Self-care Tips Every Family Should Know

Reviewed Aug 8, 2016

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Summary

  • Have a complete first aid kit.
  • See a doctor if cold-like symptoms last longer than two weeks, flu lasts longer than seven days, or headache lasts longer than three days.

If you’re part of a busy family, it might seem as if someone’s always coming down with a cold, headache or flu. Not every illness requires a visit to the doctor’s office. You should know when to treat common conditions at home and when to call a medical professional. 

General first aid

Every home should have a complete first aid kit. Appropriate family members and caregivers should know where to find it and how to use it. The American College of Emergency Physicians recommends that your kit include:

  • Over-the-counter pain reliever, cough suppressant, antihistamine and decongestant tablets
  • An oral medicine syringe for children
  • Activated charcoal and syrup of ipecac (for use only on the advice of medical professionals)
  • Bandages and closures
  • Elastic wraps, gauze and adhesive tapes
  • Sharp scissors with rounded tips
  • Antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment and hydrogen peroxide
  • Instant-activating cold packs
  • Tweezers

Headaches

What to do right away

Rest, take an over-the-counter pain reliever and place a cold or warm damp cloth on your forehead. Massaging your temples and stretching your neck and shoulders also may help. If you suffer from recurrent headaches, keep a “headache diary” to help pinpoint when and why they occur. Common triggers include stress, bright light, bad posture, foods, smoke, sleep problems, skipping meals and gum chewing.

When to see a medical professional

See a doctor immediately if you experience a high fever, confusion, stiff neck, prolonged vomiting, dizziness, vision changes, a runny or stuffy nose, numbness or weakness. Seek medical attention if you experience a headache with sudden and severe onset or pain that lasts longer than 3 days.

Cold and flu

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a yearly flu shot for the following groups that are at increased risk for serious complications from the flu:

  • People age 50 and older
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that house people with long-term illnesses
  • Adults and children older than 6 months who have chronic heart or lung conditions, including asthma
  • Adults and children older than 6 months who need regular medical care or were hospitalized because of metabolic diseases such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease or a weakened immune system (including immune system problems caused by medicine or HIV/AIDS)
  • Children and teens (6 months to 18 years) who are on long-term aspirin therapy and could develop Reye's Syndrome after the flu
  • Women who will be more than three months pregnant during the flu season (peak season can occur from late December through March)

What to do right away

Treat a cold by staying home and resting, drinking lots of fluids and taking over-the-counter pain relievers. Avoid taking aspirin or giving it to children—using aspirin and anti-nausea medications for treating fever or symptoms of influenza-like illnesses is linked with Reye's Syndrome. Remember that antibiotics can’t cure a cold. Taking them unnecessarily can cause potentially dangerous antibiotic resistance.

Keep your room warm and use a humidifier. Load up on vitamin C, vitamin A and zinc. If you have a sore throat, gargle with warm salt water and try saline drops to help clear up a stuffy nose.

When to see a medical professional

If you do get sick, see a doctor if your cold-like symptoms last longer than 2 weeks, or if the flu lasts longer than 7 days.

Seek medical attention if you have the flu and your fever goes above 102.2° F. Also seek medical attention if you have a dry, painful cough, breathing difficulties or a severe sore throat, earache or headache. Similarly, check with a doctor if you have a cold and experience a fever higher than 101° F, difficulty breathing, an earache, a persistent, severe headache, sharp pains when you cough, pain around your eyes or cheek bones or yellow, green or bloody nasal discharge.

Earache and ear infections

Children experiencing an earache or ear infection may tug at their ears, seem irritable or restless, lack appetite, run a fever, seem unable to hear well or have a discharge from their nose or ear.

What to do right away

Try holding a warm compress to the ear. Gargle with warm salt water and drink plenty of water or other clear liquids. Use over-the-counter pain relievers for temporary relief.

When to see a medical professional

Call a doctor if you or your child experiences these symptoms, especially if they last more than 2 days.

Fever

Average body temperature is 98.6° F, but some people normally average a little lower or higher. Adults with a fever may run a temperature of 100° F or higher.

