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Self Help

Self Help Advice can also be found at the www.patient.co.uk website.

Lots of common ailments and minor accidents can be dealt with safely at home. This section will help you decide when you need to seek medical help or what you can safely treat yourself. Many minor injuries are treated with the use of a cold compress; always keep a stock of ice in the freezer to be able to prepare one. Be sensible, ask for advice and if in doubt consult your pharmacist or doctor.

Back pain – If the pain has been caused by lifting or twisting, take Paracetamol. Ibuprofen may be taken as well but check with pharmacist first. This will not only relieve the pain but will help to relieve inflammation. Try to keep yourself as active as possible within the limits of the pain. Ask your pharmacist about stronger painkilling medicines. See your doctor if the pain persists for more than a few days to get advice about gentle exercise, stronger drugs or the need for any other treatment.

Burns and Scalds – any burn or scald needs immediate action. For minor burns or scalds, remove any jewellery or clothing that may become a problem if swelling occurs. Cool the affected area with cold water for at least 10 minutes then cover with a light non-fluffy dressing. Do not burst blisters and do not put on cream or ointments. If the burn is larger than the size of your hand, or the burn is on the face or the skin is broken cool the area and seek urgent medical attention.

Sunburn – care should be taken at all times to avoid over-exposure to the sun particularly with children. Treat sunburn as other burns applying cold water to remove the heat. Calamine lotion (dabbed not rubbed) will relieve the irritation whilst Paracetamol will also help.

Insect bites and stings – First, remove bee stings with tweezers by gripping the base of the sting nearest the skin to avoid squeezing the poison sac and apply a cold compress. If stung in the mouth, suck on an ice cube or sip cold water and seek immediate medical attention.

Always seek medical attention if someone has an allergy to bites and stings, the sting cannot be removed, the area around the sting becomes inflamed or someone experiences shortness of breath or fever.

Minor cuts and grazes – press the wound with a clean fabric pad for a few minutes to stop the bleeding and elevate the limb for a cut on the arm or leg. Clean the wound thoroughly with soap and a little water and cover with a clean dry dressing or plaster.

Sprains, strains and bruises – first apply an ice compress for 15 to 30 minutes to reduce the swelling. Apply a crepe bandage firmly and give the sprain plenty of rest in an elevated position until all the discomfort and swelling has gone. If the limb is not rested, further pain and swelling will occur and recovery will take longer.

Nose bleeds – sit in chair (leaning forward with your mouth open) and pinch your nose just below the bone for approximately 10 minutes when the bleeding should have stopped. Avoid hot drinks for 24 hours. If the symptoms persist consult your doctor.

Colds – unfortunately there is still no cure for the common cold. The cold will run its course but the symptoms can be alleviated by drinking more fluids, resting and taking Paracetamol for a headache or fever. There are lots of cold treatments available from your pharmacist.

Head lice – these creatures, contrary to popular belief, prefer clean hair and are therefore not a sign of poor personal hygiene. Meticulous combing with a fine comb and conditioner will remove lice and eggs (nits) and should be repeated at 3 day intervals. Medicated head lotion can be obtained from your pharmacist without prescription.

Gastroenteritis – this is a description of a group of diseases affecting the stomach or part of the intestine. Symptoms are often diarrhoea, sickness and stomach ache. Because the lining of the stomach is likely to be inflamed, medicines are often vomited up immediately. The stomach and bowels should be rested. In older patients sips of plain water may suffice but babies and toddlers need special re-hydration fluids which are available from a pharmacist. If sickness or diarrhoea persists contact a doctor.

Diarrhoea – antibiotic treatment is rarely indicated for diarrhoea. Consult a doctor if severe diarrhoea persists for more than 48 hours. Babies and young children need special consideration as dehydration is more likely to occur. Re-hydration fluids should be given. If symptoms persist for over 24 hours or are accompanied by vomiting or weakness medical advice must be obtained.

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