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General Health Advice

Many conditions get better by themselves and can be treated successfully at home.  Your pharmacist may be able to help you with these and advise about medications that you can buy over the counter, sometimes more cheaply than on prescription.

Aspirin-containing medications are not suitable for children under the age of 16 years.

Abscesses: Abscesses are collections of pus (often called poison).  They are usually treated with antibiotics and may require to be lanced by the doctor.

Alcohol: This can be a safe and pleasurable social activity if taken in moderation.  Current guidelines suggest that it is safer to drink small amounts regularly than to binge on a couple of days each week.

Units:

  • ½ pint beer = 1 unit
  • 1 pint beer = 2 units
  • 1 glass wine = 1 unit
  • 1 measure of spirit = 1 unit

Present research suggests that women should restrict their intake to not more than 15 units per week; and men to not more than 21 units per week.

If you are drinking more than 30-35 units per week this may damage your health.  If you are worried about your drinking or just want some advice, any of the doctors or practice nurses would be happy to help you.

Asthma: Asthma is very common.  When you have asthma your airways become inflamed and clogged with thick mucus.  The air passages therefore become very small, which make it difficult to breathe, and you may sound wheezy or cough a lot, especially at night.

There are two types of inhalers to treat asthma:

  • A preventer inhaler. This is the most important one.  It must be taken regularly every day, as this is the inhaler that prevents you getting an asthma attack.
  • A reliever inhaler. This should be taken on an as required basis only when you are wheezy or out of breath.  If you use the reliever inhaler more than once a day, or wake up at all at night to use it, then you should consult either the doctor or practice nurse at the asthma clinic to have your treatment reviewed.

If you have a viral illness such as a cold or flu, then doubling the dose of the preventer inhaler will often prevent a flare-up of your asthma.

Backache: Backache is extremely common.  Most cases, however, will resolve by adopting a comfortable position in bed and taking paracetamol for the pain.  We no longer recommend long-term bed rest but advise early mobilisation within the limits of the pain.  If the pain travels down one of your legs, then you are likely to be suffering from sciatica.  The treatment for this is the same as above.  If your backache persists beyond a few days and you have no relief from taking your painkillers, then you should consult your doctor.

Blood pressure: Raised blood pressure tends to have no symptoms, but increases your chances of heart disease and strokes.  If you suffer from high blood pressure you should take any medicines you are on regularly.  You should stop smoking, watch your weight, cut down on salt, reduce your alcohol intake, and exercise regularly.  It is also important that you attend the doctor or nurse regularly to have your blood pressure checked.

Burns and Scalds: Apply large quantities of cold water to the affected area as soon as possible.  Run the burn under cold water until the pain subsides – this may take 15 minutes.  The skin may become blistered so keep the skin clean and dry and do not burst the blisters.  If the burn is large you should consult the appropriate casualty department as soon as possible.

Cervical smears: Women between the ages of 20 and 60 are recommended to have cervical smears taken every three years.  An appointment can be made with the nurse at the well woman clinic.  Results normally take about one month to come back and the result is sent to your house.  Abnormal smears should be followed up and depending on the problem you may either have to have your smear more regularly or be referred to the hospital clinic.  You will be sent reminders if you do not come for your cervical smear.  Please try to help us by responding to these letters.  If you do not wish to have a cervical smear, then we would ask you to let us know so that we may exclude you from our recall programme.

Chickenpox: Chickenpox is a common childhood viral infection and is one of the most infectious diseases.  It is characterised by a flu-like illness followed by small red spots about an eighth of an inch in diameter with tiny blisters in the middle.  The spots tend to arise in crops over a few days.  The treatment is to take regular paracetamol and to use calamine lotion liberally to relieve the irritation.  Chickenpox also occurs in adults and the treatment is the same.  Adults, however, are likely to feel thoroughly miserable with this disease.

Colds and Coughs: Colds and coughs and other viral upper respiratory tract infections are some of the commonest illnesses affecting mankind and are caused by viruses.  Antibiotics are of no use in their treatment.  These conditions are self-limiting and usually begin to improve after three to five days.  Treatment should be symptomatic.  This involves taking regular (every four to six hours) doses of paracetamol for the temperature and aches and pains and drinking plenty of fluids.  Don’t worry if you do not eat for a few days, you will come to no harm.  These illnesses are particularly common in children.

