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WORMS

Threadworms (Enterobius) are like little strands of white cotton – hence the name. They are less than 1.5 cm long and can be seen wriggling in the faeces. Horrible as they sound, they are a very common problem, particularly in children. It is estimated that up to 40% of children below the age of ten…

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SHINGLES

Shingles is a rash of blisters on the skin accompanied by a severe stinging pain, caused by a virus – the Varicella zoster virus – which is also responsible for chicken pox. Anyone who develops shingles will have had chicken pox in the past, sometimes without realising it, as one can have what is known…

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SLEEPLESSNESS

Sleep has been the subject of a great deal of research and the results, for insomniacs, are reassuring. It seems that, in the long run, Nature ensures that we get the sleep we need and there is no hard and fast rule on how much we should have – individuals differ considerably in this. What…

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SORE THROAT

Sore throat remedies grab a multi-million pound share of the over-the-counter medicine market – a £71 million share, in fact! Yet there’s little evidence that they reduce inflammation or shorten the duration of the infection. Nevertheless many people find the lozenges and gargles soothing and seem to be more than willing to pay for them….

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STICKY EYES

Many of us will know what it’s like to wake up in the morning with itchy, ‘gritty’-feeling eyes and perhaps the eyelids stuck together. Underneath, the eyelids will be red and inflamed and the whites of the eyes probably bloodshot. Blinking may be painful and bright light distressing. Conjunctivitis, as this condition is called, is…

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SUNBURN CURES

While a small amount of sunshine on the skin is beneficial -it supplies Vitamin D and helps to keep the more harmful germs that live on the skin at bay – there is no longer any doubt that continuous and prolonged exposure to the sun or the rays of a sunbed can be harmful. This…

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TEETHING

Babies cut their first teeth, on average, at about the age of six months and don’t complete their set of 20 baby or milk teeth until they’re around two to three years old. The first don’t usually give any trouble, but when the back teeth come through, they can cause pain. Some babies sail through…

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TOOTHACHE

No matter how often we visit the dentist, our teeth are constantly under threat from our diet. We tend to eat more sugar than is good for us, and after every meal, snack or drink containing carbohydrates, food sugars in our mouth are converted by plaque bacteria into acids which attack tooth enamel (its protective…

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TRAVEL SICKNESS

Travel sickness can be a misery not only for sufferers but for those travelling with them. It can easily ruin what started out as a pleasant journey or family outing. Travel sickness can last up to 72 hours on a very long journey, but it can also stop very quickly once the journey has finished….

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URTICARIA

More often known as hives or nettle rash, urticaria is a very common skin condition which affects one in five people at some time in their lives. Women are particularly prone, perhaps because of hormonal influences. With ‘ordinary’ urticaria, weals – intensely itchy raised marks on the surface of the skin – suddenly develop. They…

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VERRUCAS

Plantar warts on the feet, also known as verrucas, as opposed to common warts , tend to grow inwards rather than outwards because of the constant pressure on them from standing and walking. Verrucas normally occur on the sole of the foot and are moist. The skin surface is rough and the shape irregular. They…

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WARTS

Much folklore is associated with warts, and some intriguing forms of treatment. One ‘cure’ was to rub your warts with stones. The stones then had to be wrapped up and left at the crossroads on the way to church. If another person picked up the stones, he would heal your warts by acquiring them himself!…

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RHEUMATIC PAIN

Rheumatism is a general term describing pain which affects the muscles and joints. It covers many conditions, including osteoarthritis, a joint disorder, usually of late middle age, triggered by wear and tear in the joints included in which the protective, shock-absorbing, rubbery substance called cartilage between the bones wears away. Osteoarthritis is thought to affect…

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INFLUENZA

People often say they have flu when really they have some other virus which is giving them ‘flu-like’ symptoms – and so-called ‘gastric flu’ is certainly not due to the influenza virus. But for many people the symptoms of flu – a dreadfully ill feeling, sometimes with acutely painful muscles, a high temperature and a…

