B2 - Self Care Guidance
Many common aches and pains can be simply treated at home without the need to consult a doctor. This information is for guidance only and if you are in any doubt about the appropriate action to take you should seek advice from a medical professional. Remember: With all illnesses it is much easier for the doctor to provide the best care for you during normal surgery hours (the chemist is open, the hospital can be contacted etc) and 'emergency' appointments for medical reasons are always available.
Please click on the links below for self-care fact sheets:
- Back Pain
- Heartburn & Indigestion
- Fever in Children
- Sprains & Strains
- Sore Throat
- Otitis Media
- Common Cold
- Urine Symptoms in Men
First a note about these commonly prescribed medicines. They only work on bacteria and have no effect on viruses. Unfortunately this means that common infections like coughs, colds and flu etc, will not be helped by them at all. The correct treatments are the simple remedies outlined in this section. We only use antibiotics when they fail and we suspect there to be a secondary infection. Overuse of antibiotics and failure to complete the course may lead to them not working in the future and other complications like thrush, skin rashes etc.
Backaches and Strains
Many acute strains will settle within a few weeks. You should continue light activities, avoid bed rest and take regular paracetamol. You should consult your doctor if you have difficulty passing urine, numbness/weakness of a limb or loss of sensation. Please see your doctor also if symptoms persist.
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 four or five inches in diameter or if the skin is broken, attend the Urgent Care Centre or Casualty Department.
Tight or heavy chest pain spreading to the arms or jaw, with nausea, shortness of breath and feeling cold and clammy, may indicate a heart attack. Ring 999.
On the first day a rash appears as small red spots about 3-4mm across. Within a few hours of these
developing, small blisters appear in the centre. During the next three or four days further spots 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 may also help. The most infectious period is from two or three 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, or seven days after the last spots appear. If one of your children has chickenpox and you bring them to the surgery, please tell the receptionist.
Colds and Flu
These usually start with a runny nose, cough, temperature and aches. They are caused by viruses and antibiotics are of no use in their treatment. Treatment consists of taking recommended doses of paracetamol for the temperature and aches and drinking plenty of fluids. Do not worry if you do not eat for a few days. You will come to no harm. Colds and flu will normally last between 10 and 14 days. If they persist beyond this then you should consult your doctor for further advice. If during the illness, your chest becomes very wheezy or rattly or you are short of breath, or you cough up nasty looking yellow or green spit, then you should consult your doctor for advice at the surgery.
These can be soothed by a drink made with honey and fresh lemon juice in hot water. If particularly irritating, steam inhalations or your favorite cough medicine can be worthwhile.
Diarrhoea & Vomiting
In adults and older children, diarrhoea and vomiting will usually get better on its own. Treatment consists of replacing the fluid you lose with water and electrolyte solutions (available at the chemists). The digestive system should be rested by not having solids for 6-24 hours and then taking a light diet for the next 24 hours. It often helps to avoid milk and dairy products for several days. Diarrhoea, particularly with vomiting, in small babies and young children should be treated with caution and the doctor will be happy to advise about this. Again extra fluid little and often is the most important treatment.
Often earache will resolve with paracetamol, even if an infection is present, over two or three days. If it is severe, persistent or comes with a temperature then make an appointment at the surgery.
Do not move or forcibly restrain the patient and do not put anything in the mouth. Place in the recovery position eg on their side and ensure the airways are clear. Do not give anything to drink.
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 diameter and doesn't itch. No other symptoms are usually present apart from occasional aching joints. It is infectious from two days before the rash appears until the rash disappears in about four or five days from that date. The only danger is to unborn babies and therefore it is important that all contacts are informed in order that anyone who may be pregnant can contact their doctor.
These creatures, contrary to popular belief, prefer clean hair and are therefore not a sign of poor personal hygiene. Preferred treatment is 'bug busting' using hair conditioner and combing - a leaflet is available. Medicated head lotion can be obtained from the chemist without prescription. Hair should be fine tooth combed at intervals.
Insect Bites and Stings
Antihistamine tablets can be obtained from the chemist without a 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. Calamine lotion is soothing on the skin.
The rash is blotchy and red and appears on the face and body around the fourth day of fever. It is at its most infectious from two or three days before the rash appears and until eight or ten days after that date. Immunisation can prevent this disease.
Symptoms are swelling of the glands in front of one ear often followed after a couple of days by swelling in front of the other ear. It is infectious from two or three days before the swelling appears until eight or ten days after that date. If the pain is severe you should consult your doctor.
Sit in a chair (leaning forward with your mouth open over a bowl) and pinch your nose just below the bone for approximately 10 minutes, by which time the bleeding should have stopped. Avoid hot drinks or hot food for 24 hours. If symptoms persist, attend surgery. Do not blow or pick your nose.
If your child has a rash but is otherwise well, then it is likely to be due to a viral infection and will settle in a couple of days. If your child is unwell with a rash, we would want to see them at the surgery.
Firstly apply a cold compress, containing ice if possible, for 15 to 30 minutes to reduce the swelling. Apply a crepe bandage firmly 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.
Usually caused by VIRUSES. If over the age of 16 and able to take aspirin, the best treatment is to gargle with two soluble aspirin in cold water (then swallow them) four times a day, after meals. (DO NOT TAKE ASPIRIN IF YOU SUFFER WITH ASTHMA/STOMACH ULCER PROBLEMS AND/OR "ACID"). Otherwise paracetamol helps. Drink plenty and use lozenges if they help. TCP gargles or salt water gargles may also be useful. Most sore throats will start to improve after four or five days. If there is no response to treatment by then, or if there is difficulty, rather than pain, in swallowing even cold drinks, you may need to consult the doctor.
Most attacks are not serious and are usually caused 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 the pain lasts for longer than eight hours or increases in intensity, you should consult your doctor.
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 overexposure to the harmful effects of the sun. It is not worth using creams below factor 8 even in this country.
You should consult your dentist, not a doctor, for this. Take regular pain relief; eg paracetamol. If you have difficulty finding a dentist contact the Leicestershire Dental Access Centre on 0116 295 1278. All dentists should provide an emergency service.
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 to not respond to antibiotics. The advice below is to help you bring down your child's temperature and make them feel better.
Give your child paracetamol (Calpol, Disprol etc). Give the maximum dose stated for a child of that age every four to six hours.
Dress your child in cool clothes; (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.
Give your child plenty of cool drinks as fluid is lost with a fever. If they are reluctant to drink, encourage small, frequent amounts from a favorite cup.
Sponging your child down, particularly the head, with a tepid cloth will make them feel better as well as bringing down the temperature. Using tepid water is more effective than cold water.
If your child does not improve with the measures mentioned and appears particularly ill, contact the doctor. 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.
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, cool them down 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 if it is short, or immediately if it goes on for more than 10 minutes.