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Tips for common symptoms

Allergies or itchy eyes

Call your provider or an ambulance immediately if:

  • You experience throat or chest tightness, or swelling of lips or tongue

For minor symptoms:

  • Avoid the problem agent if possible
  • Take an antihistamine: Benadryl, chlorpheniramine, or Claritin
  • Use eye drops such as Naphcon-A for allergic conjunctivitis
  • Use a decongestant such as Sudafed for nasal congestion, but do not use if you have high blood pressure
  • Apply hydrocortisone cream to bites or allergic skin rash

See your healthcare provider if:

  • The problem recurs frequently or doesn’t respond to over-the-counter medications

Cold sores or fever blisters

For minor symptoms:

  • Apply ice for 5–10 minutes to reduce pain
  • Apply topical agents such as Herpecin-L or Campho-Phenique for comfort
  • Use moisturizers such as Blistex to hasten healing
  • Take pain relievers: ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen (do not use aspirin for children under 16)
  • Be patient: cold sores usually go away in 7–10 days
  • Be cautious: cold sores may be due to herpes simplex virus and may be contagious

See your healthcare provider if:

  • Sores are excessive or do not heal
  • Pain prevents you from eating or drinking
  • You have severe or frequently recurring sores

Colds

For minor symptoms:

  • Get rest and drink plenty of fluids
  • Take pain relievers: ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen (do not use aspirin for children under 16)
  • Take a decongestant such as Sudafed to relieve nasal congestion, but do not use if you have high blood pressure
  • Take a cough suppressant such as Robitussin DM for hacking cough

See your healthcare provider if:

  • Cold or cough lingers more than one week
  • Fever persists for more than a few days
  • You have painful breathing or shortness of breath
  • You have discolored mucous
  • You have a severe headache or sinus pain

Constipation

For minor symptoms:

  • Increase dietary fiber and fluid intake
  • Take a stool softener such as Colace or a fiber product such as Metamucil
  • Do not use laxatives, such as Ex-Lax, regularly
  • Increase activity and exercise

See your healthcare provider if:

  • Condition persists for several days
  • You have a fever
  • You experience stomach cramping, bloating, rectal bleeding, or nausea

Cuts and scrapes

For minor symptoms:

  • Wash thoroughly with soap and warm water
  • Stop any bleeding by applying direct pressure
  • Keep area clean and dry

See your healthcare provider if:

  • Wound is deep
  • You cut yourself on something rusty or dirty
  • Bleeding won't stop
  • Red streak appears around wound
  • Wound doesn't heal
  • You haven't had a tetanus booster in 10 years or more

Diarrhea or vomiting

For minor symptoms:

  • Rest and sip clear fluids such as ginger ale, Gatorade, or broth
  • Eat light foods such as crackers or toast
  • If diarrhea persists, take Imodium A-D
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol

See your healthcare provider if:

  • Symptoms last more than two days
  • Fluids won't stay down
  • You experience high fever or dizziness
  • There is blood in your stool
  • You have diarrhea during the night

Headaches

For minor symptoms:

  • Take pain relievers: ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen (do not use aspirin for children under 16)
  • Apply hot or cold packs
  • Avoid bright lights
  • Take sinus medication if head/nose is congested, but do not use Sudafed if you have high blood pressure

See your healthcare provider if:

  • Headache persists or recurs
  • Headache follows injury or trauma
  • You experience fever, vomiting, drowsiness, or confusion
  • Headache is severe or associated with neck stiffness

Heartburn or indigestion

For minor symptoms:

  • Avoid spicy, acidic, or other aggravating foods, as well as alcohol
  • Stop smoking
  • Eat smaller amounts of food at one time, especially if near bedtime
  • Take antacids, such as Maalox, or acid-suppressants such as Pepcid-AC
  • Avoid aspirin and ibuprofen products

See your healthcare provider if:

  • Problem recurs or pain is severe
  • Pain occurs with shortness of breath or other symptoms that suggest heart problems

Sore throat

For minor symptoms:

  • Gargle with warm salt water to soothe throat
  • Take pain relievers: ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen (do not use aspirin for children under 16)
  • Use throat lozenges
  • Increase fluids

See your healthcare provider if:

  • Sore throat lasts more than a week
  • You also have a fever
  • You have difficulty swallowing, breathing, or speaking
  • There are white patches on the back of your throat or tonsils
  • You have been exposed to someone diagnosed with strep throat
  • You have tender neck lymph nodes

Sprains or strains

For minor symptoms:

  • Apply ice
  • Rest and elevate the injured area
  • Take pain relievers: ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen (do not use aspirin for children under 16)

See your healthcare provider if:

  • Problem lasts more than three days or pain is severe
  • There is dislocation or misalignment
  • You have difficulty moving the affected area
  • There is black-and-blue discoloration

Sunburn

For minor symptoms:

  • Avoid further exposure to the sun
  • Apply cool compresses to the area or take a cool bath
  • Take pain relievers: ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen (do not use aspirin for children under 16)
  • Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids
  • Apply aloe gel to soothe area
  • To avoid sunburn, wear protective clothing and sunscreen

See your healthcare provider if:

  • You also have fever, vomiting, drowsiness, or confusion
  • Blisters form on large areas of the skin
  • Blisters break and appear infected