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St Peter's Hill Surgery, 15 St Peter's Hill, Grantham, Lincolnshire, NG31 6QATel: 01476 850123
Research shows that people cope with their own symptoms in eight out of ten cases. You probably already act as your own doctor and nurse most of the time. If you feel unwell, you immediately try to work out why and take steps to make yourself feel better. This is 'diagnosis' and 'treatment'. When you can't solve it yourself, that's when you go for medical help.
Self-care means recognising minor illnesses and being able to treat the symptoms, preventing health problems developing and knowing when to call for outside medical help. People often worry that any symptom is the sign of a serious illness when it is much more likely to be something very simple.
People recover from most minor illnesses by themselves and don't need to be seen by a doctor. For instance, many minor illnesses, including colds and flu, are caused by a virus. There are thousands of different viruses and there is no direct cure (antibiotics can't help). But there are often things you can do to ease the symptoms while your body gets on with overcoming the virus. Rest and drink plenty of fluids (not alcohol). Paracetamol or aspirin may help relieve aches and fever, but don't give aspirin to children under the age of 12.
With a little more knowledge and information, you may be able to diagnose and treat yourself and members of your family. Some basic knowledge of first aid (for example, for burns, sprains or reviving people) can help you deal with accidents. You can then decide whether something is serious enough to need medical help.
Self-care doesn't however mean dealing with health problems on your own. Your GP and the practice team are there to help with any problems or situations you can't cope with. The pharmacist can also give you advice on treating minor illnesses. They can help you stock your home medicine cabinet and can advise you on home remedies.
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 nurse at the practice 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 department immediately.
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.
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 or confusion.
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.
This is a position in which to place a person who is unconscious. Turn the person on to their side, with the head turned to one side. Then bring the top leg over so that it is resting on the ground. This will prevent the person from vomiting and choking.
Important note: For more detailed information on resuscitation and first aid you should refer to the latest edition of The Voluntary Aid Societies' First Aid Manual (published jointly by St John Ambulance, the British Red Cross and St Andrew's Ambulance Association). This manual contains the new Resuscitation Council guidelines.
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 give advice on changing your diet or other lifestyle changes. The services of a smoking counsellor is also available.