HOW TO DEAL WITH COMMON ILLNESSES
Many common conditions will get better on their own and can be treated very successfully by people at home. Additionally, pharmacists may also be able to advise on over the counter medication which may help.
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- Colds and Flu
- Diarrhoea and Vomiting
- Backache, strains and sprains
- Insect bites and stings
These usually start either with a runny nose or a sore throat, and other symptoms include cough, temperature and aches. They are caused by viruses and, therefore, antibiotics are of no use in their treatment.
Regular paracetamol to control the temperature and aches, and plenty of fluids are the best course of action.
Sips of plain water should be taken frequently, progressing to sweet fluids (such as squash) as the patient recovers.
If the diarrhoea or vomit contains blood, or there is severe pain or a high fever, you should discuss this with a doctor.
Diarrhoea and vomiting in babies and young children should always be treated with caution. If you have concerns, please telephone the surgery and discuss these with the doctor, who may arrange to see the child if necessary. This also applies to those who are veryfrail or have certain conditions such as diabetes.
In all cases, please do not attend the surgery without telephoning first. This allows precautions to be taken to limit the possible spread of the infection.
Headlice can affect anyone and are not a sign of poor personal hygiene. Lice are able to move from head to head during close contact and that is why children are frequently re-infected.
The cheapest method of removing lice is wet combing with a nit comb, which can be bought from a pharmacy or supermarket. The hair should be washed and the comb put through the entire head of hair, removing any lice. This must be repeated at regular intervals for at least two weeks. Whilst this is time consuming it is very effective.
Alternatively, medication to shampoo into the head to kill the lice can be bought from the pharmacy. There is no need to treat anyone other than the infected person.
The patient may well have felt unwell for a couple of days before the rash appears. Initially there will be some small red spots, less than half a centimetre wide. Within a few hours, these spots will develop small blisters in the centre and over the next few days, further spots will appear. Gradually the earlier ones will crust over.
The most infectious time is a few days before the rash appears and the patient remains infectious until the last spot has crusted over, which is usually 7-10 days from the start of the rash. Children may return to school as soon as the last crusts have gone.
Calamine lotion, available in all pharmacies, may be used to reduce the itching.
Caution is needed if the patient develops any spots around the eye.
STRAINS AND SPRAINS
Most strains and sprains will respond to rest and either paracetamol or ibuprofen for the pain and inflammation.
Traditionally the suggested cure for backache is bedrest, eg lying flat; however, evidence now suggests that gentle mobilisation is better for keeping the spine flexible.
If symptoms continue for more than a few days without improvement, or the symptoms are worsening, you should ring the surgery.
A high temperature commonly occurs even with minor illnesses, particularly in children. To reduce the temperature, clothing should be removed to allow the body to cool, even though they may feel cold, and paracetamol liquid, available from all pharmacies and some supermarkets, should be given at appropriate intervals. If a temperature is very high, gently sponging with tepid water can be tried.
If you are unable to bring the temperature down and the child appears very unwell you should telephone the practice. Anyone with a high temperature will not come to any harm by being brought to the surgery.
Insect bites, whilst often irritating, do not usually require any treatment. Do not scratch them as this risks introducing infection into the site, and often increases the itchiness.
Any obvious sting should be removed carefully from the site of a bee sting, wasps do not leave anything behind. Stings can be painful intially, but this is usually shortlived.
Antihistimine tablets can be bought over the counter in pharmacies and will relieve most symptoms.