What to do right away

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following tips for treating mild fevers:

  • Treat a fever with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Again, avoid using aspirin and anti-nausea medications.
  • Fill the bath with 1 to 2 inches of tepid water (at 85° F to 90° F). Seat your child in the tub, and using a washcloth or sponge, spread a film of water over her trunk, arms and legs. Never put alcohol in the water.
  • Keep the room comfortably cool and dress lightly. If the room is stuffy, use a fan.
  • Drink extra fluids (never give plain water to infants younger than 6 months without checking with a doctor first).
  • Avoid fatty foods or other foods that are difficult to digest.
  • Give a baby or toddler who is vomiting or has diarrhea an electrolyte solution for children.
  • Stay away from children and elderly people if the fever is a symptom of a contagious disease such as chickenpox.
  • Avoid overexertion.

When to see a medical professional

Call a doctor if a fever reaches:

  • A rectal temperature of 100.4° F or higher in infants 3 months or younger
  • 101° F or higher in infants 3 months to 6 months
  • 104° F or higher in a child older than 6 months
  • 104° F or higher in adults

Animal bites

Household pets account for most animal bites in the United States. Most bites aren’t serious, but they all should receive attention.

What to do immediately

Wash the bite thoroughly, cover it with an antibiotic cream and wrap it with a clean bandage.

When to see a medical professional

If you have not had a tetanus shot in the last 10 years, get one within 48 hours. See a doctor immediately if you’ve been bitten by an animal who is acting strangely, if the bite creates a deep puncture or bad tear, if you run a fever or if you notice that the bite seems infected.

You can treat many common conditions at home. Just in case, keep emergency telephone numbers and contact information for doctors and the poison control center handy.

Resources

American Academy of Pediatrics
www.aap.org/

American College of Emergency Physicians
www.acep.org

Mayo Clinic Family Health Book. Oxmoor House, 2009.

By Kristen Knight
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics; American College of Emergency Physicians; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; JAMA & Archives Journals, http://pubs.ama-assn.org; KidsHealth, http://kidshealth.org/kid/; The Medem Network; National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Reye's Syndrome Foundation; The University of Wisconsin—Madison Health Services; Everything You Need to Know Before You Call the Doctor by Verena Corazza, Renata Daimler, Andrea Ernst, Krista Federspiel, PhD, Vera Herbst, Kurt Langbein, Hans-Peter Martin, JD, and Han Weis, PhD. Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2001; Home Remedies: What Works by Gale Maleskey and Brian Kaufman; Johns Hopkins Family Health Book ed. by Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH. HarperCollins, 1999; Mom’s Medicine ed. by Sharon Faelten. Rodale, 2001; The Self-Care Advisor by Health Magazine. Time-Life Books, 2000.

Summary

  • Have a complete first aid kit.
  • See a doctor if cold-like symptoms last longer than two weeks, flu lasts longer than seven days, or headache lasts longer than three days.

If you’re part of a busy family, it might seem as if someone’s always coming down with a cold, headache or flu. Not every illness requires a visit to the doctor’s office. You should know when to treat common conditions at home and when to call a medical professional. 

General first aid

Every home should have a complete first aid kit. Appropriate family members and caregivers should know where to find it and how to use it. The American College of Emergency Physicians recommends that your kit include:

  • Over-the-counter pain reliever, cough suppressant, antihistamine and decongestant tablets
  • An oral medicine syringe for children
  • Activated charcoal and syrup of ipecac (for use only on the advice of medical professionals)
  • Bandages and closures
  • Elastic wraps, gauze and adhesive tapes
  • Sharp scissors with rounded tips
  • Antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment and hydrogen peroxide
  • Instant-activating cold packs
  • Tweezers

Headaches

What to do right away

Rest, take an over-the-counter pain reliever and place a cold or warm damp cloth on your forehead. Massaging your temples and stretching your neck and shoulders also may help. If you suffer from recurrent headaches, keep a “headache diary” to help pinpoint when and why they occur. Common triggers include stress, bright light, bad posture, foods, smoke, sleep problems, skipping meals and gum chewing.

