Common Illness - Self Help

Below are some common illnesses, many of which do not need medical intervention.  The list is by no means exhaustive and if you have particular concern you should contact the doctor or nurse for advice.

Back Pain

Back pain causes 13 million working days to be lost in Britain each year.  The spine, being made up of 24 fragile bones and associated cartilage and tendons, supports the whole weight of the upper body, and therefore 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 physiotherapy.


Apply large quantities of cold 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.

Chicken Pox

On the first day a rash appears as small red patches about 3-4mm across.  Within a few hours of these developing, small blisters ppears in the centre of these patches.  During the next 3 or 4 days further patches will appear, and the earlier ones will turn 'crusty' and fall off.  Oil 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.


Even in this day and age there is still no magic 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 any antibiotics you may have in the house - these will have no effect!

Diarrhoea & Vomiting

The main treatment aim here is to prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of clear fluids.  Vomiting usually settles within a few hours, if it persists beyond 24 hours consult your doctor.  In adults and older children, Kaolin mixture will help reduce the diarrhoea after the worst is over.  Diarrhoea in very young children and babies needs careful attention.  Most babies have loose bowel action during their 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 feeding cooled boiled water.  If the symptoms persist for more than 24 hours or are accompanied by vomiting or weakness, consult your doctor.


Influenza is another viral infection.  It causes fever, aching, shivering and coughing.  Usually it subsides in a few days, but it may leave the sufferer feeling washed out for a while.  Treatment of symptoms with paracetamol and a cough linctus is usually all that is possible.  If you are concerned consult your doctor, as complications are possible, particularly in the elderly or infirm.  For these groups of people a yearly vaccination is advisable.

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 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.


These creatures, contrary to popular belief, prefer clean hair and are, therefore, not a sign of poor personal hygiene.  We recommend the 'Bug Busters' method of combing wet hair with conditioner applied using a special comb available at the chemist.  This has to be done regularly but has the advantage of preventing re-infestation.  Medicated head lotion can be obtained from the chemists.




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