Treating Common Ailments

Many common ailments, aches and pains can be treated simply at home without the need to consult a doctor.  Please read the advice below:
 

Back Pain

Back pain affects thousands of people, but in most cases is not serious and medical treatment is not always necessary.
 
Most Back Pain is due to: 
 - Stiffness or spasm of the muscles
 
Causes of back pain are
 - Poor posture
 - Being overweight
 - Pregnancy
 - Incorrect lifting techniques
 
Back Problems can be prevented by:
 - Keeping active
 - Keeping to a healthy weight
 - Sleeping on a firm mattress
 - Lifting heavy weights correctly - imagine how an ape stands: arms dropped, legs bent, shoulders over knees, back straight not vertical.  Lift through your centre of gravity - position with weight between feet, squat and lift by straightening knees not bending back.
 
Treatment At Home:
 - Massage the painful area; apply heat
 - Take painkillers
 - Keeping moving
 

Bed Sores

Bed sores are far easier to prevent 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 often as possible. Take care to smooth out creases in the bottom sheet to avoid irritation. If red marks appear at the pressure points such as heels, elbows, buttocks and hips, inform the doctor before they get worse.
 

Bugs and Colds

There are a lot of bugs going around at this time of year, knowing what is out there and knowing how to deal with it can give you the confidence to manage it without the need for a consultation. This information will also tell you what important things to look out for so that you know when you should get in touch with the surgery.
 
Is it a cold or a chest infection?
If you have a sore throat, runny nose and cough with a temperature you have a cold. You do not need a doctor. 
 
The symptoms
Sore throat, cough, runny nose and temperature are the common symptoms of a cold. Usually, it starts with a sore throat and temperature. The temperature can be anything above 37 and up to 39 degrees.
 
Occasionally, the temperature can be higher but if it settles with paracetamol for a few hours then it is unlikely to be serious. The sore throat will last for 2-4 days and the runny nose and cough usually start during this time. Generally, people feel pretty rubbish for the first few days with a cold. Having a headache and feeling bunged up in the head are also common.
 
The cough may sound chesty at the start because of phlegm in the windpipe. Some people start with a dry cough and then it gets more rattly in the second week. It is quite common for the cough to last for three weeks. This is more often the case if there are smokers in the home. It is normal for a cough to be worse at night.
 
The treatment
To treat a cold you mainly need to give it time. Your body is very good at getting rid of viruses and antibiotics do not work on viruses. Taking paracetamol or ibuprofen, if you are ok with it, will help to ease aches and pains. You do not need to take them to “get the temperature down”.
 
Having a temperature is part of the body’s way of getting rid of infections and will help you clear the virus from your body more quickly. The cough can be really annoying, especially at night. There are a few simple measures you can take that will ease it:
 
Prop yourself up in bed. Many people find they cough more if they are lying flat but it’s also important to keep yourself warm so make sure you are covered up; a cold draught can trigger a coughing bout.
 

Coughs

Dry, tickly cough:
Keep a drink of water by the bed. When you have the urge to cough, swallow a small amount of water, this eases the tickle and if you keep on top of the tickle you will cough less. Some people use a syrupy drink like honey and lemon or take cough mixture. This can give a bit more of a coating in the throat that reduces the tickle and helps you cough less.
 
Chesty cough:
If the cough is more chesty and you can feel there is catarrh but you are struggling to bring it up, then steam is more useful. Put hot water into a sink and hold you head under a towel, over the sink. Breathe the steam deeply through your mouth for a minute or two. The moisture makes the catarrh less sticky so it is easier to cough up. After “steaming”, stand up straight, take three or four deep breaths then breathe out as hard and as fast as you can. This will make you cough but will help you shift the phlegm.
 
Steaming is also useful for blocked nose or bunged up sinuses but is more effective if you breathe the steam through your nose. This can be difficult at first when your nose is blocked but after 20 or 30 seconds you will find you can move more air through your nose. Give your nose a good blow after steaming as the mucus (snot) will be a lot looser. Some people find that massaging or tapping  the sinuses above and below the eyes helps to loosen the mucus and relieve the congestion.
 