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MIGRAINE

Anyone who’s ever had a migraine – and you can include me in that – can understand the misery it brings. Yet migraine sufferers are often branded as ‘neurotic’ and made to feel guilty about their ‘weakness’. This is completely unfair, as studies have shown that there is no typical ‘migraine personality’. Migraine affects as…

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MOUTH ULCERS

Mouth ulcers tend to be small lesions on the tongue, on the inside of the cheeks or the roof of the mouth – and like so many minor problems, they are something that everybody will suffer from at some stage. They’re often called aphthous ulcers and have a pale grey base and a slightly raised…

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NAPPY RASH

All babies suffer from a red or sore bottom from time to time, however well you look after them. For the first couple of years or so of a child’s life, the area of skin around his or her bottom is constantly in contact with – and so under attack from – urine and faeces….

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NEURALGIA

Pain resulting from a nerve being over-stimulated, com-pressed or squeezed is known as neuralgia. It can be very uncomfortable as the pain isn’t just felt at the point of stimulation or pressure, but can be experienced along the full course of the nerve. It is sometimes described as an intense pain similar to the most…

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ORAL THRUSH

Denture wearers may be familiar with the problem of oral thrush as a result of chafing, although it can also affect babies, people suffering from diabetes, those who are generally unwell and not at their strongest, or those taking steroid or antibiotic drugs. It’s caused by a yeast-like fungus called Candida albicans which is also…

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PAINKILLERS

Painkillers, or analgesics, can be used to treat pain resulting from a wide variety of symptoms. They can ease pain in headaches, migraine, neuralgia, colds and influenza and help reduce temperature, rheumatic pain, period pain, dental pain, back ache, muscular pain and sore throats. So it’s hardly surprising that analgesics take up the biggest share…

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HAY FEVER

When nasal symptoms are persistent, it is important to consult a doctor, as there are several effective treatments that he or she can prescribe once the possible non-allergic causes already described have been excluded. Obviously, identifying the allergen so that the sufferer can avoid it as far as possible is helpful. Alternatively, anti-allergic, antiinflammatory nasal…

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PERIOD PAIN

When young women get painful periods it’s likely to be due to the womb going into a spasm. This causes a cramp-like pain as soon as the period starts, or a dull ache in the abdomen and back. Doctors call this primary dysmenor-rhoea, to distinguish it from secondary dysmenhorroea, the kind of period pain that…

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PILES

Piles, or haemorrhoids, are actually enlarged, worn-out veins – varicose veins that may feel rather like soft, spongy grapes. They’re found in and around the lower rectum and anal canal at the very lowest end of the bowel, in a pad of tissue that is not unlike the lips found at the opposite end of…

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PRICKLY HEAT

Prickly heat is an extremely irritating skin rash which develops in hot weather. It occurs – more in some people than in others – when the small blood vessels under the skin widen as the temperature rises. The extra blood they then supply to the surface of the body acts as the body’s radiator, allowing…

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HEADACHE

Headaches are an extremely common complaint, afflicting one person in three at least once a year, though some people do tend to suffer more than others. In fact, although we tend to use the word headache to describe any pain in the head, there are probably more than 100 different types of headache and they…

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HEAD LICE

Head lice are tiny brown insects with six short, stubbly legs. They’re about the size of a pin head and live on human heads, laying six to eight pearly white coloured eggs a day (commonly known as nits). The eggs are attached near the base of the hair shaft – a favourite spot is around…

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CRAMP

Cramp is a common problem which can be extremely painful. It is a sudden, violent contraction of a muscle which makes the muscle become hard and tense. It’s usually caused by exercise, especially unaccustomed exercise, or a prolonged period of sitting, lying or standing in an awkward position. Some people wake at night with cramp…

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CUTS AND GRAZES

You can treat most cuts and grazes at home quite safely, but always wash your hands first, if possible. Clean the cut by holding it under running water, or by gently wiping it with an antiseptic wipe or cotton wool soaked in warm water. It’s best to use a fresh piece of cotton wool for…

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CYSTITIS

Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder lining and the urethra – the tube down which urine is excreted from the bladder. It is one of the most common complaints suffered by women, and estimates suggest that more than half the women in the UK contract cystitis at some time (though it occasionally afflicts men…

