Self Help and First Aid

Introduction

Many common conditions can simply be treated at home without the need to consult a doctor.
Every day many people treat their own minor illnesses such as coughs, colds, diarrhoea etc, by going to the chemist for medicines. We think this is correct and by doing this you leave the practice team free to cope with patients who have more serious health problems.

It is often the case that patients consult us too early which either means that we are unable to make a diagnosis or the illness hasn't had a chance to get better on its own.
Most minor illnesses will get better without treatment so do not expect to receive a prescription every time you come. There is not “a pill for every ill” and antibiotics are only useful in bacterial infections - they are virtually useless against viral infections such as the common cold.

Below is some simple advice to follow for common complaints.
Please try using this advice before you come to see us, it will likely save you a trip to the surgery and you will have started your own treatment sooner so you will get better much quicker.

Health Warning

Whilst the advice offered on this page is relevant for most people, anyone with any long-term medical conditions or taking medication for any condition should consult their doctor or pharmacist before taking or using medicines purchased over the counter.

Fever in Young Children

It is usual for children to have a high temperature with minor illnesses. It may be that this is nature's way of doing some harm to the virus.

You can try to cool your child down by:
1. Dressing them lightly
2. Reducing blankets on cots / beds
3. Perhaps open a window or turn the heating down.
4. Give them lots of cool fluids or even an ice lolly.
5. Give them a dose of a paracetamol based mixture such as Calpol every four hours. It is always best to keep a supply of this at home if you have children.

Most children will respond to this but fevers often come and go over several days. You may need to repeat the treatment several times as most common infections last at least five days. If the above does not seem to be working call the doctor for advice. It is quite safe to bring a child with a temperature to the surgery so we expect to see children in the surgery rather than be asked to visit at home.

Back Pain

This is usually caused by lifting, gardening etc.
First of all, Rest is the main part of treatment. If the pain is not severe and does not go down your leg, take it easy and take any simple painkiller (e.g. paracetamol, nurofen) for a few days and things should settle.
If sharp pain consistently goes down one or other leg (Sciatica), go to bed; take painkillers and rest in bed for two to three days until the pain subsides. Then start to get up and about gently, gradually increasing your exercise as your back improves.
If pain persists for longer than three days, contact your doctor in surgery hours.
If you develop persistent numbness or weakness of your leg, difficulty in passing water or opening the bowels, seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Burns

Minor burns should be submerged in cold water immediately until the pain subsides. The can take up to 15 minutes but really helps to minimise the damage.
Unbroken blisters should NOT be popped - leave them alone or protect if necessary with a loose, dry dressing.
Large burns or those in which the skin is broken should be seen by the doctor or nurse. It can be helpful to cover the wound with cling film until medical help is available. This protects the wound, prevents infection and it won't stick.

Choking

Try not to panic.
Do not try to retrieve the object from the throat. Hold young children across your knee and hit them firmly between the shoulder blades or give them a short squeeze on the tummy.
Hold an adult from behind just below the ribs in a bear hug. Give several short squeezes.
If none of these work dial 999.

Coughs and Colds

Coughs

Most coughs are associated with colds. If you do not feel particularly ill there is no need to see a doctor.
We would advise you to use the Minor Ailment Scheme at the Pharmacy for this type of ailment.
If you are hot and unwell and coughing up green phlegm you may need antibiotics and should come to the surgery.
If you have sharp pains in your chest, are breathless or cough up more that a few specks of blood then you should see a doctor. Coughs can go on for up to six weeks after a cold.
Smokers are much more prone to coughs. Children of parents who smoke are much more likely to develop bronchitis and asthma. If your cough persists for a few weeks please come to the surgery as further tests may be required.

Colds

There is no cure for the common cold.
These are always caused by viruses and antibiotics are quite useless. Children and babies get a lot of them as they develop their resistance to disease. Treat with rest, fluids, regular paracetamol.
For children use Vicks, Karvol or Snuffle Babe to help unblock the nose. A cold will last for five to seven days and will then subside.
If after five days you are feeling worse, then consult the doctor. Please note catarrhal symptoms may persist for several weeks after a cold.