When to see a medical professional

See a doctor immediately if you experience a high fever, confusion, stiff neck, prolonged vomiting, dizziness, vision changes, a runny or stuffy nose, numbness or weakness. Seek medical attention if you experience a headache with sudden and severe onset or pain that lasts longer than 3 days.

Cold and flu

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a yearly flu shot for the following groups that are at increased risk for serious complications from the flu:

  • People age 50 and older
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that house people with long-term illnesses
  • Adults and children older than 6 months who have chronic heart or lung conditions, including asthma
  • Adults and children older than 6 months who need regular medical care or were hospitalized because of metabolic diseases such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease or a weakened immune system (including immune system problems caused by medicine or HIV/AIDS)
  • Children and teens (6 months to 18 years) who are on long-term aspirin therapy and could develop Reye's Syndrome after the flu
  • Women who will be more than three months pregnant during the flu season (peak season can occur from late December through March)

What to do right away

Treat a cold by staying home and resting, drinking lots of fluids and taking over-the-counter pain relievers. Avoid taking aspirin or giving it to children—using aspirin and anti-nausea medications for treating fever or symptoms of influenza-like illnesses is linked with Reye's Syndrome. Remember that antibiotics can’t cure a cold. Taking them unnecessarily can cause potentially dangerous antibiotic resistance.

Keep your room warm and use a humidifier. Load up on vitamin C, vitamin A and zinc. If you have a sore throat, gargle with warm salt water and try saline drops to help clear up a stuffy nose.

When to see a medical professional

If you do get sick, see a doctor if your cold-like symptoms last longer than 2 weeks, or if the flu lasts longer than 7 days.

Seek medical attention if you have the flu and your fever goes above 102.2° F. Also seek medical attention if you have a dry, painful cough, breathing difficulties or a severe sore throat, earache or headache. Similarly, check with a doctor if you have a cold and experience a fever higher than 101° F, difficulty breathing, an earache, a persistent, severe headache, sharp pains when you cough, pain around your eyes or cheek bones or yellow, green or bloody nasal discharge.

Earache and ear infections

Children experiencing an earache or ear infection may tug at their ears, seem irritable or restless, lack appetite, run a fever, seem unable to hear well or have a discharge from their nose or ear.

What to do right away

Try holding a warm compress to the ear. Gargle with warm salt water and drink plenty of water or other clear liquids. Use over-the-counter pain relievers for temporary relief.

When to see a medical professional

Call a doctor if you or your child experiences these symptoms, especially if they last more than 2 days.

Fever

Average body temperature is 98.6° F, but some people normally average a little lower or higher. Adults with a fever may run a temperature of 100° F or higher.

What to do right away

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following tips for treating mild fevers:

  • Treat a fever with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Again, avoid using aspirin and anti-nausea medications.
  • Fill the bath with 1 to 2 inches of tepid water (at 85° F to 90° F). Seat your child in the tub, and using a washcloth or sponge, spread a film of water over her trunk, arms and legs. Never put alcohol in the water.
  • Keep the room comfortably cool and dress lightly. If the room is stuffy, use a fan.
  • Drink extra fluids (never give plain water to infants younger than 6 months without checking with a doctor first).
  • Avoid fatty foods or other foods that are difficult to digest.
  • Give a baby or toddler who is vomiting or has diarrhea an electrolyte solution for children.
  • Stay away from children and elderly people if the fever is a symptom of a contagious disease such as chickenpox.
  • Avoid overexertion.

When to see a medical professional

Call a doctor if a fever reaches:

  • A rectal temperature of 100.4° F or higher in infants 3 months or younger
  • 101° F or higher in infants 3 months to 6 months
  • 104° F or higher in a child older than 6 months
  • 104° F or higher in adults

Animal bites

Household pets account for most animal bites in the United States. Most bites aren’t serious, but they all should receive attention.

What to do immediately

Wash the bite thoroughly, cover it with an antibiotic cream and wrap it with a clean bandage.

