Essential Health Issues


Health Choices
Water Benefits
Exercise Benefits
Healthy Aging
Minor Ailments





People invariably do cope with their own physical symptoms. You might have probably acted as your own doctor and nurse sometimes. When you are indisposed, you immediately try to find out why and take steps to make yourself feel better. This is ‘diagnoses' and ‘treatment’. When you cannot solve it yourself, that is when you go for medical help. Many common ailments can be treated at home without needing to see the doctor. Remember also that the pharmacist at the pharmacy shop is highly trained to advise you about medicines to help you take care of minor or common ailments yourself. Self-care means recognizing minor ailments and being able to treat the symptoms, preventing health problems developing and knowing when to call for outside medical help. People often worry that any symptom is the sign of a serious illness when it is much more likely to be something very simple.

People usually recover from most minor ailments by themselves and do not need to be seen by a doctor. For instance, many minor ailments including colds and flu are caused by viruses. There are thousands of different viruses and there is no direct cure (antibiotics cannot help). But there are often things you can do to ease the symptoms while your body gets on with overcoming the virus. Rest and take plenty of water. Paracetamol or aspirin may help relieve aches and fever. (But do not give aspirin to children under the age of 12.) With a little more knowledge and information, you may be able to diagnose and treat yourself and members of your family a lot of the time. Some basic knowledge of first aid (for example, for burns, sprains or reviving people) can help you deal with accidents. You can then decide whether something is serious enough to need medical help. Self-care does not mean dealing with health problems on your own. Your doctor and the health team are there to help with any problems or situations you cannot cope with. 

HOUSEHOLD CURES: Throughout the world, household or home remedies are used; often, traditional ways of healing have been passed down from generations to generations. Some are useful; some are less useful while others can be risky or harmful. Therefore, household or home remedies must be used with caution. For many sicknesses, time-tested household remedies work as well as modern medicines or even better; in some cases, they are often cheaper and safer. Home remedies help some diseases, while others are better treated with modern medicines. This is true for most serious infections like pneumonia, typhoid, tetanus, tuberculosis, appendicitis, sexually transmitted diseases and so on. For others like diabetes, hypertension, heart and kidney diseases, you must see a medical practitioner. For these diseases, do not waste your time or risk your life trying home remedies.


Sometimes it may not be easy to get a professional for some reasons like proximity, time of the day etc. Therefore, people need to be educated on simple home remedies and so it is necessary to develop and list recommended actions to be taken when minor ailments occur.


The common citizens should know that medicines should be used sensibly and only when absolutely necessary. For some ailments, no medicine is needed; and there is no medicine that does not have some risk in its use. People do recover from some ailments including the common cold (catarrh) and influenza (flu) by themselves and without need of medicine. In fact, many sicknesses can be prevented or treated without the use of medicines. It is the body that overcomes the disease by means of its immune system; even in serious illnesses when a medicine is needed. The medicine only helps usually by boosting the body’s immunity. The most important needs of the body are cleanliness, rest and nutritious food.

Personal Hygiene or Cleanliness

One of the most effective ways we have to protect ourselves and others from illness is good personal hygiene. This means washing the hands, especially, but also the body. It means being careful not to cough or sneeze on others, cleaning things that are touched if you are unwell, putting items such as tissues (that may have germs) into a bin, and using protection (like gloves or condoms) when at risk of catching an infection. Personal hygiene, such as bathing, is very much dependent on the culture in which one lives. In some cultures, it is expected that the body is washed at least every day and deodorants are used to stop body smells. Other cultures have different health and hygiene expectations.


Water Consumption:

An average adult should consume at least eight glasses of water every day. You can also get some water in fruit juices, soft drinks, beer and tea but each of them has distinct disadvantages.  Drinking pure water (not poor water) allows your body to flush out toxins without adding to the burden of your digestive systems as those mentioned above would do. Adequate water consumption is one of the single most important tasks we must practice daily in order to live a long and healthy life without health problems. 

