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  • The Family Medicine Chest

    Always remember to keep this in a safe place where children cannot reach it!

    Remember to seek advice from your local pharmacist about medicines but here is a list of items useful in case of minor illnesses or accidents:

    • A selection plasters in assorted sizes
    • A triangular bandage
    • Sterile dressings in assorted sizes
    • Two sterile eye pads
    • Tweezers for removing splinters
    • Thermometer for fevers
    • Calamine lotion for dabbing onto insect bites, stings and sunburn

    Self Treatment of Common Ailments and Minor Accidents

    Lots of common ailments and minor accidents can be dealt with safely at home. This section will help you decide when you need to seek medical help or what you can safely treat yourself.

    Back Pain

    If the pain has been caused by lifting or twisting take aspirin or paracetamol which will not only relive the pain but will help to relieve inflammation. Ask your pharmacist about stronger painkilling medicines or rubs. See your doctor if the pain persists for more than a few days to get advice about gentle exercise, stronger drugs or the need for a supportive corset.

    Burns and Scalds

    Any burn or scald needs immediate action. For minor burns or scalds, remove any jewellery or clothing that may become a problem if swelling occurs. Cool the affected area with cold water for at least 10 minutes then cover with a light non-fluffy dressing. Do not burst blisters and do not put on cream or ointments. If the burn is larger than the size of your hand, or the burn is on the face or the skin is broken cool the area and seek urgent medical attention.


    In adults diarrhoea is usually caused by virus infections and is therefore unable to be treated directly. Holiday diarrhoea is often due to a bacteria. In both of the above cases, consult a doctor if the symptoms persist for more than 48 hours. Babies and young children need careful attention. Sudden bouts of unusually watery diarrhoea should be treated by taking the baby off solids and feeding only a solution of boiled water with a teaspoon of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt to the pint. If the symptoms persist for more than 24 hours or are accompanied by vomiting or weakness, consult a doctor.


    This is a description of 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 vomited up immediately. The stomach and bowels should be rested. In older patients sips of plain water may suffice but babies and toddlers need special re-hydration fluids which are available from a pharmacist. If sickness or diarrhoea persists contact a doctor.

    Many minor ailments are treated with the use of a cold compress, always keep a stock of ice in the freezer to be able to prepare one.

    Head Lice

    These creatures, contrary to popular belief, prefer clean hair and are, therefore, not a sign of poor personal hygiene. They do not survive once removed from the root of the hair. Medicated head lotion can be obtained from your pharmacist without a prescription via the pharmacy first scheme (minor ailments) if you are eligible.

    Insect Bites and Stings

    First, remove bee stings with tweezers by gripping the base of the sting nearest the skin to avoid squeezing the poison sac and apply a cold compress. If stung in the mouth suck on a ice cube or sip cold water and seek immediate medical attention. Always seek medical attention if someone has an allergy to bites and stings, the sting cannot be removed, the area around the sting becomes inflamed or someone experiences shortness of breath or fever.

    Minor Cuts and Grazes

    Press the wound with a clean fabric pad for a few minutes to stop the bleeding and elevate the limb for a cut on the arm or leg. Clean the wound thoroughly with soap and a little water and cover with a clean dry dressing or plaster.

    Nose Bleeds

    Sit in a chair (leaning forward with your mouth open) and pinch your nose just below the bone for approximately 10 minutes when the bleeding should have stopped. Avoid hot drinks for 24 hours. If symptoms persist consult your doctor.

    Be sensible, ask for advice and if in doubt consult your doctor.

    Sore Throats / Coughs / Colds

    Unfortunately there is still no cure for the common cold. The cold will run its course but the symptoms can be alleviated by drinking more fluids, resting and taking paracetamol or aspirin for a headache or fever. There are lots of cold treatments available from your pharmacist and some are suitable for children.

    Sprains, Strains and Bruises

    First apply an ice compress for 15 to 30 minutes to reduce any swelling. Apply a crepe bandage firmly and give the sprain plenty of rest in an elevated position until all the discomfort and swelling has gone. If the limb is not rested, further pain and swelling will occur and recovery will take longer.


    Care should be taken at all times to avoid over-exposure to the sun particularly with children. Treat sunburn as other burns applying cold water to remove the heat. Calamine lotion (dabbed not rubbed) will relive the irritation whilst paracetamol will also help.

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