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Minor Illness Advice from the Glenkens Medical Practice

This information was adapted from one of a series of leaflets produced by the Royal College of General Practitioners entitled "How to Work with your Doctor". It is available on their website,  tel: 020 3188 7400 or by contacting them at 30 Euston Square, Kings Cross,  London NW1 2FB.

First Aid

Burns: Immediately cool down the affected area with lots of cold water and continue to do this for at least 10 minutes. If the burn is larger than 4 or 5 inches across, if it is on the face or if the skin is broken, see the Practice Nurse as soon as possible. If the burn is deep, heavily blistered and very painful, or if the skin has turned white or black, go to the nearest Accident and Emergency (Casualty) department immediately.

Cuts: Try to stop the bleeding from a minor cut by pressing it, with clean hands, for a few minutes; hold a cut arm or leg up high. If a cut bleeds freely, any germs will normally be washed away by the blood. If it is a deep cut and the edges cannot be pulled together, go to the Accident and Emergency Department. Redness or swelling can be a sign of infection in a cut or graze and you should make an appointment to have it seen at the Surgery. You may be advised to have a tetanus injection if you haven't had one for 10 years.

Sprains: Remember I-C-E.

  • I stands for Ice. Immediately pack the sprained area with ice or a bag of frozen peas, wrapped in a cloth, to reduce swelling and speed up the healing process. Keep this on for about 20 minutes.
  • C means Compression. Bind the injured area with an elastic bandage, so it is well supported, but not so tight that it restricts the flow of blood. Retighten a few times a day.
  • E means Elevation. Rest the sprained area and keep it held high. For example, if you have a sprained ankle, rest it on a stool that is higher than the chair you are sitting on.

Head injuries: For a minor knock or bump, put on a cold, damp cloth. A person should be seen by a GP or taken to Accident and Emergency without delay if they have any of the following symptoms:

  • vomiting
  • unconsciousness
  • double vision
  • drowsiness
  • confusion.

Choking: Stand behind the person and hug them firmly above the waist, pushing your fist up under their ribs to make them cough up the blockage. For a young child, hold the child upside down and thump on the back.

Changing your lifestyle

The way we live can affect our health. Lifestyle changes such as giving up smoking, cutting down on heavy drinking, learning to relax, or reducing our intake of fatty foods can have a big impact on our health. The Practice Nurse would be happy to offer advice on changing your diet or making other lifestyle changes. The services of a Smoking Counsellor are also available.

Warning signs

These warning signs may tell you something is wrong and that you should contact your GP soon:

  • Losing weight by seven pounds (three kilograms) or more, without obvious reason
  • Feeling thirsty without obvious reason
  • Feeling very tired or exhausted without good reason
  • Losing blood when coughing or vomiting or going to the toilet
  • A change in a mole (changing colour, getting bigger or thicker, itching or bleeding)
  • A change in the voice (getting husky or hoarse and continuing that way for more than three weeks)
  • Indigestion or belching acid, lasting more than a month (especially in the over-45s)
  • A change in a breast or nipple.

Danger signs

In children, these warning signs mean you should seek medical advice immediately:

  • Violet-coloured spots that don't fade when pressed
  • Breathing difficulties - gulping, gasping, wheezing and being unable to speak or drink
  • The child seems to be in pain when breathing in
  • The child is weak, drowsy or confused and doesn't react to you or its surroundings
  • The child is vomiting a lot and seems ill
  • The child cannot sit up or bend the head forward.

How to treat a temperature

A raised temperature often occurs even with mild infections like colds and flu. Normal temperature is 37°C or 98.4°F. People usually know if they have a temperature - they feel hot or cold, sweaty or shivery and unwell. Children may be miserable and listless or look flushed. Small babies may seem very sleepy and not want to feed.

A higher temperature or fever means the body is fighting the infection. Help it along by drinking plenty of water or weak squash, keeping the room at a comfortable temperature with fresh air circulating and sponging with cool or lukewarm water. Paracetamol or aspirin can be taken as tablets by adults and paracetamol syrup can be given to children.

Contact the GP immediately if the person has a temperature of over 40°C / 104°F, if there is a stiff neck, cramps or vomiting, or if a child seems weak and listless or suffers a fit or convulsion.

Useful items for stocking your home medicine chest

  • Paracetamol syrups (eg.,. Calpol, Disprol, etc.) for pain or fever in children. See the label for the correct dose for the age of child;
  • Paracetamol or aspirin for adults and teenagers for headaches, colds, fever, sore throats and pain. Do not give aspirin to children under 12 years old;
  • Cough medicines;
  • Menthol crystals - add to hot water according to the instructions and inhale the steam to treat catarrh and dry, painful coughs or sinusitis. Not suitable for children - use a steam-filled bathroom instead;
  • Calamine lotion for dabbing on insect bites, sunburn, stings and itches;
  • Antiseptic solution - one teaspoonful mixed with warm water for cleaning cuts and grazes;
  • Rehydration mixture (eg., Dioralyte) for use in cases of diarrhoea or vomiting;
  • Plasters - a mixture of sizes;
  • Cotton wool to clean cuts and grazes;
  • An elastic bandage and dressings to support sprains or bruises;
  • A thermometer for taking temperatures;
  • Tweezers for removing splinters.

All these are useful medicines and dressings to keep at home in readiness for minor illnesses or accidents. Ask your pharmacist for advice on other remedies or medicines which may be of use at home.

Keep them up-to-date and out of the reach of children.

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