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Health Advice - Basic First Aid

Please read the valuable advice below on basic first aid. We have also included several short video clips from trusted sources such as St John Ambulance.

For more in depth help and further advice on dealing with more serious first aid emergencies we would recommend the St John Ambulance website and the NHS Choices website first aid section

Back Pain

Back pain causes 13 million working days to be lost in Britain each year. The spine is made of 24 fragile bones and associated cartilage and tendons, and supports the whole upper body weight, so it is unsurprising to find that it sometimes goes wrong. Most cases of back pain are self limiting and will get better with rest and time.

Contact your GP if the pain persists for more than a few days, or the pain cannot be controlled with stronger OTC painkillers. If the pain was caused by misuse, such as lifting a heavy load, it is advisable to take things easy and avoid activities and postures that put further stress on the back. Paracetamol or ibuprofen are helpful in controlling the pain and in reducing inflammation.

Burns & Scalds

Apply clean, cold water to the whole burn area as soon as possible - seconds can count with burns. Keep cold water running over the burn until pain subsides sufficiently - up to 15 minutes.

If the skin is unbroken or blistered then cover with a loose dry dressing. If the burn exceeds 3-5 inches (10-12 cm) in diameter or the skin is broken then consult your doctor or the local A & E Department as soon as possible. Treat the associated pain with a strong painkiller.

Insect Bites & Stings

Most insect bites and stings are harmless, some however will provoke a mild reaction to the bitten area that may lead to a rash and/or swelling. These are easily treated. Clean the area around the sting/bite with antiseptic solution & cotton wool. Remove sting if it is still present in the skin.

Note: Bee stings should be scraped away rather than 'plucked' in order to avoid squeezing the contents of the venom sac into the wound. Apply Hydrocortisone ointment or Calamine lotion to relieve itching & reduce any inflammation. An antihistamine tablet at a recommended dose can be useful in further reducing any allergic swelling, rash and itchiness. If you have a serious allergic reaction to an insect sting, e.g. rapid swelling or difficulty breathing, seek immediate medical advice and help.

Minor Cuts & Grazes

Clean the cut or grazed area with cotton wool and an antiseptic solution diluted in lukewarm water. Dab the area dry carefully and apply an antiseptic cream. Use a plaster to cover & protect the cut or grazed area. If the cut or graze should become infected seek medical advice as you may need a prescription.

Nosebleeds

Pinch the base of the nose together, sitting down with the head tilted forwards for 15 minutes or alternatively pack the bleeding nostril with soft tissue for the same time. This should stop the bleeding. If there is still fresh blood after 2 hours contact your GP.

If you are taking warfarin and suffer a nosebleed contact your doctor immediately.

Sprains

Elevate & rest the sprained joint and use ice or an alternative such as frozen peas wrapped in a cloth for around. 15 minutes. Apply a crepe bandage to the sprained joint, resting it until pain levels subside sufficiently. Sprained joints can be painful for periods of up to and beyond several days.

Follow the simple advice of RICE for sprains - Rest, Ice, Comfortable Support, Elevation.

Sunburn

Treat sunburn as any other burn. Use Calamine lotion to cool the affected area & reduce discomfort. Paracetamol may also help reduce the pain. Try to avoid sunburn in the first instance by not staying out under a hot sun for long periods & using a high factor sun cream/block (at least factor 15 for babies & young children). Children are especially susceptible to sunburn, particularly fair-skinned and red-headed youngsters.

Over exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays and sunburn can greatly increase the chance of skin cancer, so cover up and use sunscreen.