Self Treatment of Common Illnesses and Accidents

Many common aches and pains can be simply treated at home without the need to consult a doctor.

Back Pain

Most people will have low back pain at some time in their lives, and the vast majority will recover with little or no treatment within six weeks.  Usually arising from the discs, joints of the spine, muscles or ligaments, the pain is described as ‘mechanical’.  This type of pain is commonest between the ages of 20 and 50.  Pain spreading to the foot or toes is sciatica and merits seeing your doctor if not resolving in a few days.  Current advice is to keep going and continue normal daily activities including work, as rest may actually prolong back pain.  Use simple pain killers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.

You should seek medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • The pain lasts more than 6 weeks
  • Weakness of legs
  • Numbness in the groin or buttocks
  • Loss of control of bladder or bowels
  • Aching pain at night disturbing sleep
  • You have fever, sweating or chills

Burns

For minor burns, hold the affected area under cold water for at least 10 minutes or until the pain subsides. Remove jewellery etc. and cover the burn with clean, non-fluffy material to protect from infection. Cloth, a clean plastic bag or kitchen film all make good dressings. If a minor burn is larger than a postage stamp it requires medical attention. All deep burns of any size require urgent hospital treatment. On all burns:

  • Do not use lotions, ointments and creams
  • Do not use adhesive dressings
  • Do not break blisters

Colds

Even in this day and age there is still no magic cure for the common cold.  Go to bed, take plenty of drinks. It is probably best to stay at home to avoid spreading your cold to others. Take it easy and rest if possible. Keep warm, and keep the atmosphere moist. Drink plenty of fluids, as you will lose a lot through mucus production and possibly perspiration. Avoid smoking if possible, as it will further irritate the throat and the lining of the nose. Take aspirin or paracetamol as per the dosage.

Nosebleeds

If you are having a nosebleed you should: Sit down and firmly pinch the soft part of your nasal cavity, just above your nostrils, together for 10 minutes, lean forward and breathe through your mouth leaning forward drains the blood down your nose instead of down the back of your throat, maintain the pressure on your nose for 15 minutes (time this on the clock) in order for the blood to clot, place a covered ice pack on your cheek to help soothe the area, the bleeding should stop and not start again, unless your nose is knocked or picked, and avoid blowing your nose and strenuous activity for at least 12 hours after a nosebleed. Avoid hot drinks for a few hours after that.  Try also not to wipe your nose too much, or to sneeze.  If the bleeding persists, consult your doctor.

Sunburn

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 over-exposure to the harmful effects of the sun.  Always wear a high factor sun cream to prevent sun burn.

Insect Bites and Stings

If you are stung by a wasp, bee, hornet, etc, then scrape out the sting as quickly as possible. Do not pluck it out as this may squeeze more venom into the skin. In most cases the sting causes pain and slight swelling, but has little other effect. Some people are allergic to stings and can develop reactions that can be life-threatening. Call an ambulance immediately if you suspect an allergic reaction soon after being stung. Insect bites (not stings) rarely cause serious allergic reactions but can cause small itchy lumps to appear on the skin. Itch may be eased by a soothing ointment, antihistamine tablets, or steroid cream. Some insects infest pets, furniture, etc, and can cause repeated bites. Antihistamine tablets can be obtained from the chemist without prescription and will usually relieve most symptoms.