When to see a medical professional

If you have not had a tetanus shot in the last 10 years, get one within 48 hours. See a doctor immediately if you’ve been bitten by an animal who is acting strangely, if the bite creates a deep puncture or bad tear, if you run a fever or if you notice that the bite seems infected.

You can treat many common conditions at home. Just in case, keep emergency telephone numbers and contact information for doctors and the poison control center handy.

Resources

American Academy of Pediatrics
www.aap.org/

American College of Emergency Physicians
www.acep.org

Mayo Clinic Family Health Book. Oxmoor House, 2009.

By Kristen Knight
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics; American College of Emergency Physicians; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; JAMA & Archives Journals, http://pubs.ama-assn.org; KidsHealth, http://kidshealth.org/kid/; The Medem Network; National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Reye's Syndrome Foundation; The University of Wisconsin—Madison Health Services; Everything You Need to Know Before You Call the Doctor by Verena Corazza, Renata Daimler, Andrea Ernst, Krista Federspiel, PhD, Vera Herbst, Kurt Langbein, Hans-Peter Martin, JD, and Han Weis, PhD. Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2001; Home Remedies: What Works by Gale Maleskey and Brian Kaufman; Johns Hopkins Family Health Book ed. by Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH. HarperCollins, 1999; Mom’s Medicine ed. by Sharon Faelten. Rodale, 2001; The Self-Care Advisor by Health Magazine. Time-Life Books, 2000.

Summary

  • Have a complete first aid kit.
  • See a doctor if cold-like symptoms last longer than two weeks, flu lasts longer than seven days, or headache lasts longer than three days.

If you’re part of a busy family, it might seem as if someone’s always coming down with a cold, headache or flu. Not every illness requires a visit to the doctor’s office. You should know when to treat common conditions at home and when to call a medical professional. 

General first aid

Every home should have a complete first aid kit. Appropriate family members and caregivers should know where to find it and how to use it. The American College of Emergency Physicians recommends that your kit include:

  • Over-the-counter pain reliever, cough suppressant, antihistamine and decongestant tablets
  • An oral medicine syringe for children
  • Activated charcoal and syrup of ipecac (for use only on the advice of medical professionals)
  • Bandages and closures
  • Elastic wraps, gauze and adhesive tapes
  • Sharp scissors with rounded tips
  • Antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment and hydrogen peroxide
  • Instant-activating cold packs
  • Tweezers

Headaches

What to do right away

Rest, take an over-the-counter pain reliever and place a cold or warm damp cloth on your forehead. Massaging your temples and stretching your neck and shoulders also may help. If you suffer from recurrent headaches, keep a “headache diary” to help pinpoint when and why they occur. Common triggers include stress, bright light, bad posture, foods, smoke, sleep problems, skipping meals and gum chewing.

When to see a medical professional

See a doctor immediately if you experience a high fever, confusion, stiff neck, prolonged vomiting, dizziness, vision changes, a runny or stuffy nose, numbness or weakness. Seek medical attention if you experience a headache with sudden and severe onset or pain that lasts longer than 3 days.

Cold and flu

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a yearly flu shot for the following groups that are at increased risk for serious complications from the flu:

  • People age 50 and older
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that house people with long-term illnesses
  • Adults and children older than 6 months who have chronic heart or lung conditions, including asthma
  • Adults and children older than 6 months who need regular medical care or were hospitalized because of metabolic diseases such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease or a weakened immune system (including immune system problems caused by medicine or HIV/AIDS)
  • Children and teens (6 months to 18 years) who are on long-term aspirin therapy and could develop Reye's Syndrome after the flu
  • Women who will be more than three months pregnant during the flu season (peak season can occur from late December through March)

What to do right away

Treat a cold by staying home and resting, drinking lots of fluids and taking over-the-counter pain relievers. Avoid taking aspirin or giving it to children—using aspirin and anti-nausea medications for treating fever or symptoms of influenza-like illnesses is linked with Reye's Syndrome. Remember that antibiotics can’t cure a cold. Taking them unnecessarily can cause potentially dangerous antibiotic resistance.

