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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 aspirin or paracetamol, which will not only relieve the pain, but will help to relieve inflammation. Your doctor may well prescribe stronger drugs, heat treatment, gentle exercise or physiotherapy.


  • Stiffness or spasm of the muscles caused by sleeping in an uncomfortable position
  • Doing activities you are not used to


  • Being overweight
  • Pregnancy
  • Incorrect lifting techniques
  • A disc between the base of the spine moving out of position or pressing on a nerve


  • Pain of the upper or lower back
  • Pain spreading from the back of the thigh to the ankle (sciatica)


  • Keeping active
  • Keeping to a healthy weight
  • Sleeping on a firm mattress
  • Lifting heavy weights correctly - crouch down, straighten knees and keep your back straight


  • Stay in bed, but no longer than one or two days
  • Massage the painful area; apply heat
  • Take painkillers
  • Exercise gently


This is a rare illness that is most common in babies, children under four years and teenagers, and requires urgent attention. It is important to be aware of the symptoms, which we have listed below.
Signs and symptoms in BABIES and VERY YOUNG CHILDREN are:

  • Difficulty waking
  • A high pitched cry that is different from a normal cry
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Refusing feeds
  • Pale or blotchy skin, especially with red or blue/black bruises that don't go white when you press on them
  • Tight or bulging soft spot on the top of your baby's head
    If you are in any doubt contact your doctor immediately.

Signs and symptoms in OLDER CHILDREN and ADULTS are:

  • A high temperature
  • A constant headache
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness or confusion
  • Dislike of bright lights
  • Stiffness of the neck (moving their chin to the chest will be particularly painful)
  • A rash of red/blue spots or bruises that don't go white when pressed with a tumbler

If you are in any doubt contact your doctor immediately. 

up.pngChicken Pox, Measles, Mumps

On the first day a rash appears as small red patches about 3-4mm across and a slight temperature may develop. Within a few hours, small blisters appear in the centre of these patches. During the next three or four days further patches will appear and the earlier ones will turn 'crusty' and fall off.

  • Calamine lotion may be applied to soothe the often severe itching
  • Cool baths may also help
  • The most infectious period is from two or three days before the rash appears and up to five days after this date. Children may return to school as soon as the last 'crusts' have dropped off

The rash appears during the first day and usually covers the body, arms and legs in small pink patches about 2-4mm across and doesn't itch. No other symptoms are usually present apart from occasional aching joints.

  • It is infectious from two days before the rash appears, until the rash disappears in about four or five 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
  • Immunisation can prevent this disease

This usually causes high temperature, cough and sore eyes, before the typical rash appears. The rash is red, blotchy and occurs on the face and trunk around the fourth day of illness. It is contagious from two or three days before the rash apears until 10 days after the rash began. Severe illness is unusual, but complications can occur, so consult your doctor.
o Immunisation can prevent this disease

Symptoms are: Swelling of the gland in front of one ear often followed, after a couple of days by swelling in front of the other ear. It is infectious from two or three days before the swelling appears until eight to ten days after that date If the pain is severe you should consult your doctor.
o Immunisation can prevent this disease


up.pngManaging Children’s Temperatures

A child will develop a fever because of an infection. Usually the child will get over such an infection without the need for antibiotics. Viruses cause most childhood infections and these do not respond to antibiotics. The following advice will help to bring your child's temperature down and make them feel better.
1. Always keep a supply of paracetamol syrup (Calpol, Disprol) at home. If you wait until you need it, there will be none close at hand.
2. If your child feels hot or appears unwell:-
a) Give the maximum dose of paracetamol stated for a child of that age.
b) Dress your child in cool clothes. A lot of heat is lost through a child's head, so leave it uncovered. Cool down the room by opening doors and windows.
c) Give your child plenty of cool drinks, as fluid is lost with a fever. If they are reluctant to drink, encourage small amounts from a favourite cup.
d) Sponging your child down with a tepid flannel will make them feel better as well as bringing their temperature down. Using tepid water is more effective than using cold water.
e) Repeat the dose of paracetamol every four hours as necessary, up to the maximum daily dose stated.
f) A child with a fever is likely to be restless at night. Offer cool drinks and sponge them down if they wake.
g) If your child does not improve after giving paracetamol and sponging, or appears particularly ill, call the doctor.
3. Very rarely, a child under five years will have a convulsion with a high temperature. They will shake all over and become very still. It usually subsides in less than five minutes. Lie the child on their side and stay with them while it lasts. If there is another adult in the house, ask them to phone a doctor. If not, call when the convulsion has passed.

up.pngPreparing For Pregnancy

If you are planning to start a family you must, of course, cease contraception. If you are taking the pill you should change to a barrier method for a period of at least three months. This is to allow for the normal hormone levels and egg production cycle to re-establish itself.
If you smoke, both you and your partner should stop. A woman who smokes during pregnancy stands a 30% greater risk of miscarrying or losing the baby at birth due to a variety of complications.
You should also ensure that your alcohol consumption is kept to an absolute minimum if you are unable to abstain totally.
Both partners should give attention to their diet with particular regard to choosing fresh unrefined foods.
Ask your doctor to check if you are immune from rubella (German measles). If not, he will arrange immunisation. In such a case you should continue with a barrier method of birth control for a period of at least two months whilst the vaccine takes effect.
Unless you've had one during recent months it is advisable to arrange for a smear test to ensure you have a healthy cervix prior to becoming pregnant.

One in ten couples experience some degree of difficulty in conceiving. This difficulty may equally be caused by a problem concerning either partner. The causes of infertility are wide and varied but most can be helped with treatment. Good pre-conceptual care will lessen the need for such treatment.

Family First Aid Kit

Here is a list of useful medicines and dressings with a description of their uses. All are quite cheap and worth stocking at home in readiness for minor illnesses.
Keep them in a box or cupboard with a lock - or store them well out of the reach of children.

Soluble Aspirin Tablets
Good for headaches, colds, sore throats (gargle with the solution), and pains in general. Aspirin should NOT be given to children under 16.

Paracetamol Mixture
For relief of pain or fever in young children

Sedative Cough Linctus
For dry or painful coughs - but not coughs caused by common colds.

Menthol Crystals
Add to hot water to make steam inhalations for treating catarrh and dry or painful coughs.

Vapour Rub
Again, for steam inhalations. Also useful for children with stuffy noses or dry coughs. Rub on the chest and nose.

Ephedrine Nose Drops
For runny noses in children over one year old. Use before meals and at night but not for more than four days.

Antiseptic Solution
One teaspoon diluted in warm water for cleaning cuts and grazes.

Antiseptic Cream
For treating septic spots, sores in the nose amd grazes.

Calamine Lotion
For dabbing (not rubbing) on insect bites, stings and sunburn.

Dressing Strips
For minor cuts.

3" Wide Crepe Bandage
To keep dressings in place. To support sprained or bruised joints.

Cotton Wool
For cleaning cuts and grazes.

For fevers.

For removing splinters.

Remember that your local chemist can give you advice about medicinesup.png

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