A healthy recommendation for water consumption would be at least 10-12 glasses each day, with optimum benefits reached at 14 to 16 glasses a day. (Caffeinated or sweetened beverages should not be counted towards your daily water intake as they actually cause the body to excrete water.) It’s possibly the best health enhancement habit you can develop and it’s so simple: a glass of water every one to two hours. Try it...drink at least 10 glasses of water every day for just one week and you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel! [I recommend you should consume a big size bottle of good drinking water – it may be boiled and filtered – on rising every morning].


(a) Diarrhoea and Dehydration in children

Dehydration is the common cause of death in children with diarrhoea. Dehydration can be prevented or corrected by giving a child with diarrhoea plenty of water (better still Oral Rehydration Solution [Drink] ORS). If enough liquid is given, no medicine is usually needed in the treatment of diarrhoea.

1.         Diarrhoea causes dehydration, which kills approximately 2.2 million children every year. Children are more likely than adults to die from dehydration because they become dehydrated more quickly. Diarrhoea is also a major cause of child malnutrition.

2.         The main causes of diarrhoea are poor hygiene, lack of clean drinking water, overcrowding, and the trend towards bottle-feeding rather than breastfeeding. Infants who are fed only breast milk seldom get diarrhoea.

3.         Diarrhoea can be prevented by breastfeeding, by immunizing all children against measles, by using latrines, by keeping food and water clean, and by washing hands before touching food.

4.         If families and communities work together, with support from governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), they can do much to prevent the conditions that cause diarrhoea. Oral rehydration therapy is a simple, cheap, effective, and acceptable treatment that can be prepared and administered by parents at home to counteract dehydration which is the most common cause of death among children with acute diarrhoeal disease. ORS will also reduce the severity of diarrhoea and vomiting, the number of hospitalizations, the need for costly intravenous fluid treatment and the length of illness.  The treatment consists of a solution of sugar and salt given orally to replace both the water and electrolytes lost in diarrhoeal stools. 
Food (or breast feeding) should not be withheld from a child that has diarrhoea it is dangerous to do so. Withholding food, even for one or two days, greatly increases the malnutrition; this coupled with anorexia (inability to eat), caused partly by chronic potassium depletion, causes a vicious circle, i.e. diarrhoea causing malnutrition and malnutrition causing ever more frequent and severe diarrhoea. It is this diarrhoea/malnutrition cycle rather than acute dehydration that causes almost half of the five million deaths a year in under-five year old children that are associated with diarrhoeal disease. The same principles apply to adults. Offer frequent clear fluids or electrolyte fluid especially pure or boiled and filtered water. If you have persistent diarrhoea after a trip abroad, a stool sample may need to be checked by the laboratory and you should contact your doctor.

 (b) In feverish illnesses drinking of plenty of liquids (especially water) could be a form of treatment.

(c) In very high fever, the body may be soaked with cool water to reduce the temperature before further treatment is given.

(d) In minor urinary infections, patients should drink plenty of water with or without medication. 

(e) Hot soaks or compresses should be applied to infected wounds, abscesses and boils.

(f) Hot compresses should be applied to stiff or sore muscles and joints.

(g) In minor burns, patients should hold the affected parts in cold water.

(h) In sore throat or tonsillitis, the affected person should gargle with hot salt water. 

(i) The eye should be flushed with cool water immediately if any irritating substance (e.g. acid, dirt or insect) gets into the eye.

(j) Anyone suffering from stuffed up nose should sniff salt water. 

(k) For constipation or hard stools, plenty of water should be taken.

(l) For cold sores or fever blisters, ice should be held on the blisters for one hour at first sign.

(m) In cough, cold, influenza and pneumonia plenty of water should be drunk and the patient inhale hot water vapours. The chest or affected should also be treated with hot water (or a hot water bottle).

(n) Contaminated or impure water is often the cause of most diseases. An important part of the prevention of gastro-intestinal diseases (e.g. diarrhea) and indeed most illnesses is to boil water used for drinking or for preparing foods. A lot of packaged water being sold in the markets and on the streets (especially those called ‘pure water’) are in fact poor water.

