Self Treatment

Self Treatment of Common Illness and Accidents

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

Back Pain

Back pain causes 13 million working days to be lost in Britain each year. Because of the complex nature of the spine it is advisable to consult your doctor if the pain persists for more than a few weeks.  If, as is usual, the pain has been caused by injury, i.e. lifting heavy weights, be sensible and take things easy.  Take care to sit as upright as possible with a support for the small of the back.   Take painkillers as advised by  a pharmacist.  Your doctor may well prescribe stronger drugs, heat treatment or gentle exercise.   Bed rest is not recommended. 


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 4 or 5 inches in diameter or if the skin is broken, consult your doctor as soon as possible.


Even in this day and age there is still no magic cure for the common cold.  Go to bed, take plenty of fluids.  If you have a headache or are feverish, take aspirin or paracetamol.  Do not take any antibiotics you may have in the house – these will have no effect.

Chicken Pox

On the first day a rash appears as small red patches about 3 – 4 mm across.  Within a few hours of these developing, small blisters 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 most infectious period is from 2 or 3 days before the rash appears and up to 5 days after this date.  Children may return to school as soon as the last ‘crusts’ have dropped off.

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 5 minutes.  Cover with a clean dry dressing.


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 ‘over the counter’ preparations, eg rehydration sachets.  Holiday diarrhoea is often due to bacteria and, again, ‘over the counter’ preparations can be taken.  In both the above cases, consult your doctor if the 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 the first 6 months due to their predominantly liquid diet.  Sudden bouts of unusually watery diarrhoea should be treated by taking the baby off solids and encouraging fluids.   If symptoms persist for more than 24 hours, or are accompanied by vomiting or weakness, consult your doctor. 


Sickness is often caused by a virus or by eating or drinking too much.  Do not eat, but drink water or squash at regular intervals.  Do not drink milk or hot fluids.  When sickness has passed eat a dry biscuit, bread or breakfast cereal without milk.


Gastroenteritis describes a group of diseases affecting the stomach or part of the intestine.  Symptoms are often diarrhoea, sickness and stomach ache.  As the lining of the stomach is likely to be inflamed, medicines are often immediately vomited up.  Water 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 or young children, 6 hours.

German Measles (Rubella)

The rash appears during the first day, usually covers the body, arms and legs in small pink patches about 2 – 4 mm and does not itch.  No other symptoms are usually present, apart from occasional aching joints.  It is infectious from 2 days before the rash appears until the rash disappears in about 4 or 5 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.


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 or 3 days before the rash appears until 8 or 10 days after that date.  Immunisation can prevent this disease.


Symptoms are swelling of the glands in front of one or the other ear often followed, after one or two days, by swelling in front of the other ear.  It is infectious from 2 or 3 days before the swelling appears until 8 or 10 days after that date.  If the pain is severe you should consult your doctor.

Nose Bleeds

Sit in a chair (leaning 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 food for 24 hours.  If symptoms persist, consult your doctor.

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