Cuts and Grazes

Raise the limb and apply firm pressure for five minutes. In most cases this will stop the bleeding. Clean the wound thoroughly with soap and water. A clean, dry dressing can then be applied.

If the wound is large and gaping it may need stitches so it is best to contact the doctor in this case.

Cystitis

Frequently passing urine which stings or burns suggests cystitis, which is sometimes caused by infection. If drinking plenty of fluids, including bicarbonate of soda (one teaspoon per glass of water, four times daily) does not relieve symptoms in three days, or if you pass any blood in the urine, see the doctor in surgery.
Please bring a specimen of urine in a clean container to be tested with you.

Diarrhoea and Vomiting

Adults

This is usually caused by a virus which will settle in 24 hours if you do the right things. Usually no prescription is needed.
Avoid all food and milk as well as tea and coffee for at least 12 hours. Drink plenty of clear fluids starting with small amounts every 15 - 20 minutes if vomiting is a problem. Any diluted juice will do.
A solution of one teaspoon of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt in a pint of water is an excellent means of fluid replacement.
After 24 hours, and if symptoms have been absent for at least six hours, start to eat a light diet. A normal diet can be resumed a day later. If symptoms persist longer than 48 hours or come on after a trip abroad come and see us at the surgery for further advice.

Children

In young children there is a danger of dehydration if symptoms are severe or prolonged.
Give plenty of fluids and paracetamol if hot. If the child is listless and wetting nappies rarely, contact the doctor or health visitor.
If the child is bottle fed replace with hydration fluids such as dioralyte for 24 hours. Then give half strength formula (by using half the amount of formula for the same amount of water) for a further 24 hours.
For babies under 6 months see the doctor if diarrhoea occurs in more than 2 nappies per day in older infants and children see the doctor if symptoms do not improve after 24 hours.

Ear Ache

This is very common, especially in children. Minor viral infections only need Paracetamol/Calpol for the first 24 hours. If symptoms persist or there is a discharge, telephone the surgery for an appointment with the Doctor.

Indigestion and Constipation

Indigestion is best treated with some antacid tablets or mixture. For constipation the Pharmacist can supply a simple laxative treatment if necessary although it is a good idea to eat plenty of fibre rich foods and to drink around 2 litres of water per day.

Insect Bites and Stings

Prevention is better than cure. If you are prone to bites use an insect repellent. These are available from your chemist. Antihistamine tablets from the chemist will usually relieve most symptoms.
Bee stings should be scraped away rather than plucked to avoid squeezing more poison into the wound. Stings inside the throat can cause dangerous swelling so contact a doctor immediately.

Nose Bleeds

Try to keep your cool in this alarming situation!
Sit in a chair, lean forward with your mouth open. Firm pressure applied with fingers and thumb below the bone must be maintained without letting go for 10 minutes.
Be very gentle afterwards and do not blow your nose, dab or pick it! Vaseline can soften clots in a few days time as they harden.

Rashes

These do not usually require emergency treatment. The common childhood infections that cause rashes (e.g. Measles, Chickenpox etc) will settle without any specific treatment.
A rash which looks like bruising and does not fade temporarily if you press on it could be associated with meningitis and medical advice should be sought immediately.
If you do bring your child to the surgery and you suspect they have chicken pox, please alert the reception staff so that you can be seated in a separate area from other children and patients who may not have yet caught the infection.

Sprains or Strains (pulled muscles)

“RICE” - Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
Rest the injured part, particularly an ankle or knee. Ice the area of injury immediately. A bag of frozen peas wrapped in a thin cloth is an excellent ice pack. Apply for 20 minutes every two hours initially. Compression is best effected with a crepe bandage or tubigrip. Remember not to have it on too tight! Elevate the injury, particularly legs.
The aim of this is to reduce pain and swelling.
After a day or so start to use the injured area gently. Warmth may help at this stage.
If you are a keen sportsman advice from a physiotherapist may be valuable.
The Pharmacist can supply most compression bandages and can help with this kind of minor ailment.