Te tiaki i a koe anō i tō kāinga Self care at home

With the right supplies and information, most minor cuts and grazes, bruises, sprains, or coughs and colds can be managed at home without needing medical help.

Have medical supplies at home

Make sure you have a medicine cabinet with:

  • pain medicine (panadol and ibuprofen)
  • throat lozenges
  • plasters and bandages
  • tissues
  • cold and flu medicines
  • ointments and creams, such as antiseptic ointment
  • tweezers
  • antihistamines for allergies.

You can buy all these from your local supermarket. Go to your local pharmacy for medicine if needed.

Always read the directions on the label of on any medicines. Speak to your pharmacist or healthcare provider if you are not sure.

Minor cuts and scrapes

A clean cut in the skin is called a laceration. Most lacerations are not serious and heal easily with self care. Deeper cuts may need stitches by a nurse or doctor.

A scrape (graze) is a scraping or rubbing away of the skin surface. Grazes are not serious and usually heal within 2 weeks with self-care.

You can take care of minor cuts and scrapes at home.

  1. Wash your hands with clean, running water and soap.
  2. Minor cuts usually stop bleeding on their own. If needed, apply gentle pressure with a clean bandage or cloth and hold or prop the injured area up until bleeding stops.
  3. Rinse the wound well with plenty of water.
  4. Apply an antiseptic ointment (savlon or betadine) if the wound was dirty.
  5. Cover the wound with a plaster or bandage to keep it clean.
  6. Change the dressing once a day or whenever the bandage becomes wet or dirty.

Get a tetanus shot if you have not had one in the past 5 years and the wound is deep or dirty. You will need to arrange this through your regular healthcare provider or urgent care — it may be partially or fully funded through ACC.

When to get medical help

Most cuts or scrapes can be managed at home. But, sometimes cuts need stitches to heal or treatment for infection. If in doubt, contact your healthcare provider for advice or call Healthline for free advice.

Call Healthline: 0800 611 116

You should see a healthcare provider if you have any of the following.

  • You cannot clean the wound.
  • The cut is long, deep, wide or gaping.
  • The cut was made by a dirty or rusty object or there is a risk of infection.
  • The cut was from a human or animal bite.
  • You can see bone, tendon, muscle or fatty tissue, even if bleeding is not severe.
  • The cut is on the face.
  • There is a lot of blood and it does not stop after 10 minutes of direct pressure.
  • The wound has not healed after 2 weeks.

If your cut was caused by a foreign object like a nail or has dirt in it, you may need a tetanus booster. Ask your healthcare provider if you think you need one. There may be a cost for this.

Tetanus, diptheria and whooping cough vaccine (Boostrix)

Signs of infection

Watch for signs of infection. See a healthcare provider if you have:

  • redness, warmth or swelling
  • any new loss of feeling, numbness or inability to move the limb
  • red streaks develop
  • there is a coloured or smelly discharge or pus.

Minor sprains and strains

Recognising a strain or sprain

The symptoms will depend on the area injured and the extent of injury, but they may include:

  • pain
  • difficulty moving the affected area
  • swelling and bruising.

Sprains can cause similar symptoms to a broken bone. If you think you have a broken bone, visit your usual doctor or healthcare provider, urgent care or an emergency department. Signs of a broken bone include:

  • pain over the bony area
  • tingling or numbness around the area
  • if you cannot move the area
  • if the area looks deformed.

Help for a strain or sprain

The 4 steps to treat strains and sprains are RICE:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation.

Simple pain relief such as paracetamol or ibuprofen should provide enough pain relief. You may need a bandage or splint around the sprained area to provide support and stability while the area heals.

While your injury recovers, avoid HARM:

  • Heat
  • Alcohol
  • Running (exercise)
  • Massage.

If you do not get better

Pain and swelling should start to get better in 1 or 2 days. You should be able to begin to use the injured limb by taking the joint gently through its normal range of movement.

