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Back pain is extremely common and causes 13 million working days to be lost each year. It often follows a bending or a lifting injury or overuse. Most cases of back pain benefit from a period of limited activity. It often helps to sleep on a supported surface.
Heat often helps to relieve the pain, as do simple pain killers such as Aspirin or Paracetamol. If you need a slightly stronger form of painkiller, Co-Codamol or Nurofen may be bought from the chemist.
If the pain persists for more than a few days then it is worth consulting a doctor. If the pain radiates down the legs or there is difficulty passing urine or motions then consult a doctor.
Apply large quantities of cold water to the affected area as soon as possible and maintain this until the pain subsides. This can take as long as 15 minutes. If the skin is unbroken but blisters apply a loose dressing. If the burn is very large or the skin is broken, come to the surgery for the practice nurse to advise you to dress the burn, or if you prefer, you can attend the walk-in centre at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital.
On the first day a rash appears as small red patches about 3-4mm across. Within a few hours of these developing, small blisters appear in the centre of these patches. During the next 3 to 4 days, further patches will appear and the earlier ones will turn “crusty” and fall off.
Oily Calamine lotion may be applied to soothe the often severe itching. Cool baths may also help. The patient is infective to others until all the blisters have crusted over.
Colds and Influenza
Colds, ‘flu and most sore throats are usually caused by viruses. Modern medicine still has no cure for these ailments.
With colds or ‘flu it is advisable to go to bed if feeling particularly unwell and drink plenty of fluids. Take up to the maximum recommended doses of Paracetamol or Aspirin to reduce the fever and aches and pains. If your nose is blocked or you have a dry painful cough, take inhalations of steam with menthol.
If you are bringing up large amounts of coloured phlegm or experiencing shortness of breath or wheezing, it is worth consulting a doctor.
Cuts and Grazes
Wash the wound thoroughly with water and antiseptic. Apply direct pressure to any bleeding point and cover with a clean, dry dressing. If you have not had a tetanus vaccination in the last 10 years, make an appointment with the practice nurse to boost your immunity.
Diarrhoea and Vomiting
In adults, diarrhoea and vomiting are usually caused by viruses or occasionally by food poisoning. There is no specific treatment for the former and usually the latter does not require antibiotic treatment.
The most important part of the treatment is to keep yourself well hydrated by drinking squash, tea, fruit juices, water and non-carbonated drinks.
Diarrhoea in very young children and babies needs careful attention. Most episodes of viral diarrhoea and vomiting (gastroenteritis) should resolve within 24 hours. Keep the baby off artificial milk and solids for a day but encourage as much fluid as possible. Breast-feeding can be continued. Dioralyte and preparations like it are highly recommended for treating babies. If symptoms persist for more than 24 hours, or the baby is unable to keep down any fluids, or is unusually lethargic, consult the doctor.
Emergency contraception pills are effective at any time within 72 hours of your “accident”, but they are most effective if started within 24 hours. A consultation with a doctor is necessary within this time period.
Glandular Fever is a viral illness usually affecting people in their teens. A virus causes it and there is no specific treatment. It is often contracted by close contact, but not by kissing in every case! Symptoms are usually of a very sore throat associated with a high fever and painful enlarged lymph glands in the neck. It is worthwhile consulting your doctor for advice and for a blood test to confirm the diagnosis.
Insect Bites and Stings
Most of these need no treatment. Anti-histamine tablets can be bought from the chemist without a prescription and will usually relieve most symptoms. Bee stings should be scraped away rather than plucked in order to avoid squeezing the venom into the wound.
The rash is blotchy and red and appears on the face and body around the fourth day of illness. It is at its most infectious from 2-3 days before the rash appears until 8-10 days after that date.
Meningitis is a rare illness caused by inflammation of the lining of the brain (meninges). The symptoms associated with meningitis are: severe constant headache; neck stiffness – can’t move your chin towards your chest without a lot of pain; dislike of bright lights; high temperature; a rash of red/blue spots or bruises; vomiting; drowsiness or confusion; cold hands or feet.
The early symptoms can be like a severe case of the ‘flu. The symptoms can change with the passage of time. If you are concerned, phone the doctor for advice on the best course of action.
Symptoms are swelling of the glands in front of one or other ear followed, after a couple of days, by swelling in front of the other ear. It is infectious from 2-3 days before the swelling appears until 8-10 days after that date. If the pain is severe you should consult the doctor.
Period pains are very common with women of all ages but particularly in teenagers and young women. Bed rest, a hot water bottle and Aspirin or Ibuprofen taken regularly often relieves it. An alternative painkiller is Co-Codamol (Paracetamol with Codeine).
Viruses cause most sore throats and therefore antibiotics do not help. If your throat is sore but you are otherwise well there is no need to contact the doctor. Simply give children Paracetamol syrup and lots of drinks. For adults and children over 15, gargling with Soluble Aspirin is an effective remedy. Dissolve two Aspirin 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 suffer any injury to the soft tissues of the body, then the most appropriate immediate treatment is to rest the affected part. Apply ice or a packet of frozen peas, wrapped in a tea towel (ice should not be applied directly to the skin, there should be a flannel or towel between the skin and the ice pack), to the affected area for about 20 minutes and repeat it every hour for the first 6 or so hours. After the ice treatment, gentle compression can be applied in the form of a crepe bandage or similar, and the affected limb elevated.
This programme substantially reduces swelling, discomfort and disability following the injury. It is wise to seek a medical opinion following this immediate treatment.
Many strains, sprains and pulls to the musculo-skeletal system can be prevented by being adequately trained for the sporting activity in which you are participating, by wearing the appropriate footwear and protective clothing if applicable and adequate warm up exercises.
Although any sunshine in Britain is most welcome, sunburn and skin cancer in later life are not. If you are going out in the sun, keep your exposure to it well within the limits given on the TV broadcasts. Wear a good sunblock and some form of head covering.
Should you get burnt, treat the burn with cold water and apply Calamine lotion to reduce the irritation. If you have been badly burnt, hydrocortisone cream bought from the chemist may help.
It is common for body temperature to rise even with mild infections. In most cases the cause of the temperature is very obvious such as cold, ‘flu, diarrhoea and vomiting. Adults and children can use Paracetamol at the recommended dose to control the fever.
It is important in a child with a temperature that excess clothing is removed and the skin is gently sponged with lukewarm water regularly. The warm water evaporating off the skin rapidly cools the child down.