths also help.  The most infectious period is from 14 days before the rash appears (the child often has a slight cold then) and up to five days after it.

Children may return to school when all the spots have dried and crusted over, as long as they are well in themselves.

Child with a temperature

Infections and teething are the main causes of children’s temperatures.  Most infections are mild and are growing up and gaining resistance to germs.  They are usually caused by viruses so they do NOT need antibiotics (these only help bacterial infections).

The following advice should help:

  1. Keep a supply of paracetamol medicine, such as Calpol or Disprol, at home. (Don’t wait to be caught out-almost every child needs medicine at some point).  Do not give aspirin to children.
  2. if your child feels hot and appears unwell, take his/her temperature if you have a thermometer.  The normal temperature is 37.0 degrees Centigrade (98.4 degrees F).  If the temperature is raised or you do not have a thermometer  but you think your child has a temperature, cool him/her down as follows:-
  • Give the child paracetamol in the dose advised on the bottle
  • Dress the child in loose clothes or a vest, cool the room down and let the air get to the body
  • Give plenty of cool drinks, clear fluid is best.  Give a small amount every 5 minutes rather than expecting them to drink it all at once
  • Use an electric fan, if the child will tolerate it, try a normal temperature bath or shower and pour water over the shoulders
  1. If this does not work and the child is particularly ill, contact the surgery.  We will always fit in poorly children as soon as possible if brought to the surgery: it will ensure that they are seen sooner.
  2. A child with a fever is likely to be restless at night, offer cool drinks and sponge their forehead if they wake.

Very rarely a child under 5 years will have a convulsion with a high temperature.  The child suddenly shakes all over and becomes very still.  It should subside within 5 minutes.  Lay the child on his/her side and stay with them while it lasts.  If there is another adult in the house, ask them to call the surgery, if not, call the surgery when the convulsion has stopped.


The common cold has no magic cure.  Drink plenty of fluids.  If you have a headache or are feverish, take aspirin (if aged over 12) or paracetamol.  Antibiotics have no beneficial effect on viruses and often produce side effects

Dental emergencies

Consult your dentist for regular check ups.  Dental problems are the province of dentists not doctors, and they can prescribe both antibiotics and painkillers, just as doctors do.  Once you have registered at a dental practice, there should be an out of hours dental emergency service available with him/her.

Holiday makers and people not registered with a dentist can consult any NHS dentist for advice or else telephone the emergency dental helpline 01202 854443.  The out of hours number is 0845 7010401

If you or your child has a tooth knocked out, carefully pick up the tooth but do not attempt to wash and clean it, immediately put it into a little cold milk and take it and the patient to your own dentist.

Sore throats

However painful, sore throats are usually caused by viruses and often associated with other cold symptoms.  Treatment with paracetamol (or possibly aspirin if an adult) is all that is all that is necessary and most will resolve naturally in three to four days.  Therefore a doctor’s appointment is not necessary.

Occasionally, the cause is tonsillitis when the patient is feverish and generally unwell.  Antibiotics may be necessary as well paracetamol.  Consult your doctor.


Remember RICERest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.  Rest and elevate the affected part and apply Ice or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel for about 15-30 minutes.  Then Compress with a crepe bandage and Elevate and rest until the discomfort has subsided.  It may be painful for several days.  Gradually mobilise.


Remember prevention is better than cure! Apply a high factor sun cream (15-20 for adults and total sun block for babies and children). Treat sun burn like any other burn.  Applying after sun gel and calamine lotion may help a little, as well as taking paracetamol.


Threadworm is a common problem for pre school children, and occasionally older children and adults.  It is spread by hand to mouth contact in the same way as a tummy bug.  The worms are often noticed as little cotton thread like tiny worms in the person’s motions.  Sometimes the person make wake in the night with an itchy bottom.  There is no cause for alarm; it is not a dangerous condition.  Ask the surgery to prescribe some medicine to clear the infection.  (Adults can buy medication over the counter)

Diarrhoea and vomiting

This is a common condition, over 90% of cases being caused by a virus.  The infection is cleared naturally by the body.  It is important to drink plenty of clear fluids and to avoid all solid food and milk until the vomiting and diarrhoea have settled.  For small children, Dioralyte sachets can be obtained from the chemist.  Breast fed babies may continue breast milk and have Dioralyte sachets as well.  These sachets replenish salts lost from the body due to the vomiting.  Please do not try to make a salt solution yourself as the concentration is critical, and if wrong could make your child more unwell.  Consult your doctor if the diarrhoea or vomiting does not respond to these measures, or if your child is not taking adequate fluids, or looks ill or drowsy.