If despite the RICE treatment, the injury does not improve in a few days, see a healthcare provider to assess it. You may need an x-ray to check for broken bones, or to visit a physiotherapist to help the injury recover. You can see a physiotherapist without a referral, and your care might be partially funded through ACC.

Minor bruises

A bruise is a collection of blood under the skin, which happens because of a soft tissue injury. A bruise is often accompanied by a lump, which is swelling caused by fluid under the skin.

People often get bruises after a knock or bang, strain or sprain. But bruising can also happen because of more serious injuries such a broken bone or internal bleeding.

A bruise may not appear straight away, but the area can be painful or tender and it may be swollen.
Bruises might be blue or purplish in colour. As they heal, they often become yellowish green in colour.

Bruises go away on their own. You can help them go away faster by applying ice on the injured area for up to 30 minutes at a time. You can treat pain with medicines like paracetamol or ibuprofen, or elevate the bruise to reduce swelling.

When to get medical help

Some bruises can be more serious. Seek medical help if:

  • the bruised person is on a blood-thinning medicine such as warfarin, dabigatran or rivaroxaban
  • the bruised area becomes very swollen or very painful.

The bruised person may have an underlying problem that needs medical treatment if they:

  • bruise often for no known reason
  • bruise suddenly with no obvious cause
  • bruise easily.

Minor coughs and colds

Coughs and colds are common in tamariki and adults, and more common during winter. Most coughs and colds are not anything to worry about.

They can cause:

  • a runny or blocked nose
  • an itchy sore throat
  • a cough
  • a mild fever
  • a hoarse voice
  • tiredness.

Any cough or cold that lasts more than 4 weeks or happens with other symptoms like a high fever or difficulty breathing needs to be checked by a healthcare provider.

Treating coughs and colds

Most coughs and colds do not need to be treated with prescribed medicines. Antibiotics do not work against viruses.

The best ways to treat a cold or cough is to:

  • get plenty of rest
  • drink fluids such as water
  • take paracetamol to help relieve pain, fever or discomfort — follow the instructions on the label
  • use saline nasal drops or spray to help relieve a stuffy nose.

Do not use vapour rubs to relieve congestion in pēpi (babies) or tamariki as these can cause airway irritation and breathing distress.

When to get medical help 

Coughs and colds can be similar to other more serious illnesses. If you are not sure what you or your tamariki have, it is important to check with a healthcare provider.

Coughs and colds can be similar to COVID-19 or the flu. Find out more about their symptoms. You can easily test for COVID-19 with a RAT test.

Whooping cough (pertussis) causes breathing difficulties and severe coughing fits. The cough can go on for weeks or months. It can sometimes cause a  'whoop' sound. Find out more about symptoms, treatment and prevention.

Warning signs in tamariki

Mild fevers

A fever is when your body temperature is warmer than 37 degrees celsius. It is usually your immune system responding to a virus or bacterial infection.

Most healthy adults and tamariki can tolerate a mild fever well. Very high fevers 40°C or higher need medical care.

Find out more about what to do for a fever based on your situation.


Minor burns

If your burn is small, and caused by heat — for example, a hot object, liquid, or flame— you may be able to take care of it at home.

Run cool, clean water over the burn for at least 20 minutes. Do not use ice on a burn.

Use non-stick dressings against the burn to keep it moist and clean. If a burn dries out and forms a scab, it takes longer to heal.

Do not burst your blisters. This can increase infection risk.

Keep the burned area raised. This can reduce swelling and help with pain and healing.

When to get medical help

Visit a healthcare provider, or an emergency healthcare service if:

  • the burn is bigger than 3 inches, or the size of your palm
  • it is an electrical or chemical burn
  • the burn is to the face, hands, feet, genitals, joints or eyes
  • you are worried about the burn
  • you have large blisters but the burn does not feel painful
  • your burn is infected — it smells, there is more pain, it is weeping, there is more redness around the burn, or you also feel unwell.

If you are not sure what to do

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