Home Remedies for Backache - Headache - Toothache - Earache - Colic

Although the amateur nurse may rarely be called upon to take charge of a severe illness or an accident case, she must always be ready to undertake the treatment of minor ailments, especially during the winter months.

A warm iron passed over the seat of the pain will often relieve lumbago. It is well to put a piece of brown paper or flannel between the iron and the patient's skin, or it may cause a burn

A warm iron passed over the seat of the pain will often relieve lumbago. It is well to put a piece of brown paper or flannel between the iron and the patient's skin, or it may cause a burn

There is hardly a household in the kingdom where the amateur nurse will not find her services in request at some time or other, to deal with backaches, headaches, toothaches, and sudden pains of varying degress of intensity.

An article, therefore, devoted to the small aches of everyday life should prove of service to the mistress of any household, whether she has followed this series of nursing articles from the beginning or not. The day will surely arrive when one member of the household will complain of backache or toothache, or will be prostrated by headache, or hors de combat with a cold in the head. What is she to do? How can she efficiently deal with what may be a very real pain to the sufferer and yet one which is not sufficiently serious to call for medical attendance ?


The amateur nurse must remember that backache may be a very minor affection caused by chill or muscular fatigue, but, at the same time, it may be a symptom of serious disease in the kidneys or other organs. In this article, however, we shall deal with backache as a minor complaint and add only the word of caution that constant backache without any known cause should be investigated by a doctor.

When a person suddenly complains of pain in the back, with headache, pain in the limbs, and feverishness, he should be put to bed and kept warm. These symptoms point to one of the infectious fevers, which may not declare itself for a day or two. If the temperature is raised the doctor must, of course, be called in at once. Meantime, the nurse should keep the patient warm with hot-water bottles and good, hot drinks. A ten-grain Dover's powder may be given if the doctor cannot be obtained for some time. (This drug should never be given to children as it contains opium.)

When backache is caused by muscular fatigue and exposure to cold, the treatment is the same as for lumbago. The patient must be kept warm and at rest, and an aperient should be given at once. A simple domestic remedy consists in laying a sheet of brown paper over the tender muscles and ironing this with a hot iron. Flannel can be used instead of the paper. Any drugs must be ordered by the doctor, but massage with a little olive oil over the muscles is a very useful part of domestic treatment.

Backache very frequently occurs in children and young adults, due to muscular weakness and ana?mia, and in this case graduated muscular exercises such as have been described under " Health and Hygiene in the Nursery " should be practised.

A child complaining of backache and showing any signs of spinal weakness must lie flat on the back for one or two hours daily, and should have the general health attended to. When the backache is due to definite spinal disease the amateur nurse should only work under the direction of a doctor. Hot linseed and mustard poultices are excellent applications for pain in the back when this is at all severe.

A mustard leaf applied to the nape of the neck will often relieve headache

A mustard leaf applied to the nape of the neck will often relieve headache

It has already been said with reference to headache that the one method to cure this common complaint is to discover the cause and deal with it. (See "Headache," page 1591,Vol. 3.)


So far as concerns the amateur nurse, the best treatment for the time being is absolute rest in a dark room. The patient should be covered with warm blankets and the feet and legs kept warm by hot water bottles. This keeps the circulation more equable and counteracts congestion in the brain. No food should be taken unless the pain persists for some time, and diet must in all cases be very light.

Whilst it is not a good plan to take drugs, if the headache is very severe, a single dose of ten grains of phenacetin is the best method of relieving the pain. The wisest course, however, is to give no drugs without the doctor's orders. The application of eau-de-cologne or whisky to the top of the head, and a small mustard leaf to the nape of the neck are useful remedies. These mustard leaves can be obtained in tins, and one should be soaked in a little tepid water and applied to the nape of the neck for ten or fifteen minutes. After removing the plaster a little boracic ointment or zinc ointment may be rubbed into the skin. A purgative should be given at the beginning of an attack.


Whilst the permanent cure of toothache must be in the hands of a dentist, domestic remedies are often very useful in relieving pain and distress. A hot mouthwash acts as a sort of poultice in the mouth.

A good one can be made by adding a few drops of Condy's Fluid to a tumblerful of hot water. This should be held in the mouth constantly until the pain is relieved. When there is a cavity in a tooth the nurse should take a small plug of cotton-wool, damp it with pure carbolic, squeeze almost dry, and place it in the tooth very carefully. This may be done by means of a pliable pincer or the tip of a thin crochet needle. Care must be taken to prevent the acid touching the gum or the tongue. Creosote can be used instead of the carbolic, whilst it may be useful for the amateur nurse to know that a temporary stopping can be bought from the chemist for a few pence. This consists of little squares of a hard, indiarubber-like substance, which softens in hot water. The cavity of the tooth should be dried out first and one of these placed inside and squeezed to the size of the tooth. It goes without saying that such teeth must be either extracted or stopped before the toothache can be permanently cured.

For earache a solution of borax in hot water may be gently poured into the ear. Care should be taken that the water is not hot enough to scald the ear, which is extremely sensitive

For earache a solution of borax in hot water may be gently poured into the ear. Care should be taken that the water is not hot enough to scald the ear, which is extremely sensitive


Earache is a minor ailment which may be due to a decayed tooth or to catarrh passing upwards from the throat or nose. At the same time a small boil in the external auditory canal will cause acute pain in the ear, as will a plug of wax against the drum or eczema of that part. When a foreign body gets into the ear, the only treatment which the amateur nurse should apply is to pour a little olive oil into the canal. If this is not successful a doctor must remove whatever is lodging in the ear.

When pain in the ear occurs during the course of acute fever, or is associated with a rise of temperature, medical advice should be sought at once, as the condition is due to middle ear disease which requires skilled treatment.

With regard to minor earache an excellent plan is to pour hot water and borax in the strength of a dessertspoonful of borax to a pint of water into the ear. Any syringing of the ear must be done carefully, and care taken not to press the point of the syringe inside the ear. It must be remembered that the interior of the ear is extremely sensitive, and although warmth is required, great pain and harm will be caused if the solution used is of too high a temperature. As it cools during use, a little more hot lotion can be added to maintain the required heat, as the ear becomes accustomed to the warmth. The ear should be thoroughly dried out afterwards with a little cotton-wool, which may be placed round the tip of a wooden match, and gently inserted into the ear. When a decayed tooth is the cause of earache, the toothache should be attended to immediately by a dentist.

Sudden Pain

Pain in the chest or abdomen is best relieved by warmth and rest. The amateur nurse who can quickly make and apply a hot linseed poultice can always be sure that she is working on the right lines.

In the case of pain in the abdomen which is due to colic, a hot turpentine stupe is one of the best applications. These stupes are of great service for any sudden pain and are made by wringing flannel out of boiling water, and then sprinkling it with a little turpentine. It should be applied as hot as the patient can comfortably bear.

In a case of simple colic, due to the eating of some indigestible material, an aperient of castor oil should be given, but when pain is accompanied by vomiting, or complete constipation, an aperient should not be given until a doctor has seen the patient.