Self help

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

Back Pain

Back pain is the most common reason for losing time from work.  If not handled properly it can lead to chronic disability.


Ensure your work place provides you with good comfortable seating and that you receive training in good lifting techniques, if this is appopriate.  At home, always sit on chairs that provide support for your lower back and make sure your mattress is firm.  Take regular exercise such as walking or swimming.

If bending or lifting, keep your back as vertical as possible.


If you do get back pain, only rest for a few days then try to get moving or walking or swimming.  If you rest for too long your back will weaken.  If the pain persists for more than a few weeks then see your doctor.  Referral to physiotherapy or osteopathy may be appropriate.


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 red but not blistered, apply a loose dressing.  If the skin is blistered or broken, consult your doctor or treatment room nurse as soon as possible.

Coughs, Colds and Sore Throats

These are almost always due to a virus so antibiotics will not make any difference.

There are some things you can do to feel better:

  • Take Paracetemol or Ibuprofen for pain or fever.
  • If a child has a high temperature it is sometimes helpful to sponge him/her down with tepid water.
  • Take plenty to drink.
  • Decongestant nose drops or tablets may help to reduce nose blockage.

Ask your Pharmacist about the above medication.


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 Loperamide, which can be bought at a chemist.  Consult your doctor if the symptoms persist for more than a few days or if you notice blood in the bowel movement.

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 him/her a cooled solution of boiled water with a teaspoon of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt to the pint.  Better still, rehydration sachets can be bought from any pharmacy.  If the symptoms persist for more than 24 hours or are accompanied by vomiting or weakness, consult your doctor.

High Temperatures

A raised temperature is usually caused by a viral infection such as a cold or flu.  Simple measures to make your child feel better:

  • Remove most clothing.  For example, a baby should be stripped down to a sleeveless vest, nappy and socks.
  • Give plenty of clear liquids.
  • Sponge with tepid water (not cold).
  • Give Paracetamol every four hours until the temperature stays down. Disprol and Calpol are brand names for Paracetamol.

If the symptoms persist for more than two days or your child is particularly unwell, contact your doctor for advice.

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.


Firstly, apply a cold compress containing ice if possible, for 15 minutes every four hours for the first 48 hours to reduce the swelling.  Apply, firmly, a crepe bandage and elevate the affected part and after a few days gradually increase movement of the affected area.

Minor Cuts and Grazes

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


Treat as for other burns with cold water to remove the heat.  Calamine lotion will relieve the irritation and Paracetamol will also help.

Children are particularly susceptible to sunburn so great care should be taken to avoid over exposure.  Too much sun exposure increases skin ageing as well as increasing the risks of serious skin cancers.

Prevention – SLIP on a tee shirt

SLAP on a hat

SLOP on a high factor sun cream

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.


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 hot food for 24 hours.  If symptoms persist, consult your doctor.

Head Lice

Medicated head lotion can be obtained from the chemist without prescription.


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 three or four days further patches will appear and the earlier ones will turn ‘crusty’ and fade.  Oily calamine lotion may be applied to soothe the often severe itching.  Cool baths may also help.  The most infectious period is from two to three days before the rash appears and up to five days after this date. Children may return to school seven days after the start of the rash.

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 don’t itch.  No other symptoms are usually present apart from occasional aching joints.  The patient is infectious 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.  It is, therefore, important that all contacts are informed in order that anyone who may be pregnant can contact their doctor.

Immunisation can prevent this disease.


The rash is blotchy and red and appears on the face and body around the fourth day of illness.  It is at it’s 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 glands 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 to ten days after that date.  If the pain is severe you should consult your doctor.

Immunisation can prevent this disease.