Keep your room warm and use a humidifier. Load up on vitamin C, vitamin A and zinc. If you have a sore throat, gargle with warm salt water and try saline drops to help clear up a stuffy nose.

When to see a medical professional

If you do get sick, see a doctor if your cold-like symptoms last longer than 2 weeks, or if the flu lasts longer than 7 days.

Seek medical attention if you have the flu and your fever goes above 102.2° F. Also seek medical attention if you have a dry, painful cough, breathing difficulties or a severe sore throat, earache or headache. Similarly, check with a doctor if you have a cold and experience a fever higher than 101° F, difficulty breathing, an earache, a persistent, severe headache, sharp pains when you cough, pain around your eyes or cheek bones or yellow, green or bloody nasal discharge.

Earache and ear infections

Children experiencing an earache or ear infection may tug at their ears, seem irritable or restless, lack appetite, run a fever, seem unable to hear well or have a discharge from their nose or ear.

What to do right away

Try holding a warm compress to the ear. Gargle with warm salt water and drink plenty of water or other clear liquids. Use over-the-counter pain relievers for temporary relief.

When to see a medical professional

Call a doctor if you or your child experiences these symptoms, especially if they last more than 2 days.

Fever

Average body temperature is 98.6° F, but some people normally average a little lower or higher. Adults with a fever may run a temperature of 100° F or higher.

What to do right away

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following tips for treating mild fevers:

  • Treat a fever with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Again, avoid using aspirin and anti-nausea medications.
  • Fill the bath with 1 to 2 inches of tepid water (at 85° F to 90° F). Seat your child in the tub, and using a washcloth or sponge, spread a film of water over her trunk, arms and legs. Never put alcohol in the water.
  • Keep the room comfortably cool and dress lightly. If the room is stuffy, use a fan.
  • Drink extra fluids (never give plain water to infants younger than 6 months without checking with a doctor first).
  • Avoid fatty foods or other foods that are difficult to digest.
  • Give a baby or toddler who is vomiting or has diarrhea an electrolyte solution for children.
  • Stay away from children and elderly people if the fever is a symptom of a contagious disease such as chickenpox.
  • Avoid overexertion.

When to see a medical professional

Call a doctor if a fever reaches:

  • A rectal temperature of 100.4° F or higher in infants 3 months or younger
  • 101° F or higher in infants 3 months to 6 months
  • 104° F or higher in a child older than 6 months
  • 104° F or higher in adults

Animal bites

Household pets account for most animal bites in the United States. Most bites aren’t serious, but they all should receive attention.

What to do immediately

Wash the bite thoroughly, cover it with an antibiotic cream and wrap it with a clean bandage.

When to see a medical professional

If you have not had a tetanus shot in the last 10 years, get one within 48 hours. See a doctor immediately if you’ve been bitten by an animal who is acting strangely, if the bite creates a deep puncture or bad tear, if you run a fever or if you notice that the bite seems infected.

You can treat many common conditions at home. Just in case, keep emergency telephone numbers and contact information for doctors and the poison control center handy.

Resources

American Academy of Pediatrics
www.aap.org/

American College of Emergency Physicians
www.acep.org

Mayo Clinic Family Health Book. Oxmoor House, 2009.

By Kristen Knight
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics; American College of Emergency Physicians; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; JAMA & Archives Journals, http://pubs.ama-assn.org; KidsHealth, http://kidshealth.org/kid/; The Medem Network; National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Reye's Syndrome Foundation; The University of Wisconsin—Madison Health Services; Everything You Need to Know Before You Call the Doctor by Verena Corazza, Renata Daimler, Andrea Ernst, Krista Federspiel, PhD, Vera Herbst, Kurt Langbein, Hans-Peter Martin, JD, and Han Weis, PhD. Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2001; Home Remedies: What Works by Gale Maleskey and Brian Kaufman; Johns Hopkins Family Health Book ed. by Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH. HarperCollins, 1999; Mom’s Medicine ed. by Sharon Faelten. Rodale, 2001; The Self-Care Advisor by Health Magazine. Time-Life Books, 2000.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical or health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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