Take Care of Yourself, 10th Edition

The Complete Illustrated Guide to Self-Care


By James F. Fries

By Donald M. Vickery

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$24.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around August 29, 2017. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

A revised edition of the classic self-care guide, with new research on aging. “Every family should have this book”(Annals of Internal Medicine).

Continuing to break new ground after forty years in print, Take Care of Yourself is the go-to guide for at home self-care. Simple to use, even in a crisis, the easy-to-navigate flowcharts help you quickly look up your symptoms and find an explanation of likely causes and possible home remedies, as well as advice on when you should go see a doctor. This comprehensive guide covers emergencies, over 175 healthcare concerns, the twenty things you should keep in a home pharmacy, and how to work best with your doctor. This new edition explains the latest research on how to postpone aging and what you can do to prevent chronic illness and stay in your best shape as you age. With new information on the Zika virus, prescription pain relievers, and other pertinent updates throughout, Take Care of Yourself remains your path to the most comprehensive and dependable self-care.


Important Addresses and Telephone Numbers

Please take a moment to put these numbers together here so that you can find them fast when you need them.

Emergency Room

Poison Control Center


Family Physician


Specialist (specify)

Dentist (office)

Dentist Emergency Number

Hospital (main number)

To Our Readers

This book is strong medicine. It can be of great help to you. The medical advice is as sound as we can make it, but it will not always work. Like advice from your doctor, it won’t always be right for you. This is our problem: if we don’t give you direct advice, we can’t help you. If we do, we’ll sometimes be wrong. So here are some qualifications:

If you’re under the care of a doctor and receive advice contrary to this book, follow the doctor’s advice; the individual characteristics of your problem can then be taken into account. This is especially important if you have been diagnosed with a chronic condition.

If you have an allergy or a suspected allergy to a recommended medication, check with your doctor, at least by phone, before following the advice in this book.

Read medicine label directions carefully; instructions vary from year to year, and you should follow the most recent.

If your problem continues to concern you beyond a reasonable period, you should see a doctor. We suggest for most problems what a reasonable period might be.

List of Tables

Table 1: Your Diet for Health

Table 2: Recommended Adult Screening Procedures

Table 3a: Recommended Childhood and Adolescent Immunization Schedule, United States

Table 3b: Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule

Table 4: Your Master Plan for Preserving Your Health

Table 5: Home Pharmacy

Table 6: Viral, Bacterial, or Allergic?

Table 7: Skin Problems and Childhood Diseases

Table 8: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Table 9: Effectiveness of Contraceptive Methods

Table 10: Possible Questions for Your Doctor

Table 11: Possible Subjects to Discuss with Your Doctor


“Take Care!” With this traditional parting phrase, we express our feelings for our friends and show our priorities. When I see you again, be healthy. Keep your health. Not “Be rich!” or “Be famous!” but “Take care of yourself!”

This book is about how to take care of yourself. For us, this phrase has four meanings:

First, “take care of yourself” means maintaining the habits that lead to vigor and health and that postpone aging. Your lifestyle is your most important guarantee of lifelong vigor, and you can postpone most serious chronic diseases by making the right choices about how to live. You can prevent most bad health.

Second, “take care of yourself” means periodic monitoring for those few diseases that can sneak up on you without clear warning, such as high blood pressure, cancer of the breast or cervix, glaucoma, or dental decay. In such cases, taking care of yourself may mean going to a health professional for assistance.

Third, “take care of yourself” means to respond decisively to new medical problems. Most often, your response should be self-care, and you can act as your own doctor. At other times, however, you need professional help. Responding decisively means that you pay particular attention to the decision about going, or not going, to see the doctor. This book, more than any other, helps you make that decision.

Many people think that all illness must be treated at the doctor’s office. In fact, most new problems already are treated at home, and a much larger number could be. The public has not had guidelines to determine when the doctor is needed and when not. In the United States, the average person sees a doctor slightly more than five times a year. Over 3 billion prescriptions are written each year, about eight for each man, woman, and child. Medical costs now average over $8,000 per person per year—over 18% of our gross national product. In total, over $3 trillion each year. Among the billions of different medical services used each year, some are lifesaving, some result in great health improvement, and some give great comfort. But some are totally unnecessary, and some are even harmful.

In our national quest for a symptom-free existence, we make millions of unnecessary visits to doctors—as many as 70% of all visits for new problems. For example, 11% of such visits are for uncomplicated colds. Many others are for minor cuts that do not require stitches, for tetanus shots despite current immunizations, for minor ankle sprains, and for the other problems discussed in this book. But while you don’t need a doctor to treat most coughs, you do for some. For every ten or so cuts that don’t require stitches, there is one that does. For every type of problem, there are some instances in which you should decide to see the doctor and some in which you should not.

