Home Treatment For Minor Illness
Many minor illnesses can be safely and successfully treated at home.
The following information may help you decide whether a visit to the surgery is necessary. If you need further advice you can telephone the surgery and speak to a Doctor or Practice Nurse.
If in any doubt please do not hesitate to call.
Coughs, Colds, Sore Throats and Earache
Most of these infections are due to viruses against which antibiotics are not effective. The treatment normally involves controlling pain and fever which occur commonly with all of the above. You can bring down fever and control pain by regular use of Paracetamol, Aspirin or Ibuprofen as directed on the bottle. (This is available in a mixture for infants and tablet form for older children and adults.) It is also important to rest and drink plenty when pain and fever are present to prevent dehydration and aid recovery. Be aware that Paracetamol has a maximum safe dose and that preparations with different names can contain Paracetamol. Always Read the Label.
Diarrhoea and Vomiting
Diarrhoea and vomiting can be serious for babies and elderly people and advice should be sought for these groups. For most people the initial treatment is to ensure that enough fluids are taken. This is best achieved by taking small amounts of clear, non fizzy fluids such as diluted squash or water frequently. It is best to avoid milk products, fizzy drinks and alcohol as these can make symptoms worse.
Urinary Tract Infection/Cystitis
With infections of the 'water system' it is common to experience pain or a burning feeling when passing urine (water) and urine may be passed more often and in small amounts. It may also be blood stained. Symptoms can be helped by drinking plenty of liquid to 'flush out' the bladder. It is advisable to seek medical advice early if you think you have urinary tract infection (especially if the patient is a child) and you may save time by bringing a sample of your urine to be checked by the nurse before seeing the doctor.
Warts and Verrucas
These are caused by a virus and almost all disappear in time with no treatment. Discomfort from verrucas can be avoided by keeping them soft and 'pared' down with a pumice stone or foot scraper.
Simple Back Pain
If your back pain is due to an obvious cause, such as heavy gardening, and the pain is restricted to the lower back with no other symptoms, this can initially be treated by resting for the first few day or so, taking regular painkillers such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen. After this it is important to start gentle activity to prevent stiffness in the back. If your symptoms fail to improve or develop it is important that you make an appointment to see your doctor.
Sprains and Strains
There is usually an obvious cause, such as a twisting injury when playing sports. There may be pain and some swelling. The initial treatment is to rest the affected limb, put ice packs (a bag of frozen peas is just as good) onto the swelling, raise the affected limb such as resting it on a stool or pillow and take painkillers regularly such as Paracetamol, Ibuprofen or Aspirin. If you suspect that you may have a broken bone a trip to Accident and Emergency Department of the local hospital is more appropriate than visiting your doctor as an X-ray may be needed.
Insect Bites and Stings
Safety in the Sun
Skin cancer is increasing rapidly and it is thought that the best way to prevent this is to avoid prolonged exposure to the sun and sunburn. Information on safety in the sun is available from most chemists. Everyone and especially children should always be protected by a high factor (20 ) sunscreen that is applied thickly and regularly. They should wear light clothing, a hat, good quality sunglasses and also avoid being outside during the hottest hours (11.00am - 3.00pm). If sunburn does occur stay indoors, treat with calamine lotion and cool baths, ensure that you drink plenty. If you are concerned about changing moles, lumps or odd patches on your skin please make an appointment to see your doctor.
Promoting Your Health
If you wish to give up smoking, eat healthier or have concerns about your lifestyle, advice and support can be offered by your doctor or nurse. A large number of leaflets are available from the surgery or your local chemist.
Useful Medicines To Keep At Home
Your pharmacist can give useful advice about these and other medicines you may be taking. If you are in any doubt please see a doctor.
- Paracetamol Tablets and Mixture: This can be used for pain and fevers. It is particularly effective in colds and flu. Be aware that there is a maximum dose and that it is lower for children. This is stated on the bottle. Also be aware that preparations such as Night Nurse and Lemsip contain Paracetamol. Do not mix them and always read the labels.
- Aspirin: Aspirin can be used by adults and children over 12 years of age. (It is generally avoided in people with asthma and those with a history of indigestion or ulcers.) It can be used as an alternative to Paracetamol for pain and fever control. Some people find that gargling with Aspirin dissolved in a small amount of water is particularly good for sore throats. Always follow the instructions and advice given with the medicine. If unsure a pharmacist will be able to help you.
- Ibuprofen Tablets or Suspension: For adults and children over one year of age. (It is generally avoided in people with asthma and those with a history of indigestion or ulcers). It can be used as an alternative to Paracetamol for pain and fever control. Always follow the instructions and advice given with the medicine. If unsure a pharmacist will be able to help you.
- Menthol Crystals/Vapour Rubs: Added to hot water these inhalations can be used for treating catarrh and dry painful coughs. Saline drops are suitable for babies.
- Calamine Lotion: For dabbing (not rubbing) on insect bites, stings, sunburn and chickenpox. The following medicines are readily available from your local chemist and some supermarkets and do not require a prescription. They should be kept in a safe place where children can not reach them and contained in bottles with childproof tops. Always follow the instructions and advice given with the medicine. If in doubt your pharmacist will be able to advise you.
- Plasters, Simple Dry Dressings, Cotton Wool: For cleaning and dressing minor cuts and grazes
- Clinical Thermometer: For checking fevers.
- Antihistamines (e.g. Piriton): For many allergy reactions including hayfever, itching and swelling associated with insect bites and stings etc. Some of them can make you drowsy and you should refrain from driving or operating machinery if this is the case.
- Tweezers: For removing splinters.