Diarrhoea and Vomiting – WATER

If a young child or baby has a sudden bout of watery diarrhoea and/or vomiting, take them off solids and milk and offer plenty of clear fluids or electrolyte fluid. If your baby is breast fed, continue breast-feeding. If the symptoms are severe, or the child continues to vomit for more than 12-24 hours, see the doctor.

The same principles apply to adults. Offer frequent clear fluids or electrolyte fluid. If you have persistent diarrhoea after a trip abroad, a stool sample may need to be checked by the laboratory and you should contact your doctor.

Treatment of stomach ulcers and acid indigestion

Drink diluted milk several times a day especially at the end of each meal.

Take antacids such as magnesium trisilicate mixture. If pain is severe an antispasmodic (a medicine that relieves stomach spasm) may help.

Avoid the following: alcoholic drinks, coffee, cigarettes, pepper and other spices, carbonated drinks (e. g. cola drinks and soda water).

Avoid anger, tension and nervousness which make ulcers worse.

Avoid getting an ulcer by eating wisely, not drinking much and not smoking. 

Prevention and Treatment of Constipation

 (a)  Drink plenty of water.

(b)  Eat fruits, vegetables and foods with natural fiber: yam, cassava, grapefruits, pawpaw, pineapples, carrots, cucumber etc.

(c)   In the elderly, there is need to do some exercise (e. g. walking) in order to have regular bowel movement.

(d)  If there has been no bowel movement for three or more days even after the above precautions, and there is no sharp pain in the abdomen, take a mild salt laxative.

Control of simple vomiting

(a)  Eat nothing while vomiting is severe.

(b)  Sip a Cola drink, or ginger ale or Rehydration drink.

(c)  If vomiting does not stop, use a vomit control medicine.

To treat, manage and control a fever, the following procedure should be taken:
The patient should be uncovered and fanned. It is dangerous to cover a patient with fever with thick clothes. Small children should be left naked until the fever goes down. The child may also be bathed in cold water if the fever is high. The patient should take Paracetamol tablets (American – Tylenol) or syrup or Aspirin tablets (for adults and children above 12 years old). The patient should drink plenty of water, juices or soft drinks. For babies and small children, the water should be boiled and cooled. Find and treat the cause of the fever. Usually it is malaria. The patient may be given a dose of Chloroquine tablets or syrup and continue treatment for two days. The patient should be referred to the nearest health institution if there is no improvement.

7. Diarrhoea and Dysentery                                                                                            

A frequent loose or watery stool is diarrhoea. A frequent stool with mucus and blood  is dysentery.

Treatment In cases of acute diarrhea it would be wise to drink more fluids (3-4 litres a day), preferably containing sugar and salts. Ready-mixed oral rehydration sachets can be bought from the pharmacist and added to drinking water. A sufficient intake has been obtained when the urine becomes light yellow in color. Eat something containing salt, such as crisps or soup. Maintain good standards of hygiene. Eat normally as soon as your appetite returns but if you have suffered an acute attack of diarrhoea, avoid foods containing milk for a couple of days.

These are commonly prescribed and powerful medicines. They only work against germs called bacteria and are ineffective against viruses. This means that antibiotics do not help the common infections caused by viruses e.g. colds, runny noses, most coughs, flu, most sore throats, most ear infections, rashes, chickenpox, measles, German measles etc. Antibiotics are not used to treat hot temperatures. The correct treatment for these is by simple remedies to help with the symptoms until the condition runs its course. We only use antibiotics when we suspect that there is a secondary bacterial infection and if simple measures have failed. Overuse of antibiotics when unnecessary may lead to them not working in the future when really needed and complications e.g. thrush, mouth infection, eye and ear infections, dental problems, skin rashes, diarrhoea etc.


People need to be educated on simple home remedies and therefore it is necessary to develop and list recommended actions to be taken when minor ailments occur.

Fever (Hot temperature)                                                                                                    A child will develop a hot temperature because of an infection. Most childhood infections are viral and do not respond to antibiotics. Try to lower your child's temperature by administering paracetamol or acetaminophen in doses recommended for a child of that weight and age. Dress your child in cool clothes i.e. T-shirt and shorts. Leave the child's head uncovered. Open doors and windows till the child feels better and the temperature is lowered. If your child does not improve after giving paracetamol or sponging or appears particularly ill, take him to see your doctor.