Head lice

Head lice are not a sign of poor hygiene.  Contrary to popular belief, they are fussy creatures who prefer clean hair!  These small crawling insects are usually found in the hair near the ears and the back of the head.  Medicated lotion can be obtained form the pharmacy.  You should check all family members.

Insect bites and stings

Antihistamine tablets and hydrocortisone cream can be obtained from a pharmacy without prescription and will usually relieve most symptoms.  Bee stings should be scraped away rather than plucked to avoid squeezing the contents of the venom sac into the wound.  Cotton wool soaked with vinegar for wasp stings and bicarbonate of soda for bee stings may help.

Minor cuts and grazes

Wash and clean the wound thoroughly with soapy water.  To stop bleeding, apply a clean handkerchief or dressing and press firmly on the wound for five minutes.  Do not apply any kid of tourniquet to the affected limb or finger.  Cover with a clean dry dressing.

Nose bleeds

Sit in a chair (leaning forward with the mouth open), blow your nose to remove any clots first, then pinch together firmly the soft part of the nose below the bone for 10 minutes without letting go.  Then let go, wait for 5 minutes and if still bleeding do the same again.  Avoid blowing your nose for 24 hours afterwards.  If symptoms persist consult your local A&E.

Signs and symptoms of meningitis

Meningitis is extremely rare, however if you are worried seek advice from your doctor.

Bacterial meningitis

Bacterial meningitis is very serious. In babies and young children, death can occur in a matter of hours if left untreated. In some cases, the acute illness subsides into a chronic state, which may lead to serious brain damage. If you suspect meningitis you must seek urgent medical assistance.

Symptoms may not be easy to identify because initially they can be similar to symptoms of flu. Any of the symptoms below may appear in any order over 1-2 days, or in a matter of hours. It is also possible that there may be additional symptoms.

Symptoms in adults and older children may include:

  •  a constant generalised headache
  • confusion
  • a high temperature, although hands and feet may be cold
  • drowsiness
  • vomiting
  • stomach pain, sometimes with diarrhoea
  • rapid breathing
  • neck stiffness – moving the chin to the chest will be painful at the back of the neck
  • a rash of red or purple spots or bruises (or darker than normal, in dark skins) that does not fade when you press a glass tumbler or finger against it – this may not be present in the early stages
  • joint or muscle pain
  • sensitivity to bright lights, daylight or even the television.

Symptoms in babies and infants may include:

  • high temperature, fever (possibly with cold hands and feet)
  • vomiting and refusing feeds
  • high pitched moaning or whimpering cry
  • blank staring expression
  • pale itchy complexion
  • floppiness
  • dislike of being handled
  • fretful
  • neck retraction with arching of back
  • convulsions
  • lethargic and difficult to wake, and
  • tense or bulging fontanelle (soft spot on head)

A recent study by The Meningitis Research Foundation has found that the key early warning signs of meningitis in children (under 17 years old) often include:

  • cold hands and feet
  • leg pains, and
  • abnormal skin colour.

These are symptoms of blood poisoning (septicaemia) that is often associated with meningitis. This is a medical emergency and needs urgent treatment with antibiotics. These symptoms can appear hours before such symptoms as sensitivity to bright light and a rash. If you suspect your child had meningitis do not wait for a rash to appear but seek medial advice immediately.

If there is a rash, the glass (tumbler) test can be used to determine if it might indicate septicaemia (blood poisoning). Press the side of a clear drinking glass onto the rash or bruises and check that they fade. If they do not fade, you should suspect septicaemia. In a small number of cases the rash may fade at first but may later change into one that does not fade.

Viral meningitis

Viral meningitis is a less severe illness but, very rarely, can progress from headache, fever and drowsiness, to deep coma.

In severe cases there may be weakness of the muscles, paralysis, speech disturbances, double vision or partial loss of the field of vision, and epileptic fits. Most people make a full recovery within one to two weeks. Occasionally there maybe long term problems such as hearing or memory impairment


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