These are critically important decisions. If you delay a visit to the doctor when you really need medical attention, you may suffer unnecessary discomfort or leave a serious illness untreated. On the other hand, if you go to the doctor when you don’t need to, you waste time, and you may lose money or dignity. You may lose confidence in your own ability to judge your health and in the healing power of your own body. You can even suffer unnecessary physical harm if you receive a drug that you don’t need or have a test that you don’t require. Your doctor is in an uncomfortable position when you come in unnecessarily and may feel obligated to practice “defensive medicine” just in case you have a bad result and a good lawyer.

This book, above all else, is intended to help you with the decision of when to see your doctor. It gives you a “second opinion” within easy reach on your bookshelf. It helps you make sound judgments about your own health.

The fourth meaning of our title is this: your health is your responsibility; it depends on your decisions. There is no other way to be healthy than to “take care of yourself.” You have to decide how to live, what to do to age more slowly, whether to see a doctor, which doctor to see, how soon to go, whether to take the advice offered. No one else can make these decisions, and they profoundly affect your future health. To be healthy, you have to be in charge.

Take care of yourself!

James F. Fries, MD
Stanford, California
Donald M. Vickery, MD
Evergreen, Colorado

How to Use This Book

Welcome to Take Care of Yourself. We’ve tried to make this book very easy for you to use. We want you to be able to quickly find the information you want, from emergency advice to preventive measures that will help you stay healthy for a long time.

To get the most from this book, here’s a good way to read it:


Read the introduction that follows and Chapter 3, “Emergencies,” so that you can develop a plan for dealing with a medical problem or emergency before one happens.

Write the telephone numbers of your Emergency Room, Poison Control Center, and other resources on here.

Read about what you need in your “Home Medicine Chest” in Chapter 2.

Leaf through the rest of the book and read what interests you.

Today or Over the Next Month

Read Part I carefully. Consider the six keys to health and the preventive steps you can take to keep yourself and your family healthy.

Read Part III and consider your medical coverage. Review any questions about your health insurance with your coverage provider.

Once again, leaf through the whole book and read what interests you.

When a new medical problem arises, you’ll quickly be able to find advice and suggestions in Part II, “Common Problems.” Then you can perform home treatment or contact your doctor, whichever the book advises.

With Take Care of Yourself, you’ll handle common medical problems effectively and confidently. You’ll save money by not going to the doctor when you don’t have to, and you’ll save yourself grief by recognizing problems before they grow. By living a healthier life, you can live a happier life.

When you face a medical problem, consider these six steps:

1. Is emergency action necessary?

Usually the answer is obvious. The most common emergency signs are listed and described in Chapter 3, “Emergencies,” on here. It’s a good idea to read the chapter now so that you’re prepared. Fortunately, the great majority of complaints don’t require emergency treatment.

2. Look up your chief complaint or symptom.

Part II contains information on more than 175 common medical problems; these make up over 98% of new problems. Determine your chief complaint or symptom—a cough, an earache, dizziness—and look up that problem. Don’t jump to conclusions about the cause of the problem: chest pain, for instance, may indicate indigestion rather than a heart attack. (Look that problem up under Chest Pain, here.) Each problem discussion contains a decision chart to help you choose between home treatment and a call or visit to the doctor.

Use the chart on here to find the appropriate problem section. The chapters in Part II are organized by type of complaint and by area of the body: skin problems; bones, muscles, and joints; and so on. You can also look up a symptom in the contents or the index.

3. If you have more than one problem, turn to the section for your worst problem first.

You may have more than one problem, such as abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea. In such cases, look up the most serious complaint first, then the next most serious, and so on. If you use more than one chart, play it safe: if one chart recommends home treatment and the other advises a call to the doctor, call the doctor.

4. Read all of the general information for the problem.

The general information describes possible causes of each problem, methods for treating it at home, and what to expect at a doctor’s office, if you need to go. This material gives you important information about interpreting the decision chart. If you ignore it, you may inadvertently choose the wrong action.

5. Go through the decision chart.

Start at the top. Answer every question, following the arrows indicated by your answers. Don’t skip around: that may result in errors. Each question assumes that you’ve answered the previous question.

6. Follow the treatment indicated by the decision chart.

Sometimes the decision chart will instruct you to go to another section. More often you’ll find one of the instruction icons shown below and on the next page. Sometimes you’ll find an illustration showing you how to carry out the home treatment for the best results.

Don’t assume that an instruction to use home treatment guarantees that your problem is trivial and may be ignored. Home treatment must be used carefully if it is to work. As with all treatment, home treatment may not be effective in a particular case, so don’t hesitate to visit a doctor if the problem doesn’t improve.

If the chart indicates that you should consult a doctor, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the illness is serious or dangerous. Many less serious problems require a physical examination to diagnose the cause, and facilities at the doctor’s office can make accurate diagnosis possible.

