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Self-Treatment of Common Illnesses and Accidents

Back Pain

This is very common and is usually caused by a spasm or cramping of the muscles. Bed rest can increase stiffness and make the problem worse, so you should try to remain as active as possible but avoid heavy lifting. Painkillers such as paracetamol, codeine and ibuprofen are helpful and can be obtained from the chemist without prescription. A hot water bottle or muscle rub may help too. If you find you are getting regular back pain, look at the way you are sitting or standing in case this is aggravating the problem. Stress or worry can make any pain worse so relaxing with yoga, walking or other exercise may help.


Treat burns with cold water immediately for at least 15 minutes – this will limit the damage and relieve pain. If the burn is larger than the patient’s hand go directly to casualty.


Even in this day and age there is still no magic cure for the common cold. Go to bed, take plenty of drinks. If you have a headache or are feverish, take aspirin or paracetamol.

No aspirin for under 16s.


These usually get better without treatment. Breathing in steam soothes the airways; try inhaling steam from a bowl of hot water.

Ear ache

Ear ache is a common problem in children. It is frequently the result of a common cold and often starts at night. If caused by catarrh, it will usually settle within a few days. The treatment is paracetamol every four hours and it is helpful to keep the child upright. Persistent ear ache may require antibiotics, and a visit to the doctor is indicated if it is particularly severe or is accompanied by a discharge from the ear.

Sore Throats

Most sore throats are caused by viral infections which antibiotics cannot cure. With simple treatment, however, the patient normally  gets better within four or five days. Antibiotics are not necessary in most cases. Throat lozenges and iced drinks will soothe a sore throat.

Nose bleeds

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

Stomach ache

Most attacks are not serious and usually are caused by indigestion or wind. A hot water bottle will often relieve the symptoms and, in the case of indigestion, antacids from the chemist will help. If the pain lasts longer than eight hours or increases in intensity you should consult a doctor.

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 venom sac into the wound.

Head Lice

These creatures, contrary to popular belief, prefer clean hair and are not, therefore, a sign of poor personal hygiene. The preferred choice of treatment is to apply hair conditioner and wet comb with a nit comb (available from the chemist). Medicated head lotion can be obtained from the chemist without a prescription.


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.


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 of these spots. During the next three or four days further spots will appear and earlier ones will turn crusty and fall off. Calamine lotion may be applied to soothe the itching and if kept in the fridge is more effective. 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 spots have all crusted.


Most moles (pigment spots on the skin) are nothing to worry about. However, if you have a mole that is bleeding or getting bigger, you should make an appointment with the doctor to have it checked.


These are very common in small children and you will either see the worms in the toilet (like threads of cotton) or the child will scratch their bottom at night. Treatment is available from the chemist.

Sickness and Diarrhoea

Most of these cases are caused by a viral infection. It is most important to take small amounts of liquid frequently – what is lost must be replaced! Avoid eating fatty food (milk, cheese etc.) until recovered. Try plain toast, boiled rice or dry Rice Krispies, initially.

High Temperature

Very common in children. Keep cool, sponge with lukewarm water all over especially the head, and give paracetamol and lots of fluids. If the temperature persists despite this then contact the surgery.