During the winter months illnesses such as colds, flu and stomach upsets can affect many people resulting in GP surgeries across the country being very busy and experiencing a reported 40% increase in visits in recent weeks.
Often a large proportion of people do not need to see a GP for these winter ailments and the symptoms you and your family have when suffering relatively mild illnesses can be treated at home, saving you a trip to the doctor’s.
If you are living with a long term health condition, it's really important you visit a pharmacist for advice if you feel a winter illness - such as a cold or flu - coming on so you can prevent it from becoming more serious.
Coughs, colds, headaches and other common illnesses as well as injuries such as sprains or strains can leave you feeling unwell and struggling to carry on as normal. You can be prepared by keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet at home.
Remember, antibiotics are not an effective treatment for winter symptoms such as a cough, cold, sore throat, flu or nasal congestion. These symptoms are caused by viruses and antibiotics only work against bacteria. If you take antibiotics unnecessarily then they may not work when you need them to treat a bacterial infection.
“Most people can treat minor injuries and illnesses at home and self care is the best option to use time effectively and get appropriate care at right time and by right health care professional. You can buy medicine from a pharmacy and treat many common ailments quicker than waiting to see your local GP and self care is all about learning how to take control of your health and that of your family.” explained local GP Dr Satpal Shekhawat.
He added, “For people suffering from flu and sickness bugs it is definitely better to stay at home, take paracetamol and drink plenty of fluids and not visit the GP surgery to avoid passing the infection and virus onto vulnerable people. “If your symptoms are getting worse, you can always ring the Practice for advice or phone NHS111.”
GPs recommend you keep the following in your medicine cabinet (securely away from children, of course):
- Painkillers, such as paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen
- aspirin mustn't be given to children under 16
- ibuprofen must be taken with caution if you have certain conditions, such as asthma and you should take it after food to protect your stomach lining from side effects – check with your pharmacist if in doubt
- pregnant women shouldn't take ibuprofen – visit the bumps website to find out more about taking medicines when you're pregnant
- Oral rehydration salts and anti-diarrhoea medicines
- Indigestion treatment
- Antihistamines for allergies
- Antiseptic cream for bites and stings
- A first aid kit with plasters and bandages to manage cuts and sprains
You can find more information on stocking a medicine cabinet by visiting: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Pharmacy/Pages/Yourmedicinecabinet.aspx.
You can also get advice from your local pharmacist about many common health issues and there's no need to make an appointment. The pharmacist will advise on over the counter medicines and also tell you if you need to visit your GP.
Remember, if you don’t pay for your prescriptions then you can still obtain a wide range of over the counter medicines free of charge from your pharmacy. You can find out more by visiting http://www.northlincolnshireccg.nhs.uk/index.php?id=minor-ailments
If you visit http://www.northlincolnshireccg.nhs.uk/index.php?id=selfcare you will find a useful guide on how long you can expect symptoms of common ailments to last, what you can do to get better and the warning signs to look out for which mean you may need to see a doctor or other health professional.
If you need urgent health advice and your doctor’s or local pharmacy is closed, you can ring NHS111 any time, seven days a week.