The charts usually recommend one of the following actions, noted by the symbol to the left.

Seek Medical Care Now

Go to your doctor or health care facility right away. In the general information, we try to give you the medical terminology related to each problem so that you can anticipate some words your doctor may use during your conversation.

Seek Medical Care Today

Call your doctor’s office and say that you’re coming in. Describe your problem over the phone as clearly as you can. Review Chapter 13 about communicating with your doctor so that you can get the most from your visit.

Make Medical Appointment

Schedule a visit to your doctor’s office anytime during the next few days. Before the appointment, review Chapter 13 about communicating with your doctor.

Call Medical Advisor

Often a phone conversation with your doctor or physician assistant will enable you to avoid an unnecessary visit, which is one way of using medical care more wisely. Remember that most practices don’t charge for telephone advice; they regard it as part of their service to regular patients. Please don’t abuse this service in an attempt to avoid paying for medical care.

If your every call results in a recommendation for a visit, the doctor is probably sending you a message: come in and don’t call. This is unfortunate, and you may want to look for a doctor willing to put the telephone to better use.

Use Home Treatment

Follow the instructions for home treatment closely. These steps are what most doctors recommend as a first approach to these problems.

There are times when home treatment is not effective, even though you do it conscientiously. Think the problem through again, using the decision chart. The length of time you should wait before calling your doctor can be found in the general information in most sections. If you become seriously worried about your condition, call the doctor.


You can do more for your health than your doctor can.

We introduced the first edition of Take Care of Yourself in 1976 with this phrase. The concept that health is more a personal responsibility than a professional one was controversial at that time, although it can be found in the earlier writings of René Dubois, Victor Fuchs, and John Knowles, among others. But the idea was still foreign to a society heavily dependent on experts of every kind and seemingly addicted to ever more complex gadgetry and medications.

What a difference forty years can make! The report of the Surgeon General of the United States, Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, contains this statement, once considered a radical phrase: “You, the individual, can do more for your own health and well-being than any doctor, any hospital, any drugs, any exotic medical devices.” The report goes on to detail a strategy for improved national health based on personal effort. The strategy of Take Care of Yourself is now a nationally accepted one. Your health depends on you. We are proud that this book has played a role in the changing national perception of health.

In 1991, the Department of Health and Human Services released an important document called Healthy People 2000: National Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Objectives. It laid out health goals for the nation for the year 2000; they had long been the goals of Take Care of Yourself. Some were met, more were not.

In 2000, the Healthy People 2010 goals were set. Some of the 2010 targets:

Increase the number of people participating in moderate daily physical activity to at least 30% of people (currently 21%)

Reduce overweight problems to no more than 20% of people (currently 35%)

Reduce dietary fat intake to an average of less than 30% of calories (currently 36%)

Reduce cigarette smoking to less than 15% of adults (currently 24%)

Reduce alcohol intake by 20% (from 2.54 to 2.0 gallons, or 7.5 liters, per person per year)

Increase fiber intake to five servings a day on average (currently two a day)

We are pleased to support these national goals, and you will find many specific suggestions in Take Care of Yourself for how to reduce your personal health risks in the direction of the national goals.

The first nine editions of Take Care of Yourself included more than 200 printings totaling over 17 million copies in North America alone. This book has been translated into over 25 languages. It has been the central feature of many health promotion programs sponsored by corporations, health insurance plans, and other institutions. Acceptance by professional review panels is testimony to the soundness of the medical advice provided here. It is also a testament to visionary health directors who see the need for new approaches to health improvement.

Evidence That This Book Works

Does Take Care of Yourself work? Can you improve your health with the aid of a book? Can you use the doctor less, use services more wisely, save money? Absolutely. Take Care of Yourself has been more carefully evaluated by critical scientists than any health book ever written, and the evaluations have been published in major medical journals. These studies involved an aggregate of many thousands of individuals and cost nearly $4 million to perform. The results of all of these studies have been positive.

A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association described a randomized study in Woodland, California. As determined by lot, 460 families were given Take Care of Yourself, and 239 were not. Visits to doctors by those who were given Take Care of Yourself were reduced by 7.5% compared with those not given the book. Visits to doctors for colds decreased by 14%.

A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association compared the use of Take Care of Yourself in a health maintenance organization with a random control group. Medical visits were reduced 17%, and visits for minor illnesses were reduced 35%. This large study of 3,700 subjects over five years obtained its data directly from medical records, had a rigorous experimental design, and found statistically significant reductions in medical visits in both Medicare and general populations.

A major study reported in the journal Medical Care detailed an experiment at 29 work sites that reduced visitation rates for households of 5,200 employees by 14%—1.5 doctor visits per household per year—after distribution of Take Care of Yourself.

