Self Treatment

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

 When should I worry? – A Parents guide to Coughs, Colds, Earaches and Sore throats

Back Pain 

Back pain causes 13 million working days to be lost in Britain each year. The spine supports the whole weight of the upper body so it is understandable that it sometimes goes wrong. Because of the complex nature of the spine it is advisable to consult your doctor if back pain persists for more than a few days. If, as is usual, the pain has been caused by abuse, i.e. lifting too heavy weights etc.. be sensible and take things easy. Take care to sit as upright as possible with a support for the small of the back. Take aspirin or paracetamol which will not only relieve the pain but will help to relieve inflammation. Your doctor may well prescribe stronger drugs, heat treatment, gentle exercise or some kind of supportive corset.

Bed Sores 

Bed sores are far easier to spot than cure. They are caused by prolonged pressure to certain parts of the body when lying in bed for long periods. They can be prevented by encouraging the patient to shift position as soon as possible. Take care to smooth creases in the bottom sheet to avoid irritation. If red marks appear the pressure points such as heels, elbows, and hips, inform the doctor before they get worse.


Apply large quantities of water to the affected area as soon as possible and maintain this until the pain subsides. This may take as long as 15 minutes! If the skin is unbroken, but blistered, apply a loose, dry dressing. If the burn is larger than four or five inches in diameter or if the skin is broken, consult your doctor as soon as possible.

Chicken Pox 

On the first day a rash appears as small red patches around 3-4mm across. Within a few hours of these developing, small blisters appear in the centre of these patches. During the next three or four days further patches will appear and earlier ones will turn “crusty” and fall off. Calamine lotion may be applied to soothe the often severe itching. Cool baths may also help. The most infectious period is from two or three days before the rash appears and up to five days after this date. Children may return to school as soon as the last “crusts” have dropped off.


Even in this day and age there is still no cure for the common cold. Go to bed; take plenty of drinks, if you have a headache or are feverish, take aspirin or paracetamol. Do not bother to take antibiotics as these will have no effect!


In adults, diarrhoea is usually caused by a viral infection and is therefore unable to be treated directly. The symptoms can usually be eased by the traditional kaolin and morphine mixture or by medicines containing codeine. Holiday diarrhoea is often due to bacteria. Again, kaolin and morphine can be taken. Consult your doctor if symptoms persist for more than a few days. Diarrhoea in very young children and babies needs careful attention. Most babies have loose bowel action during their first six months due to their predominately liquid diet. Sudden bouts of unusually watery diarrhoea should be treated by taking the baby off solids and feeding them a cooled solution of boiled water with a teaspoon of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt to the pint. If the symptoms persist for more than 24 hours, or are accompanied by vomiting or weakness, consult your doctor.


Gastro-enteritis describes 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 immediately vomited up. Large quantities of water, orange juice or thin soup should be taken to counter the effects of dehydration. Consult your doctor if symptoms persist for more than a day or, in the case of babies of your children, six hours.

German Measles (Rubella) 

The rash appears during the first day and usually covers the body, arms and legs in small pink patches about 2-4mm across and doesn’t itch. No other symptoms are usually present apart from occasional aching joints. It is infections from two days before the rash appears, until the rash disappears in about four or five days from that date. The only danger is to unborn babies and, therefore, it is important that all contacts are informed in order that anyone who may be pregnant can contact their doctor. Immunisation can prevent this disease.

Head Lice 

These creatures, contrary to popular belief, prefer clean hair and are, therefore, not a sign of poor personal hygiene. Medicated head lotion can be obtained from the chemist without prescription.

Insect Bites and Stings 

Antihistamine tables can be obtained from the chemist without prescription and will usually relieve most symptoms.

Note: Bee stings should be scraped away rather than “plucked” in order to avoid squeezing the contents of the venom into the wound.

Minor Cuts and Grazes 

Wash the wound thoroughly with water and a little soap. To stop bleeding apply a clean handkerchief or dressing firmly to the wound for about five minutes. Cover with a clean dry dressing.


The rash is blotchy and red and appears on the face and body around the fourth day of the illness. It is at its most infectious from two or three days before the rash appears until eight or ten days after that date. Immunisation can prevent this disease.


Symptoms are swelling of the gland in front of one ear often followed, after a couple of days, by swelling in front of the other ear. It is infectious from two or three days before the swelling appears until eight or ten days after that date. If the pain is severe you should consult your doctor. Immunisation can prevent this disease.


Sit in a chair, lean forward with your mouth open, and pinch your nose just below the bone for approximately 10 minutes, by which time the bleeding should have stopped. Avoid hot drinks or hot food for 24 hours. If symptoms persist, contact your doctor

Sore Throats 

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 okay there is no need to see the doctor. Simply give children paracetamol syrup and fluids (aspirin should NOT be given to children under 16). For adults, gargling with a soluble aspirin is usually the most effective remedy. Dissolve two aspirins one inch of warm water in a glass. Take sips of the solution and gargle with each sip for as long as you can without 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


Treat with a cold compress, containing ice if possible, for 15 to 30 minutes to reduce swelling. Then firmly apply a crepe bandage and give the sprain plenty of rest until all discomfort has subsided. Further strain will inevitably lead to further swelling and a longer recovery period.

Stomach Ache 

Most attacks are not serious and are usually caused by indigestion or wind. A hot water bottle will often relieve the symptoms and, in the case of indigestion, a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in half a glass of water will help. If the pain lasts for longer than eight hours or increases in intensity you should consult your doctor.


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 overexposure to harmful effects of the sun.

The Family Medicine Chest

Here is a list of useful medicines and dressings with a description of their uses. All are quite cheap and are worth stocking at home in readiness for minor illnesses. Keep them in a box or cupboard with a lock or store them well out of the reach of children.

Aspirin Tablets – Soluble

For adults and children over 16. One teaspoon diluted in warm water. Good for headaches, colds, sore throats and painful bruises.

Paracetamol Mixture

For relief of pain or fever in young children.

Sedative Cough Linctus

For dry or painful coughs, but not caused by common colds.

Menthol Crystals

Add to hot water to make steam, inhalations for treating catarrh and dry or painful coughs.

Vapour Rub

Again, for steam inhalations. Also useful for children with stuffy nose or dry coughs. Rub on the chest and nose.

Antiseptic Creams

For treating septic spots, sores in the nose and grazes.

Antiseptic Solution

Good for cleaning cuts and grazes

Calamine Lotion

For dabbing (not rubbing) on insect bites, stings, sunburn and spots associated with chickenpox.

Dressing Strips

  • For minor cuts, 3″ Wide Crepe Bandage to keep dressings in place.
  • To support sprained or bruised joints.

Cotton Wool

For cleaning cuts and grazes.


For removing splinters.

Remember that your local chemist can give you good advice about medicines.