When to ring the surgery:
If you are feeling worse in the second or third week, if the temperature is back and is high: 39 or above, if there is a whole lot more phlegm coming up and its bright yellow or mucky green or brown, if you are feeling short of breath or are getting sharp pains in your chest when you breathe these symptoms are more important. You should call us if you have two of these symptoms but with any one of them, call if you are concerned.
 
 - If you have a cough that lasts six weeks or more, call.
 - If you have a sore throat, high temperature, pain on swallowing, sore, swollen glands in your neck and NO COUGH and you feel worse on the third day.
 - If you have worsening pain in a sinus with a fever and a lot more thick, bright coloured mucus coming out of your nose
 - If you have lung disease like emphysema or chronic bronchitis, doctors call these COPD now, or if you have asthma then what starts out as a cold may cause you more problems. If the symptoms are the same as those described in the symptoms section then you need not do anything different.
 
For asthmatics, a note of caution: some asthmatics cannot take painkillers like ibuprofen or aspirin as it can make their asthma much worse, if this is you, stick with paracetamol. Some asthmatics find that even a common cold can cause bad wheeziness.
 
All asthmatics should make sure they have a supply of their usual inhalers at this time of year so that if they catch a cold they have the treatment to hand. It’s also a good idea to start using a regular preventer at the start of the cold season, before catching one, particularly if you know that when you get a cold it makes you wheezy. If you are experiencing more wheeze it is important to get in touch with us when your reliever is not controlling the wheeze.
 
For people with COPD, a cold can sometimes lead on to a chest infection this happens because the tubes in the lungs are damaged, usually from smoking. This damage means the catarrh is not moved out of the tubes in the normal way so the tubes get plugged up with a mucusy soup. Bacteria thrive in this soup and that leads to a chest infection, also known as pneumonia. This is where the antibiotics come in.
 
What about people who don’t have lung disease? Diabetics are also more prone to serious infections and should get in touch with the surgery if the symptoms listed above (when to ring the surgery) develop. Very occasionally, people without a long term illness get chest infections. If you have the symptoms described above then let us know.
 

Flu  (Influenza)

Flu is a really horrible illness and can be very serious for some people. You may hear people saying they have had flu 2 or 3 times in a year. This is very unlikely. Many people who have a bad cold think it is flu, until they get flu, then they think they are dying.
 
The symptoms
Flu develops very quickly. You might feel fine in the morning, go to work then by lunchtime you are aching all over, your head is pounding, you feel sick, weak and cannot stop shivering.
 
With flu, people often have sickness and diarrhoea, sore throat, chesty cough, everything hurts and they are too weak to get out of bed except to crawl to the toilet. The severe symptoms normally last for three or four days. If you are normally a healthy person you do not need to worry even though you feel like you have never been so ill in your life.
 
How to treat flu.
The important thing is to rest, drink plenty of fluids and take paracetamol for pain relief. You will feel back to normal between 1 and 2 weeks from when it started.
 
How to prevent flu.
‘At risk’ groups: If you are pregnant or over 65; if you have heart disease or have had a stroke;  if you have diabetes or lung disease including asthma or have any other long term illness and have been advised by your doctor or practice nurse to have a flu vaccine then get vaccinated.
 
For older people and people with long term illness, a vaccine can save your life.  
If you are involved in providing health care, get vaccinated because being vaccinated may mean you don’t cause the death of someone else.
We are now vaccinating two, three and four year old children against flu using a nasal spray vaccine. This will help to stop the spread of flu to vulnerable people. This vaccine is fully compliant with cosher and halal rules.
 
When to call.
Call us if you are normally healthy but your symptoms are not improving after 7 days.
 
