Common Illnesses

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. Therefore it is understandable that it sometimes goes wrong.

Most back pain is mechanical in nature, being worse on movement and bending. This is often precipitated by an injury, overuse or doing an unaccustomed activity (e.g. gardening, painting, moving furniture). Provided you do not have any pins and needles in the legs or difficulty passing urine or motions, the pain is most likely to be muscular or ligamentous.

This will usually take anywhere from 2-6 weeks to settle. Throughout this time you should take paracetamol or ibuprofen as needed (to help relieve both pain and inflammation), try heat treatment, try gentle exercise and take time off work as appropriate.

If the pain is not settling or is continuing beyond this time, you should see the doctor who may prescribe stronger painkillers or recommend physiotherapy.

Burns & Scalds

Apply large quantities of cold water to the affected area as soon as possible and continue doing 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, go direct to your nearest Accident & Emergency department.

For further information see NHS Choices

Chickenpox

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 or 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 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.

Colds

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 take any antibiotics you may have in the house – these will have no effect!

For further information see NHS Choices

Diarrhoea & Vomiting

This is usually caused by a virus and can cause either diarrhoea, vomiting or both. Symptoms usually last for a few days, but can last up to 2 weeks before they settle. The most important aspect of management is to prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of clear fluids (especially if having both vomiting and diarrhoea).

A fever, recent travel abroad, blood in the stool or others being affected are a sign of possible bacterial infection and you should see the doctor.

Diarrhoea in very young children and babies needs careful attention. Most babies have loose bowel action during their first 6 months due to their (mainly) liquid diet. Sudden bouts of unusually watery diarrhoea should be treated by taking your baby off solids and feeding cooled boiled water. If the symptoms persist for more than 24 hours or are accompanied by vomiting or weakness, contact the surgery.

Flu

Influenza is another viral infection. It causes fever, aching, shivering and coughing. Usually it subsides in a few days, but it may leave you 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 those with multiple medical problems. For these groups of people a yearly vacination is advisable.

For further information see NHS Choices

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 in size. These do 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 to avoid any pregnant ladies (they should contact their doctor if they come into contact with someone suffering from measles).

For further information see NHS Choices

Headlice

These creatures, contrary to popular belief, prefer clean hair and are therefore, not a sign of poor personal hygiene. The recommended treatment is Malathion lotion, which can be bought in the chemist or from local supermarkets. Please do not attend the surgery to request a prescription for this. It is important to treat others in the family or school class who may also be affected.

Lyclear is not recommend for use in children.

For further information see NHS Choices

Insect Bites & 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.

For further information see NHS Choices

Measles

This usually causes high temperature, cough and sore eyes, before the typical rash appears. The rash is red, blotchy and occurs on the face and trunk. It is contagious until 10 days after the rash began. Severe illness is unusual, but complications can occur, so consult your doctor. It is strongly recommended that every child is immunised by the MMR vaccine.

Mumps

Symptoms are swelling of the glands in front of one ear, which is often followed after a couple of 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 day. If the pain is severe you should consult your doctor.

For further information see NHS Choices

Minor Cuts & 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.

For further information see NHS Choices

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 hot food for 24 hours. If symptoms persist, consult your doctor. If bleeding is extensive or goes beyond 10 minutes, please go direct to A&E or dial 999.

For further information see NHS Choices

Sore Throats

Sore throats invariably get better within a few days whatever treatment is given. Mostly they are caused by viruses which do not respond to antibiotics. Take paracetamol and suck lozenges for relief of symptoms. Difflam or Corsodyl mouthwash is also very helpful. Both can be bought over the counter.

For further information see sore throats.

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 will help. If the pain lasts for longer than 8 hours or increases in intensity you should consult your doctor.

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 over-exposure to the harmful effects of the sun.

For further information see NHS Choices