Most headaches are due to simple causes ranging from tension and eye strain to migraine, or go together with a "hangover" or flu-like illness. A simple pain killer from the pharmacy such as aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), paracetamol (acetaminophen) tablets taken at regular intervals, rest and relaxation is usually all that is needed. Or take a lime, cut it in half and rub on your forehead. The throbbing will go away.

Cough medicines do not cure coughs! (Coughs with runny noses are usually caused by viruses for which there is no cure.) Coughs may be soothed by cough medicines bought at the chemist or by a drink made from honey and freshly squeezed lemon juice in hot water which is cheaper. Cough sweets (not for children) may also soothe tickly coughs until they run their course. If your cough persists for more than seven days and you bring up colored phlegm, or you were wheezing, we will need to see you. Children with coughs who may have a runny nose, are a little off colour, not eating or vomiting with the strength of coughing or have a temperature but are otherwise all right, should be treated as above. In addition, they should also have their temperature controlled and be given small amounts of fluids, such as salt-sugar solution (ORT) regularly.

Remove the person from the danger. Extinguish flames if the person's clothes are on fire. Cool the burnt area by holding it under cold, running water or immerse the area in cold water until the pain subsides. This should take at least 10 to 15 minutes. If the skin is unbroken but blistered, apply a cold water soak dressing and seek medical attention. This also applies if the skin is unbroken. (NEVER BREAK BLISTERS CAUSED BY A BURN).

As antibiotics do not help either a cold or flu; the best thing to do is to bring the temperature down by taking a simple pain killer such as paracetamol (acetaminophen). Drink plenty of fluid and go to bed (water based drinks are best NOT ALCOHOL).. If you have a headache, or are feverish, take the recommended dose of Paracetamol. Children should be given something suitable for their age, such as paracetamol syrup.

Earache can be caused by excess ear wax, catarrh or infection. If a child gets earache, regular doses of paracetamol medicine, will ease the discomfort. If the earache does not settle within 12 to 24 hours, consult a doctor.

Sore Throats                                                                                                  

Sore throats are usually caused by viruses and they generally improve after four or five days. Antibiotics cannot cure the virus, however, gargling with Aspirin (NOT FOR CHILDREN UNDER 12), prior to being swallowed; and sucking throat lozenges will help.       

As well as pain, there will probably be bruising and swelling. Apply a cold compress, containing ice if possible, for 15 to 30 minutes to reduce the swelling. Bandage firmly, and give the sprain plenty of rest until the discomfort has subsided. Further strain will lead to added swelling and a longer recovery period.

Head Injury
If the patient was knocked out and can remember the accident, it is unlikely that serious injury has resulted, but if the patient was knocked unconscious and cannot remember what happened, he or she should be taken to a hospital (emergency) without delay. If the patient becomes drowsy, or vomits after a head injury, seek medical advice.

Nose Bleeds

Sit the patient down with their head tilted forward over a bowl. While the patient breathes through their mouth, pinch their nose just below the bone for about 10 minutes. The bleeding should stop. If symptoms persist, consult your doctor.

Minor Cuts & Grazes

If the wound is dirty, rinse it under cold running water and clean around it with soap and water, wiping away from the wound. To stop bleeding, apply a clean dressing firmly to the wound for about five minutes. Cover with a clean dry dressing and NEVER put cotton wool directly into an open wound.

Insect Bites and Stings

Antihistamine tablets can be bought from the pharmacy without prescription and will usually relieve most symptoms. If symptoms persist - see your doctor. Bees leave their stings in, so first priority is to carefully remove the sting. Bee stings should be scraped away rather than 'plucked' to avoid squeezing the contents of the venom sac into the wound. Then soothe the skin with a solution of bicarbonate soda and water.

Wasp stings should be bathed with vinegar.

