Did you know that 10 of the most minor ailments seen by GPs can also be treated by you at home?
By treating yourself at home you could save a trip to the surgery and free up time for the GPs to see patients with more serious health problems.
Read about some of the most effective home treatments on the NHS website for:
- Back pain
- Heartburn and indigestion
- Nasal congestion (blocked nose)
- Sprains and strains
Click here to read the Medicines for Self Care leaflet
Each year 25% of the population visit their GP for a respiratory tract infection (eg sinus, throat or chest infection). These are usually caused by viruses.
For patients who are otherwise healthy, antibiotics are not necessary for viral infections.
These infections will normally clear up by looking after yourself at home with rest, plenty of fluids and paracetamol.
Ear infections typically last 4 days
89% of cases clear up on their own
A sore throat typically lasts 7 days
40% of cases clear up after 3 days and 90% after 7 days without antibiotics
Sinusitis typically lasts 17 days
80% clear up in 14 days without antibiotics
Cough/bronchitis typically lasts 21 days
Antibiotics reduce symptoms by only 1 day
Antibiotics only work for infections caused by bacteria.
Taking unnecessary antibiotics for viral infections should be avoided because they may not be effective next time you have a bacterial infection.
Patients with long-term conditions such as asthma, diabetes and COPD are eligible for flu and pneumococcal vaccinations. Ask at reception for more information.
You can treat many minor ailments such as colds, coughs and indigestion by keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet at home.
We suggest you keep the following:
- Paracetamol and aspirin (children under 16 and people with asthma should not take aspirin)
- Mild laxatives
- Anti-diarrhoeal medicines
- Rehydration mixture
- Indigestion remedy (for example, antacids)
- Travel sickness tablets
- Sunscreen – SPF15 or higher
- Sunburn treatment (for example, calamine)
- Tweezers and sharp scissors
- A thermometer
- A selection of plasters, non-absorbent cotton wool, elastic bandages and dressings
- Keep the medicine chest in a secure, locked place out of reach of small children
- Always read the instructions and use the suggested dose
- Watch expiry dates – don’t keep or use medicines past their sell-by date
- Take all unwanted and out-of-date medicines back to the pharmacy
Blocked ears (wax) self-care guideline for patients
Ear wax is a normal build up of dead cells, hair, foreign materials such as dust and natural wax which forms a protective coating on the skin in the ear canal. The quantity of earwax produced varies greatly from person to person.
A doctor or nurse can look in to the ear canal and confirm a plug of ear wax has formed. A plug of earwax is not a serious problem, more a nuisance. You only need to remove earwax if it is causing symptoms such as dulled hearing or when fitting a hearing aid.
How to remove ear wax:
Note: If you think you have ear wax, do not try to clean the ear canal with cotton wool buds. This can make things worse, as you will push some earwax deeper inside. It may also cause an ear infection.
Ear drops alone will clear a plug of ear wax in most cases. Put 2/3 drops of ordinary olive oil down the ear 2/3 times a day for 2/3 weeks. This softens the wax so that it then runs out of its own accord without harming the ear. You can continue for any length of time, but 3 weeks is usually enough. Surprisingly, you will not necessarily see wax come out. It often seems to come out unnoticed.
If you are prone to repeated wax build up you can continue to use olive oil drops twice a week to prevent recurrence.
If olive oil does not work you can buy sodium bicarbonate drops from pharmacies.
How to use ear drops:
- Warm the drops to room temperature before using them
- Pour a few drops into the affected ear
- Lie with the affected ear uppermost when putting in drops
- Stay like this for 10 minutes to allow the drops to soak into the ear wax
Bulb syringing is a safe, alternate way to remove ear wax.
Bulb syringes can be easily purchased from a pharmacy and allow you to clear your ears from wax in your own home.
If your ears are painful or have fluid coming out of them, or If you have a hole in the ear drum (perforation) or have recently had surgery on your ear you should see a doctor or nurse and don’t use this method.
Instructions for Bulb Syringing:
Use olive oil drops twice a day for at least 14 days prior to bulb syringing. Or alternatively use sodium bicarbonate ear drops purchased from your pharmacy (please read the manufacturers leaflet).
- Wash your hands.
- Use a bowl of cooled water that is warm to the touch, not to hot or too cold
- Prepare the syringe by squirting water in and out of it a few times
- Gently pull your upper ear ‘up and out’ to help straighten out the canal, which will allow better access for the water
- Tilt your head so the ear to be treated is upmost
- Place the tip of the syringe into the opening
- Allow the water to remain in your ear for at least 60 seconds. Gently tilt your head in the opposite direction and wiggle your outer ear
If, after 3 weeks or more, you are still deaf from wax, you will need to make an appointment with a doctor to nurse to decide what should be done.
Ear irrigation (ear syringing):
Ear irrigation is only recommended in the rare occasions where ear drops and bulb syringing has failed to work. Ear syringing can lead to ear infections, perforated ear drum and tinnitus (persistent noise) and therefore it is only performed in exceptional circumstances. If you think you are having persisting wax despite taking the above measures please make an appointment with your doctor to nurse to discuss.
Other NHS services
As well as our practice, there are many other local NHS services you can contact for health advice, information or treatment.
You can ask your local pharmacist about lots of health issues, including when to visit your GP. And there’s no need for an appointment.