Contraception: All the doctors in the surgery are trained to provide family planning advice.  A range of contraceptive methods is offered to patients in the practice, apart from coil insertion.  This service is available at the Community Health Centre Family Planning Clinic, which is held between 5.30pm to 8.00pm on a Wednesday.  Emergency contraception (the morning after pill) is available and must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse.  The morning after pill can be obtained from your doctor, family planning clinic or purchased over the counter at your pharmacy.

Our practice nurses can provide routine check-ups for repeat prescriptions of the contraceptive pill. 

Cystitis: Inflammation of the bladder is common in women; typically there will be burning on passing water, you will need to go more often and the urine may be smelly.  Have plenty of drinks and a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in water can often relieve the pain.  Paracetamol may also help.  If the problem persists consult the doctor.

Diarrhoea and Vomiting:

In adults and older children - diarrhoea and vomiting will usually get better on its own.  Treatment consists of replacing the fluid that you have lost and resting the digestive system by having nothing solid to eat for 24 hours.  Plain water in small quantities should be taken frequently.   If the diarrhoea contains blood or if there is high fever or severe pain, you should discuss this with your doctor.

Small babies and young children - should be treated with caution and the doctor will be happy to advise you about this over the telephone and arrange to see the child if necessary.

Elderly people and those with medical conditions (e.g. diabetes) should consult a doctor.  Dioralyte is available at your chemist.

Diabetes: Symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst and passing a lot of water.  Should you have these symptoms make an appointment with the practice nurse, bringing a fresh urine sample with you.  If you are diabetic good control of blood sugars helps prevent complications occurring.  You should make sure that your diabetes is being regularly monitored.

Earache: Earache is common in children and is usually caused by a virus infection.  Antibiotics are no use for virus infections.  Treatment is with local heat and liquid paracetamol.

Feverish Children: A temperature occurs commonly with even mild infections.  In small children it is important to stop the temperature rising too quickly and children should be given paracetamol syrup, which may be bought from the chemist.  Give your child plenty of cool drinks, as fluid is lost rapidly with a high fever.  Give little and often.  If they still appear hot they should be gently sponged all over with tepid water, as in a bath or shower, in order to cool them.  It is sometimes necessary to carry this out for 20 to 30 minutes at a time on more than one occasion in order to get results.  A child with a temperature will be restless at night and will require lots of cuddles.  Parents may have to take it in turn to comfort the child in order that the whole family does not become exhausted.  If a temperature is very high and does not come down with this treatment or the child appears very unwell with the temperature, you should consult a doctor.  A child with a temperature will not come to any harm by being brought by car or pram to the surgery.  The fresh air will help bring the temperature down.

Generic Medications: These are versions of branded medications made by other manufacturers.  They are generally less expensive and by prescribing them doctors can save millions of pounds for the NHS – this money can be spent to your benefit in other ways.

German Measles or Rubella: This rash usually covers the whole body with tiny pink patches about 2–4mm across.  The spots do not itch and are usually accompanied by swelling of the glands at the back of the neck.  Sometimes joints may ache or even swell.  The only danger is to unborn babies and for this reason it is important that all female contacts of childbearing age are informed, so that they can seek medical advice.  Even women who have been immunised should seek advice if they are pregnant.  Parents should ensure that their children have all the routine vaccinations to help protect them against this viral infection.

 

Head Lice: Head lice may affect anyone and is not a sign of poor hygiene.  Lotions can be obtained from the chemist without prescription.  Treat only members of the family who have recognisable infestation.

Insect Bites and Stings: Most of these require no treatment.  Anti-histamine tablets can be obtained from the chemist without prescription and will relieve most symptoms.  Wasp stings may be helped by the application of vinegar and bee stings should by carefully removed using tweezers.  Very rarely someone may develop a violent allergic reaction to a bite or sting.  They may become generally unwell with swollen lips and eyes, intense generalised itch and difficulty breathing or wheeziness.  If this happens contact your doctor or call 999 immediately.

Measles: Thanks to immunisation this is now rare.  A blotchy, red rash appears on the face and body.  It is usually associated with a cough, high temperature and running eyes for a few days beforehand.  The temperature often goes as the rash appears.  Treatment is usually with bed-rest, fluids and paracetamol.