If the sting is in the mouth, sucking an ice cube will ease the discomfort but medical help should be sought. Because some people are allergic to stings, MEDICAL HELP SHOULD BE SOUGHT IMMEDIATELY at the first sign of excessive swelling or difficulty in breathing. If you seem to be experiencing an allergic reaction, such as something which makes your tongue swell, proceed immediately to hospital. Other considerations come into play such as, medical history, other medication being taken, age, state of health etc. If you are prone to allergic reactions, see your doctor for something you can carry along for immediate relief.

Head lice

Contrary to popular belief, head lice prefer clean hair and are, therefore, not a sign of poor personal hygiene. There are a number of options available to treat head lice. Ask your doctor for details.


To avoid asthma being initiated by the mites in pillows, put pillow in tumble dryer on hot setting for 20 minutes, this will kill off the mites or put in hot sunlight.

Back Pain

          For the first few days rest your back by lying on a firm mattress placed either on the floor or on wooden boards between the mattress and the base of your bed. Aspirin, paracetamol (acetaminophen) will help relieve the pain and gentle heat e.g. from a hot water bottle or heat lamp will often help. As the pain begins to ease, start gentle exercises as soon as possible even if you can only move your back a few inches in each direction. Avoid straining your back while exercising and take great care when lifting even if the pain has completely settled. When sitting, an upright chair with the support for the small of the back puts much less strain on your spine. If there is no improvement within a few days, then consult your doctor for advice.

As the early symptoms of meningitis/Septicemia can be similar to a cold or flu I think it is worth reiterating things to be aware of regarding this illness.
Symptoms in babies under two CAN include the following but it must be stressed this is not always the case, nor does it mean that a baby showing any of these symptoms definitely has meningitis - this is just meant as a guide, obviously, if you are at all worried professional advice should be sought.

The infant may seem irritable and object to being handled. His body may be floppy or perhaps stiff and jerky. His cry may be high pitched and different to normal. He may seem reluctant to wake up. He may be frequently sick (not just after feeds). The skin may appear blotchy or pale. The soft spot on the baby's head may be tight or bulging. If there is a red/purple rash, gently push a glass tumbler over the spots and if they do not fade with the pressure, you must seek medical help immediately.
Symptoms in older children can be different, these can include: Headache, high temperature - feet and hands could be cold, rapid breathing, pains in joints and/or muscles, vomiting and/or diarrhoea, Drowsiness and/or confusion, Sensitivity to light, Sore/stiff neck - moving their chins to their chests will cause discomfort, Stomach pains, A red /purple rash or blotches which do not disappear when pressed.

Early symptoms of blood poisoning (which is often associated with meningitis) can appear a long time before some of the more widely known e.g. light sensitivity and rashes.  These early warning signs in children less than 17 years old often include:
Cold hands and feet, leg pains, and abnormal skin colour.

If in any doubt seek professional medical advice as quickly as possible.
This is an infection that makes the eyes red, sore and often with watery discharge (like tears). It often settles without treatment if you bathe the eyes with boiled water and wipe away the 'matter' with clean cotton wool. If it does not settle, consult a doctor. It is often very infectious, so patients should never share towels or flannels and should wash their hands with soap and water immediately after touching their eyes.

Cystitis is an inflammation inside the bladder. Over half the women in this tropical countries suffer from it at some time during their lives, often repeatedly. It makes you want to pass urine frequently and when you do pass water; it causes a burning sensation. When you first get the symptoms, drink a pint of water immediately. A teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda dissolved in the water can relieve some of the pain. Paracetamol (Tylenol) tablets are useful. It is important to carry on drinking plenty of water or fluids to wash the germs out of your bladder. If your symptoms do not settle in a day, take a specimen to the health centre in a clean container, as an antibiotic may be required.

Early diagnosis and treatment after a stroke can make a considerable difference; professional treatment received within three hours of the stroke can sometimes mean the effects can be totally reversed. It is, therefore, imperative for us all to be aware of how to recognize when someone has, in fact, suffered a stroke as the symptoms are often mistaken as a dizzy spell, too much alcohol, or a trip. 
There are 3 easy steps; please take a minute to learn them as it could make all the difference! 

