Do I need to go to The Doctors?
The NHS is always under a great deal of pressure at this time of year due to an increase in winter illness. There are ways that YOU can help. Ask yourself “DO I really need to go to the doctors with this problem or can I manage my illness myself?”
There are many conditions that are self- limiting and can be treated by patients at home. These include:-
Coughs and Colds
A cold can last for up to 3 weeks. This is normal. The cough is usually the most persistent symptom and last the longest. Colds can be treated by staying warm, drinking plenty of fluids, taking paracetamol, Ibuprofen or over the counter cold remedies, as well as honey and lemon and cough syrups. You do not need to attend the surgery with a cold. Antibiotics will NOT work for a cold as colds are caused by viruses.
Diarrhoea and Vomiting
At this time of year this is usually caused by a virus and antibiotics will make it worse. Stay in; take small sips of fluid or a rehydration sachet such as Dioralyte. Only eat light diet and only if you are hungry. Diarrhoea and vomiting makes you feel weak and ill. It can last from 24hours to a week or more. It is highly infectious and can be passed on easily therefore please stay away from the surgery as it may be passed on to other vulnerable patients. Please telephone the doctor or nurse if advice is needed.
Patients often worry that they have a chest infection if they have a cough, but again the majority of coughs are viral. Try a cough mixture or soothing cough sweets, or warm honey and lemon drinks .Most coughs are NOT chest infections even if it feels as if it has “gone down onto my chest”. The signs of a more serious chest infection include a high temperature, feeling unwell, pains on breathing in, coughing up green, brown or blood stained phlegm.
Some groups of patients SHOULD have a lower threshold for seeking help and may require antibiotics including:-
Patients with Asthma or COPD
Elderly patients with underlying conditions such as heart disease, kidney disease and neurological conditions.
Babies and very young children.
Patients who are taking medication that suppress the immune system such as chemotherapy and steroids, and methotrexate.
Pain on passing urine and passing urine in small amounts very frequently may indicate that you have a urine infection.
If you are fit and well then treat the symptoms at home by drinking plenty of fluids to flush the infection out. Take paracetamol for pain or try one of the over the counter cystitis treatments- the pharmacist will help you. If your symptoms persist for more than 2-3 days then you can drop a urine sample in at the surgery reception before 12 noon each day. Urine sample bottles are available from the receptionist. The nurse will test the urine at the end of morning surgery and you will receive a telephone call from the duty doctor in the afternoon if your sample is positive and requires treatment. This system works well and means that most patients with urine infections will not need to see a doctor or nurse at all.
Urine infections can cause confusion in elderly patients- please speak to the duty doctor if you feel this is the case.
The vast majority of sinus infections can be treated without antibiotics. The best advice is to take paracetamol or ibuprofen, try steam inhalations, and nasal sprays. Decongestant tablets such as Sudafed can be tried and can be bought over the counter at the pharmacy. The only sinus infections that require antibiotics are those with a lot of persistent thick green nasal discharge or blood stained nasal discharge.
Simple earache can be part of a cold or upper respiratory virus and can be treated with paracetamol or ibuprofen.. The pain associated with ear infections is more severe. If you have a discharge coming from the ear then you have a bacterial ear infection and need to see the doctor or nurse practitioner.
Over 90% of sore throats are viral and therefore NOT going to get better with antibiotics. We do however sometimes prescribe antibiotics for tonsillitis which causes a temperature ,severe sore throat, feeling tired and unwell, white spots on the tonsils and painful enlarged glands in the neck. If you feel mainly well and are attending work or school it is unlikely you have tonsillitis. If you have lost your voice then you have laryngitis which is caused by a virus and will not get better with antibiotics. For all these sore throat conditions try gargling with SOLUBLE paracetamol four times a day.
If you are fit and well normally and develop one of the self- limiting conditions above then please try and treat yourselves at home or ask the advice of the pharmacist.
If you are unsure then you can ring our Nurse Practitioner, Sarah Smith, or one of the GPs for advice.
Dr Catherine Taylor