Call us if you are in an ‘at risk’ group (see the list above) and have not been vaccinated as soon as you develop flu symptoms.
 

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.
 
The treatment we recommend is to rub conditioner through wet hair and then comb with a nit comb to remove the lice. Don't worry about the eggs, when they hatch you will remove the lice when you repeat the process after four days. Three or four sessions of combing four days apart are usually required to clear the lice completely. A Nit Buster kit can be bought from the chemist.
 

Insect Bites And Stings

Antihistamine tablets 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 sac 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.
 

Nose bleed

It can look like a lot of blood is lost with a nose bleed but an eggcup of water can cover a wide area. Although it may look a lot it is probably not.
 
To manage a nose bleed sit up straight and pinch the soft part of the nose. There is no need to hold you head back. Keep pinching the nose continuously for five minutes. If the bleeding has not stopped after five minutes, put a cold wet (not dripping) flannel or wrapped up ice pack on the back of the neck and pinch the nose for another five minutes. If it is still bleeding continue to pinch for another five to ten minutes and keep the neck cold. This will stop most nose bleeds but if it has not then call us.
 
To prevent the nose bleed from starting again, avoid heavy exercise, hot drinks, alcohol and hot or spicy food for at least eight hours. Anything that makes you red in the face will also result in more blood flow in your nose and can set the bleeding off again.
 

Sickness, diarrhoea or both.

The autumn and winter are the commonest times of year for sickness and diarrhoea bugs. Most of these are caused by viruses. It’s because viruses are very common and these ones, like cold viruses are very contagious- they pass from person to person really easily. More info Symptoms Treatment
 
The symptoms
Having a ‘stomach bug’ can often be painful: stomach cramps are very common. These usually last until you have been sick or have had a bout of diarrhoea and will start to build up again before another bout.  It is common to have several bouts of sickness or diarrhoea each day and night during this illness. A mild fever: up to 38 degrees is normal. The length of the illness varies a lot from person to person. For some people it will be over in a day; for others it can last a week.
 
How to treat it:
To keep yourself well you need to drink plenty of fluids. Drinks that have sugar in them will help the water get into your body more quickly. The key is to drink little and often: half a mouthful every 10 or 15 minutes will be enough to prevent dehydration.
 
How do I know if someone I am caring for is becoming dehydrated?
People often worry about dehydration (not having enough water in your body) and sometimes worry about becoming more ill because of not eating.
The easiest way to check for dehydration is to look in the mouth. If there is fluid under the tongue then they are ok. 
 
What about food?
There is no need to worry if someone with a stomach bug does not want to eat even if it causes some weight loss. In a few days they will be better and will be eating normally again and will regain lost weight.
 
If you have a bug and you are hungry, stick to starchy foods like bread, potato, rice, pasta and banana. Starchy foods help to slow down diarrhoea.
Avoid fatty foods and dairy foods as these tend to go straight through or come back up.
 
Peppermint tea helps to ease stomach cramps.
Avoid ibuprofen as it can irritate an already sensitive stomach and may make you worse.
 
How to stop passing it on.
Stomach bugs are contagious. You can avoid them spreading by making sure surfaces and handles touched by the person with the illness are wiped down with a strong bleach or disinfectant.
 
Clean the bleach off after wiping to avoid skin irritation.
 
When to call.
If there is pain in the tummy that is constant and getting worse to the point where you cannot pull your stomach muscles in or push your stomach out we need to know. This often occurs with a high temperature: over 38 degrees.
If the inside of the mouth is dry: a finger placed under the tongue comes out dry or sticky but not wet.
 
If the diarrhoea is more watery and more frequent by the third day and you still have a temperature.
 
If you vomit blood or the diarrhoea is mixed with blood.
If the sickness and diarrhoea are not settling down after a week.
 

Sprains

Treat with a cold compress, containing ice if possible, for 15 to 30 minutes to reduce the swelling. Then apply, firmly, 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.
 

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 overexposure to the harmful effects of the sun.