A report in the American Journal of Health Promotion analyzed health risks in over 250,000 people given Take Care of Yourself and Healthtrac materials and followed for up to 30 months. The decrease in health risks was consistent at about 10% per year, and applied equally to young and old ages and to those with less or more education.

The American Journal of Medicine reported a randomized two-year controlled trial of nearly 6,000 Bank of America retirees. The people who received Take Care of Yourself and the Senior Healthtrac program reduced health risks by 15% compared with control groups. Furthermore, they saved about $300 per person.

A randomized trial of 59,000 people reported in the American Journal of Health Promotion showed that these same materials improved health and saved over $8 million for the California Public Employees Retirement System.

The American Journal of Health Promotion reported a study of over 8,000 employees of a large bank, with major improvements in health status and reductions in medical costs.

In 2002, RAND released a report to Medicare recommending evaluation of health education programs involving Take Care of Yourself as a Medicare benefit.

In 2004, MEDSTAT submitted its evaluation design report to Medicare with the same conclusions and recommended immediate implementation of a demonstration project. Then Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson agreed.

Why does Take Care of Yourself “work,” while other resources do not appear to work as well? We think it may be because of:

Medical Quality. We are doctors ourselves, and we get a lot of help from our friends.

Medical Currency. We make revisions every printing, almost once a month, to keep up with new knowledge.

Branching Logic. Our decision guidelines are branching algorithms, which are more accurate and easier to use than linear lists.

Health Confidence Improvement. You have to be confident to use recommendations. We work hard to help you build up your confidence so you can control your own health.

We, as a nation, are in the midst of a health care cost crisis. Costs now average over $8,000 per person per year—more than double those of many countries. Many people can no longer afford insurance. The Take Care of Yourself solution is simple: stay healthy, and when you do need to make a medical decision, make it wisely. Healthier people need less medical care.

For every heart attack prevented, the health care system saves over $200,000, and you may save your own life. By preparing a living will, you may save your family thousands of dollars, and you can increase the dignity of your care if you develop a terminal illness. Even the common cold that you treat at home may save $300 or more in doctor bills, laboratory tests, X-rays, and medication.

Some ask why you should work to reduce medical care costs when you have insurance? You paid for it; why not use it?

We are reminded of the “tragedy of the commons.” In a small mountainous village in Spain, each family had one goat, which represented their total wealth. The village goats grazed on the common land inside the circle of huts and provided milk and cheese. One man reasoned that if he had two goats, he would be twice as wealthy, and the commons could surely support one more goat, so he raised two goats. Then another man did the same. And another. And another. Eventually the grass was all eaten up, the goats died, and the villagers starved.

The health care crisis can be controlled if we all work to decrease our need for and use of medical services. Now is a time to work for the common good: to preserve common resources. Your good health is its own reward. It feels better to be healthy than not. A vigorous lifestyle, a continuing sense of adventure and excitement, the exercise of personal will, and the acceptance of individual responsibility are essential to—and benefits of—the healthy life. Take care of yourself. You will help the broader society. And your loved ones will thank you for it.


The Habit of Health


A Pound of Prevention: Your Health Is in Your Hands

When we wrote Take Care of Yourself (TCOY) in the 1970s, it was quickly recognized as a self-care book that could help you solve your medical problems. You can make your own health decisions following reasonable and well-studied guidelines. You can save money and prolong your good health. TCOY works because the science is sound, factual, and clearly stated. It has helped many millions of people.

This tenth edition extends these approaches and algorithms as they have evolved. Even more importantly, it develops the emerging science of postponing aging and the processes by which you plan in advance to achieve a healthy long life for yourself and your family.

The truth is that you can do much more than any doctor to maintain your health and well-being. But first you have to get into the habit of health. And you have to have a plan. At the age of 50, individuals with good health habits can be physically 30 years younger than those with poor health habits. In other words, at age 50 you can feel as if you’re 65 years old or 35 years old. Your health is in your hands.

The major health problems in the developed world are chronic long-term illnesses in middle age and beyond, and trauma at young ages. These illnesses, which include heart disease, cancer, emphysema, and liver cirrhosis, cause nearly 85% of all deaths. They also account for about 80% of all sickness in the United States. Over two-thirds of cases of these illnesses can be postponed, and most of these can be prevented.


On Sale
Aug 29, 2017
Page Count
416 pages

James F. Fries

About the Author

James F. Fries, MD, is Professor of Medicine, Emeritus, at Stanford University. His work involves the study of health outcomes and how to improve them, prevention of disease by reduction in health risks, self-care techniques, and health economics. He has published over 300 scientific articles and 11 books.

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Donald M. Vickery

About the Author

Donald M. Vickery, MD, helped develop the first medical decision charts for non-doctors. Formerly the head of the nonprofit Self-Care Institute, he died in 2008. He coauthored Take Care of Yourself and Taking Care of Your Child with James F. Fries and Robert H. Pantell.

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