If there is any likelihood that someone may have suffered a stroke, ask him or her to perform the following tasks:

Ask the individual to SMILE; Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS; Ask him or her to SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE (coherently); If he or she has trouble with any of these tasks call emergency immediately and describe the symptoms.

Mosquito Bites

To get rid of the itch try applying soap on the area and you will experience immediate relief. 

Before using tweezers or needles try putting adhesive tape over the splinter and then pulling it off.  This often removes the splinter painlessly and easily.

Malaria is a life-threatening parasitic disease transmitted by mosquitoes; a debilitating disease that can be fatal if untreated. It was once thought that the disease came from fetid marshes, hence the name mal aria, (bad air). In 1880, scientists discovered the real cause of malaria was a one-cell parasite called plasmodium. Later it was discovered that the parasite is transmitted from person to person through the bite of a female Anopheles mosquito, which requires blood to nurture her eggs. It is common in tropical countries especially where community sanitation falls below standard.

Symptoms of uncomplicated malaria

Children under 5 years

 Fever (raised temperature detected by thermometer or touch) or a history of fever , loss of appetite, weakness, lethargy and vomiting.          

Older children and adults

 Fever (raised temperature detected by thermometer or touch)

or a history of  loss of appetite,  nausea,  vomiting, headache,  joint pains, muscle aches,  weakness and lethargy.

Approximately 40% of the world's population, mostly those living in the world’s poorest countries, is at risk of malaria. Ninety per cent of deaths due to malaria occur in Africa south of the Sahara mostly among young children. Malaria kills an African child every 30 seconds. Many children who survive an episode of severe malaria suffer from inability to learn or brain damage. Pregnant women and their unborn children are also particularly vulnerable to malaria.


Types of Malaria
There are four types of human malaria:

Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium malariae, Plasmodium ovale and Plasmodium falciparum.

P. vivax and P. falciparum are the most common and falciparum the most deadly type of malaria infection. Plasmodium falciparum malaria is most common in Africa, south of the Sahara, accounting in large part for the extremely high mortality in this region. 

Cause of Malaria: The malaria parasite enters the human host when an infected Anopheles mosquito bites and sucks the blood of a person. Inside the human host, the parasite undergoes a series of changes as part of its complex life-cycle. Its various stages allow plasmodia to avoid the immune system (the system that fights invading foreign bodies and thereby prevent infection). They are therefore able to infect the liver and red blood cells, and finally develop into a form that is able to infect a mosquito again when it bites an infected person. Inside the mosquito, the parasite matures until it reaches the sexual stage where it can again infect a human host when the mosquito takes her next blood meal, which usually from ten to fourteen  (10 to 14) or more days later.

Malaria symptoms appear about 9 to 14 days after the infectious mosquito bite, although this varies with different plasmodium species. The symptoms of malaria are fever, headache, vomiting, generalized pain, feeling of unwell and other flu-like symptoms. If drugs are not available for treatment or the parasites are resistant to them, the infection can progress rapidly and can lead to death. Malaria can kill by infecting and destroying red blood cells (anaemia) and by clogging the capillaries that carry blood to the brain (cerebral malaria) or other vital organs. It is a dreadful but common disease in Africa.
Malaria, together with HIV/AIDS and TB, is one of the major public health challenges undermining development in the poorest countries in the world.

Malaria Treatment: Effective low-cost strategies are now available for its treatment, prevention and control. Mosquito nets treated with insecticide reduce malaria transmission and child deaths. Prevention of malaria in pregnant women, through measures such as Intermittent Preventive Treatment and the use of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs), results in improvement in maternal health, infant health and survival. Prompt access to treatment with effective up-to-date medicines, such as artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), saves as children are now growing up safe and healthy.

If countries can apply these and other measures on a wide scale and monitor them, then the burden of malaria will be significantly reduced.

Minor ailments and health problems can be handled effectively and safely if precautions are taken. The Holy Bible has the following statement: "My people perish because of lack of knowledge". Good Health is attainable when minor ailments are handed promptly. 



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