Moles: Everyone has moles and freckles on their bodies; most are harmless.  Sometimes they change and if you notice that they itch, enlarge suddenly, and change colour, bleed or scab then consult your doctor.  Most changes are harmless but could indicate the start of a skin tumour.

Mumps: Symptoms are due to swelling of the glands immediately in front of and just below the ears.  At first only one side may be affected, followed several days later by the other side.  Ensuring that children are immunised against these viral infections can reduce the risk of catching mumps, measles or rubella.

Nose Bleeds: Sit in a chair, leaning forward with your mouth open and pinch your nose on the soft part just below the bone for about ten minutes by which time the bleeding usually stops.  If the bleeding continues you should go to your nearest Accident and Emergency Department.

Poisoning: It is very important to keep all medicines and dangerous household substances out of reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet.  In the event of poisoning consult your doctor or the Accident and Emergency Department immediately and inform them of the likely substances which may have been taken.

Prescriptions: Some patients are entitled to free prescriptions because of the nature of their illness.  These include patients with diabetes who are on drug treatment or Insulin, thyroid disease, epilepsy, Addison’s disease, myasthenia gravis, colostomy, ileostomy and any permanent disability that prevents the patient leaving home without the help of another person.  Other people entitled to free prescriptions are pregnant women, people over 60 or under 16 or under 19 in full time education.  War pensioners are entitled to free prescriptions and priority treatment at NHS hospitals for the conditions for which they receive their pension.

If you pay for your prescriptions and need a lot of them you may save money by buying a season ticket: ask for a form at the Post Office.

Smoking: Lung cancer causes at least 40,000 deaths per year in the UK.  If people stopped smoking, 95% of lung cancer deaths would be avoided.  Smoking also plays a part in bronchitis, heart disease, strokes and other types of cancer.  If you are thinking about stopping why not see one of our nurses for help and advice.  There is also a Drop-in Smoking Cessation Clinic held on a Tuesday evening in the Community Health Centre between 5.30pm and 7.30pm.

You can do it!

Sore Throats: Most sore throats are caused by viruses and are not made better by antibiotics.  They usually get better within four to five days by taking simple painkillers such as paracetamol (or Aspirin for adults) regularly; and by drinking plenty of soothing drinks.

Children may be given paracetamol elixir.  If the sore throat is getting progressively worse after two or three days consult your doctor.

Sprained Joints and Muscles: These usually respond to rest, ice, compression and elevation.  Apply a cold compress containing ice (e.g. a packet of frozen peas wrapped in a towel) for 15 to 30 minutes and elevate the part to reduce any swelling.  Apply a firm crepe bandage and give the sprained part plenty of rest until the discomfort has subsided.  Take simple painkillers as necessary (for children, paracetamol elixir).

Sunburn: Children and the elderly are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of the sun and care should be taken to avoid over exposure.  Do not expose the skin for long periods, wear a hat, long sleeves and use high protection factor sun creams and take plenty of cool drinks to avoid dehydration.  Remember exposure to the sun is a major factor in the development of skin cancers.

Tetanus: This is a serious disease that still occurs.  The germs that cause it live in the soil and may infect any wound from a minor scratch to a large wound.  It is therefore important to clean any wound thoroughly.  Children are usually protected from tetanus provided that they have had all of their routine vaccinations.  If you sustain a wound you may need a booster injection (if you have any doubts, consult your doctor).

Thrush: Thrush is a yeast infection that affects many women at some time in their lives.  It is commoner in women who are pregnant, on the pill, diabetic or on antibiotics.  It usually affects the vaginal area and causes intense itching and a white discharge.  It usually requires treatment to clear it up, but you can reduce the risk of getting repeated attacks by wearing loose airy clothing and avoiding nylon underwear, tight jeans and tights.  Some forms of treatment for thrush are available at the chemist, i.e. creams and pessaries.

Toothache: This is a common problem that is usually eased by taking simple painkillers.  For children, paracetamol elixir is suitable; for adults paracetamol or aspirin.  If the pain persists, seek further advice from your DENTIST.

Whooping Cough (Pertussis): This is a nasty infectious illness particularly in small children, characterised by severe coughing attacks and may persist for several weeks and be so severe that the child vomits.  The patient makes a typical whoop when breathing in between coughs.  The child being immunised against whooping cough can prevent an attack.



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