Self help – for diagnosis of…

We have provided guidelines on self help for some conditions, these are listed alphabetically:

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 and, therefore, it is understandable that it sometimes goes wrong.

Because of the complex nature of the spine, it is advisable to consult your doctor if back pain persists for more than a few days. If, as is usual, the pain has been caused by abuse i.e. lifting too heavy weights etc, be sensible and take things easy.

Take care to sit as upright as possible with a support for the small of the back.

Take Paracetamol which will relieve the pain..


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 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, consult your doctor as soon as possible.


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 Paracetamol.

Do not bother to take any antibiotics you may have in the house – these will have no effect!

Chicken pox

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.

Cuts and 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.


In adults diarrhoea is usually caused by a virus infection and is therefore unable to be treated directly. The symptoms can usually be relieved by taking only clear fluids for 24 hours.

Holiday diarrhoea is often due to a bacteria. Again the treatment is as above. In both cases, consult your doctor if the symptoms persist for more than a few days.

Diarrhoea in very young children and babies needs careful attention. Most babies have loose bowel action during their first 6 months due to their predominantly liquid diet. Sudden bouts of unusually watery diarrhoea should be treated by taking the baby off solids and feeding it clear fluids or re hydrating mixtures (Dioralyte).

If the symptoms persist for more than 24 hours, or are accompanied by vomiting or weakness, consult your doctor.


Gastroenteritis describes a group of diseases affecting the stomach or part of the intestine. Symptoms are often diarrhoea, sickness and stomach ache.

Because the lining of the stomach is likely to be inflamed, medicines are often immediately vomited up.

Large quantities of water, orange juice, or thin soup should be taken to counter the effects of de-hydration.

Consult your doctor if symptoms persist for more than a day or, in the case of babies or young children, 6 hours.

Head lice

These creatures, contrary to popular belief, prefer clean hair and are, therefore, not a sign of poor personal hygiene.

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

Insect bites and stings

Wash with lots of cold water.

Note: Bee stings should be scraped away rather than ‘plucked’ in order to avoid squeezing the contents of the venom sac into the wound.

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 and doesn’t 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 that all contacts are informed in order that anyone who may be pregnant can contact their doctor.


The rash is blotchy and red and appears on the face and body around the fourth day of illness.

It is at its most infectious from 2 or 3 days before the rash appears until 8 or 10 days after that date.


Symptoms are swelling of the glands in front of one or other ear 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 date.

If the pain is severe you should consult your doctor.

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


Firstly apply a cold compress, containing ice if possible, for 15 to 30 minutes to reduce the swelling.

Apply, firmly, a crepe bandage and give the sprain plenty of rest until all discomfort has subsided.

Further strain will inevitably lead to further swelling and a longer recovery period.

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.


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.

Page updated: 14 February, 2022