Self Help for Common Health Problems
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.
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How to look after your child with a temperature
A child will develop a temperature usually because of an infection. Most childhood infections are caused by viruses. These do not respond to antibiotics. The following advice is to help you bring your child’s temperature down and make them feel better. We expect you to keep a supply of paracetamol syrup (Calpol, Disprol etc) at home. If you wait until you need it there will be none close to hand. Take your child's temperature if you have a thermometer. The normal temperature is 37.0 degrees Celsius. If the temperature is raised or you don’t have a thermometer, but you think that your child has a temperature, try to lower it as follows:
Give your child paracetamol syrup, the maximum dosage for their age.
Undress and unwrap the child. Most people wrap up children with raised temperatures. This can be dangerous and will make them feel worse. Clothing retains heat. Remove as much as you can. Much heat is lost through the head so leave it uncovered. Cool down the room by opening windows and lowering the heating.
Give plenty of cool drinks as fluid is lost with a fever. If reluctant to drink encourage small amounts of fluid from a favorite cup.
For older children ice lollies are usually successful.
Repeat the dose of paracetamol every four hours as necessary.
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 or your child remains listless and appears particularly ill, call the doctor for advice. It is quite safe to bring a child with a temperature to the surgery. They will come to no harm by being outside; indeed the cooler air may well make them feel better. We therefore expect to see children in the surgery rather than be asked to visit at home.
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, and then consult the doctor. Please note catarrhal symptoms may persist for several weeks after a cold.
Four out of every five sore throats are caused by viruses and therefore antibiotics are useless. If your throat is sore but you are otherwise fine, there is no need to see a doctor. Simply give paracetamol syrup and fluids. For adults and children over 16, gargling with soluble aspirin is the most effective remedy. Dissolve two aspirins in one inch of warm water in a glass. Take sips of the solution and gargle with each sip for as long as you can before swallowing. If you are very hot and unwell and can see white spots on your tonsils you may have a true tonsillitis and you should come and see us at the surgery.
Most coughs are associated with colds. If you do not feel particularly ill there is no need to see a doctor. We do not usually prescribe cough medicines. If you are hot and unwell and coughing up green spit 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. Please try and stop smoking! If your cough persists for a few weeks please come to the surgery as further tests may be indicated.
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.
Diarrhoea & Vomiting (Gastroenteritis, Food Poisoning, etc)
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 a full 24 hours. Drink plenty of clear fluids starting with small amounts first 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. 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. If symptoms persist longer than 48 hours or come on after a trip abroad come and see us at the surgery for further advice.
This is usually caused by lifting, gardening etc. Rest is the mainstay of treatment. If the pain is not severe and does not go down your leg, take it easy and take any simple painkiller 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.
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.
Sprains, Strains & Pulled Muscles
Remember “RICE” - Rest, Ice, Compression, and 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 the pain and swelling. Treating an injury correctly, immediately, will lessen its severity and speed up the healing. 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.
Burns & Scalds: Place the burnt area under running cold water until the pain eases. This may take up to 15 minutes. Cover the area with a clean dry tea towel or something similar. Do not pull clothes off a burnt area. Do not prick blisters. Do not put oil or cream on a burn. If the burn is large then seek medical advice at casualty. For smaller burns that you are not happy to treat yourself, the practice nurse will be happy to see you in the surgery.
Raise the limb and use firm pressure with a clean cloth until the bleeding stops. If the wound is gaping and looks like requiring stitching or there is heavy bleeding, contact the doctor.
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.
Sit in a chair leaning forwards with your mouth open and pinch the soft lower part of the nose, not the bone, for 10 minutes. Avoid blowing the nose for 24 hours. If the bleeding persists, contact the doctor.
Insect Bites and Stings:
Prevention is better than cure. If you are prone to nasty 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. Contact a doctor immediately.
Head lice are tiny wingless insects that are grey-brown in colour. They are the size of a pinhead when they hatch and 3mm long (the size of a sesame seed) when fully grown.
Head lice cannot fly, jump or swim. They are spread by head-to-head contact and climb from the hair of an infected person to the hair of someone else.
Life cycle of head lice:
A female head louse lays eggs by cementing them to hairs (often close to the root) where they will be kept warm by the scalp. The eggs are pinhead size and difficult to see.
When the baby lice hatch 7 to 10 days later, the empty eggshells (nits) remain glued in place. Nits glisten white and become more noticeable as the growth of the hair carries them away from the scalp.
Head lice feed by biting the scalp and sucking blood through it. They take 6 to 10 days to become fully grown. Once mature, a head louse can transfer from head to head.
How common are head lice?
Children are most commonly affected by head lice, although anyone with hair can catch them.
Children are often affected by head lice because they tend to have more head-to-head contact while at school or during play. Head lice are most common in children between 4 to 11 years old.
Getting rid of head lice:
Head lice can be effectively treated using medicated lotions or by wet combing, using a specially designed head lice comb. You can also ask your school nurse, health visitor, GP or pharmacist if you are worried about head lice or you want more advice about how to treat them.
Some medicated products may be capable of killing eggs as well as lice, although there is no certainty of this. Check for baby lice hatching from eggs three to five days after you use a product, and again 10 to12 days afterwards.
A minimum of two applications of lotion are needed to kill the lice over the hatching period because the lotions do not always kill louse eggs.
If the lice appear to be unaffected by the product (some lice may have developed resistance to a particular insecticide) or if the problem persists, seek advice from your school nurse, health visitor, pharmacist or GP.
Always seek advice from a healthcare professional before using medicated head lice lotions on the following groups:
- Young babies (less than six months old)
- Pregnant women
- People with asthma or allergies
Pregnant women are advised to use either wet combing or 4% dimeticone lotion, which is licensed for use in pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Always read the instructions carefully before using medicated head lice lotions.