Self Care for Patients

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Self Management


Coughs and Colds in Children

An average primary school child with have 6 to 8 coughs or colds a year.

When children mix with each other, germs are passed around more frequently.  Younger children tend to catch colds from older brothers/sisters who bring germs home from school.


What causes them…?

The majority of coughs and colds are caused by a virus.  There are many different types that can infect the nose and throat. They spread in tiny droplets through the air, coughing and sneezing passes them on to others.

Children who live with someone who smokes are known to develop more coughs and colds than average, this is because cigarette smoke interferes with the nose and mouth's natural defence against viruses.

All parents are familiar with a coughing child, with or without a blocked or runny nose. In addition a raised temperature (fever), a sore throat, tiredness and being 'off food' is common.  To vomit after a coughing fit is NOT uncommon, usually the child is not very ill but is just not 'himself' or 'herself'. The cough is quite often worse at night and symptoms may last for up to one week.  However, an irritating cough may linger for up to 2 weeks after the other symptoms have gone.

Coughing does not damage the lungs; in fact, it helps to protect the lungs from serious infection.  A coughing child will not choke or stop breathing.  Despite the many cough medicines available at the chemist, no medicine will stop a cough. Decongestants may help a bunged up nose. Paracetamol (Calpol etc.) should be given to cool a fever and soothe a painful throat.   They will not stop the cough but sleep may be less disturbed. It is important to give lots of drink. As the cause is usually a virus, antibiotics are ineffective. Most coughs and colds get better as the body's immune system fights them off. Occasionally more serious infections develop such as ear infections, pneumonia etc. wheeziness, persistent earache, fast breathing, difficulty breathing, persistent high temperature, worsening drowsiness or chest pains may indicate a more serious infection. A check over from your doctor will be reassuring, even if the doctor doesn't prescribe any medication.


Colds & Flu (adults)

There is no cure.

Antibiotics will not help.

If nothing is coughed up it is because the chest is not infected. No treatment is required. Go to bed, keep your nose clear by blowing it often and inhaling steam. Suck throat pastilles and take frequent drinks. If feverish, take Paracetamol.  If you become wheezy or start to bring up yellow or green phlegm throughout the day, arrange an appointment at the surgery.


Children with Temperatures

Small children often have high temperatures with even minor illnesses such as colds and viral infections. This is part of the normal development of natural immunity. It does not indicate serious illness.  Cool the child down by removing clothes and sponging with tepid water for 10 minutes.  If the child is fretful, give paracetamol (e.g.. Calpol etc.) do not give Aspirin.

Give plenty of drinks but don't worry if the child does not eat for a few days.  If the child is very drowsy or complains of earache for more than an hour or so, arrange an appointment at the surgery.

Sickness & Diarrhoea

A common condition, especially in children during the winter months, as well as after holidays.

Most cases are due to virus infections and may be associated with colds. Most recover after a few days. It is important not to take medicine to stop diarrhoea as this can prolong the illness by preventing the elimination of the virus.  Dioralyte, or a similar electrolyte solution, can be obtained from a chemist without prescription. What is lost must be replaced in volume. If you are vomiting start with an egg cup full every 10/15 minutes and build up gradually.  Wash your hands carefully after using the lavatory to avoid spreading infection.

Arrange to be seen by a doctor if not recovered after 4 days, or if symptoms recur after treatment.


Apply large quantities of cold water to the affected area as soon as possible and maintain this until the pain subsides.

If the skin is unbroken but blistered apply a loose dressing. If the burn is larger than 4 or 5 inches in diameter or if the skin is broken consult a doctor as soon as possible.


Babies and small children should not be left in the sun as they will burn easily.

Treat sunburn by cooling the affected skin with lots of water and repeat frequently for the first 24 hours. Give paracetamol (e.g. Calpol etc.) if the child is uncomfortable.  Frequent drinks should be taken.  If the child remains unwell after 24 hours arrange to see a doctor.  Keep out of the sun. Sun burning increases the risk of skin cancer.


Cystitis is an inflammation inside the bladder.

It can affect any woman of any age, men and children can get it too, although this is less common.

Cystitis can be very painful and distressing but it is not usually a danger to your health. Most attacks are caused when bacteria from the back passage enters the bladder through the opening the urethra.  Because the opening to be bowel and bladder are so close together in women it is very easy for bacteria to pass from one to the other.  Nonbacterial cystitis is the result of the bladder being irritated by perfumed soaps, bath additives, vaginal deodorants etc., also friction and bruising during sex. Tight underwear and trousers can also cause friction.


Sign and symptoms can be one or more of the following:

  1. A burning feeling when you pass water, sometimes there can be blood in the urine or it may be cloudy.
  2. A feeling that you need to pass water very frequently even though there may be hardly any urine to pass.
  3. A dragging ache in the lower back abdomen.


What to do:

At the first signs of Cystitis, DRINK plenty of fluid, this will help flush the germs out of the bladder and dilute the urine, making it easier to pass. Over the counter remedies are available from the chemist, they work by neutralising the urine and making it harder for the bacteria to grow.

If you are taking any other medication, have heart trouble or high blood pressure, consult your doctor before taking these.


Take painkillers, following the instructions supplied with the tablets.  Rest and place hot water bottles wrapped in a towel on your lower back and between the thighs.  Some find that drinking Cranberry Juice or Barley Water can help ease the symptoms.  If an attack does not clear in a couple of days, make an appointment to see your Nurse Practitioner, also make an appointment if you are pregnant, if you notice blood in your urine or the sufferer is a child. Take early morning samples of urine to the surgery with you. If this shows bacteria you will probably be given a short course of antibiotics. The sample will then be sent to the hospital for confirmation, sometimes you may need to change the antibiotic given. You must complete the course.


Tips on how to help prevent an attack of Cystitis:

Drink plenty of fluid every day, about 3 pints. Pass water when you need to, don't hang on and make sure your bladder is empty.  Wipe yourself from front to back, avoid perfumed soap, talc and deodorants in the genital area. Avoid wearing tight trousers and choose cotton under-wear. Empty your bladder and wash the genital area after sexual intercourse.  Use a lubricating gel if friction causes soreness during sex.

Nose Bleeds

Sit in a chair (leaning forward with your mouth open) and pinch your nose just below the bony bridge for about 10-15 minutes, by which time the bleeding usually stops. Do not eat or drink anything hot for 24 hours. If the bleeding continues consult your doctor.


Small Cuts & Grazes

Wash well with soap and water.  If bleeding, press firmly over cut with a clean dressing for 5 minutes. Cover with a clean dressing.  Deep or gaping cuts will need stitching.


Head lice

Head lice prefer clean hair and are not a sign of poor hygiene.  Contact your Health Visitor/Pharmacist for advice on the appropriate up-to date treatment. If treatment is necessary it can be obtained from a chemist without a prescription.


Back, Strains and Sprains

Many acute sprains and strains will respond to a few days rest.  Paracetamol can be taken for pain. Initially a few hours resting an acute sprain with elevation and ice pack is effective.  Acute backache will usually respond to a few days bed rest. If the symptoms continue consult your doctor.


Hay Fever

An allergy causing irritation of the eyes, nose and throat.  It is sometimes associated with seasonal asthma. The symptoms can effectively controlled by antihistamines which may be obtained from a chemist.


Insect Bites

These are common in the summer.  They look like spots about ¼ inch across.  They are very itchy and usually appear on exposed parts of the arms and legs etc. The itching can be relieved by Calamine lotion and/or an antihistamine from the chemist.

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