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DIARRHOEA

Diarrhoea is an extremely common symptom involving loose or liquid bowel movements and frequent or speedy trips to the loo. It is also often accompanied by cramping pain in the lower abdomen. It can make you feel quite exhausted and if you’re on holiday it can ruin your fun. Most attacks of diarrhoea are caused…

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DRY SKIN CONDITIONS – ECZEMA, DERMATITIS AND PSORIASIS

Eczema and dermatitis are used as virtually interchangeable terms and generally mean inflammation of the skin. The main symptoms are itching and redness, accompanied by small blisters which often weep and form a crust. Eczema can take the form of small red patches on the limbs, or it can afflict large areas of the body….

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EAR WAX

Everyone has a certain amount of wax in their ears – it is a natural substance secreted by tiny glands in the skin of the ear similar to sweat glands. It helps protect the sensitive lining in the outer channel of the ear from infection and keeps it free of dust and flakes of skin….

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FEVER

A fever, the result of a high temperature (over 38°C/ 100.4°F) which makes you sweat or shiver, can be a symptom of any one of several illnesses, but is usually a sign that your body is fighting infection. Coughs, colds and other infections are often accompanied by aches, pains and feverishness. To help reduce a…

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HAY FEVER

Hay fever is an allergic reaction which occurs in people who are particularly sensitive to pollen or spores released into the air by trees, grasses or moulds. Its medical name is seasonal allergic rhinitis and it is one of the most common allergies known. It is estimated that between 6 and 12 million people suffer…

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COLD SORES

Although cold sores are not usually a serious condition in themselves, they can cause considerable embarrassment and distress – and, inevitably, they tend to arrive at the most inopportune times. The typical little blisters which develop into weeping sores usually appear in groups around the lips but may also occur on other parts of the…

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COLIC

Colic in babies is caused by bubbles of gas or air which become trapped in the immature digestive system. The consequent pain makes the baby cry, often inconsolably, and draw his or her legs up in pain. Problems with colic often appear when the baby is about three weeks old. They can be “very wearing…

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CONSTIPATION

With several million pounds being spent each year on laxatives, constipation is clearly a very common problem, though women are three times more likely to suffer from it than men. Yet in healthy people it is an ailment that is almost entirely preventable by simple, natural methods and laxatives should rarely be needed. Many people…

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CORNS

Corns are small lumps of hard skin on the toes, especially over the bony prominences, or on the sides of the feet. They are caused by friction or continual pressure from poorly fitting shoes. The constant rubbing causes a layer of thickened skin to develop which is gradually pushed inwards to form a nucleus or…

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COUGHS

A cough is not an illness in itself, but a symptom. Although it can be irritating and often embarrassing, it is the body’s natural response to any foreign body, congestion or irritation in the lungs or throat. The irritation may be due to things like air pollution or cigarette smoke, but in a great many…

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CRADLE CAP

Cradle cap is a harmless condition resembling dandruff that is extremely common in young babies. It usually appears during the first three months of a baby’s life, but can also affect toddlers and young children. If your baby develops cradle cap, you may first of all notice a little scurf on his or her head,…

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BRUISES

Everyone is familiar with the discolouring of the skin and its deeper tissue as the result of a knock or injury – it often turns blue, purple or black, then fades to yellow after a few days. A bruise is, in fact, caused by blood leaking from damaged blood vessels and then spreading into surrounding…

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CALLOUSES

Callouses, areas of hard, thickened skin on the soles and heels of the feet, can be very uncomfortable and make walking quite painful. They are caused by pressure, perhaps from prolonged walking, walking unevenly or something rubbing in a shoe. No one knows why some people are more prone to callouses than others. The/re not…

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CHAPPED OR DRY LIPS

Lips sometimes need more moisture than the rest of the face because they contain no sebaceous glands – glands which secrete sebum, an oily substance that lubricates hair and skin, as well as providing some protection against bacteria. But lips have more melanin, a brown pigment which protects skin against sun. Melanin can help protect…