Many common infections are caused by either viruses or bacteria. Each individual antibiotic is effective against a certain range of bacteria, but none of them are effective against viruses. Hence viral infections are not treated with antibiotics, the worry being that patients will be exposed to the risk of side-effects (such as diarrhoea or a rash) without deriving any benefit from the treatment. In addition, there is a risk that inappropriate use of antibiotics could lead to the development of new strains of bacteria which are resistant to the antibiotics which were previously effective.
Most sore throats, coughs and colds are self-limiting viral infections, so please don’t be surprised if your doctor advises that antibiotics will not help.
After any burn, pour running cold water over the site immediately. If severe blistering or a break in the skin occurs, please contact the surgery.
Colds and Flu
Influenza may be characterised by a high temperature, dry cough, shivers, headaches and general aches. It is caused by a viral infection and so antibiotics do not help (see “antibiotics” above). The illness may last a week or more. You may not feel like eating much, but do make sure that you drink enough liquids.
Paracetamol or Ibuprofen may help to reduce the fever and ease the aches and pains.
Most bleeding can usually be stopped by applying pressure to the cut for two or three minutes and by elevating the affected part. Apply a plaster dressing firmly bringing the edges of the cut together. If the bleeding does not stop with these measures, or if the edges cannot pull together with the dressing, please contact the surgery. Stitches and a tetanus injection may be needed.
If you think your ears may need syringing you should soak the wax with a few drops of olive oil or sodium bicarbonate solution (which is available from the chemist) twice a day for at least a week before you see the nurse.
If you have had unprotected sex, there are two options that may prevent you from becoming pregnant. The first is a tablet which you can take within 72 hours and this is available:
- on prescription from the surgery
- over-the-counter at a pharmacist
- from a Family Planning Clinic (see Useful Contacts page).
The tablet becomes gradually less effective as time ticks on but there is a good chance of preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours.
Alternatively, a coil can be inserted within five days depending on the time of your cycle. This can also be done at the surgery or at a Family Planning Clinic. One advantage of this method is that it will provide ongoing contraception.
Please contact the surgery for further advice.
Pinch the fleshy part of the nose between forefinger and thumb and lean your head forward to prevent blood trickling back down your throat and causing you to cough. You should remain like this for about ten to fifteen minutes. Once the bleeding has stopped try to avoid coughing or rubbing your nose as this may disturb the blood clot. If the bleeding continues despite these measures please contact the surgery.
Sore Throats and Tonsillitis
Most sore throats are caused by a virus and therefore antibiotics are rarely of any help.
During an infection glands in your neck may become swollen as the immune system switches on to fight the virus. You may also notice white spots on your tonsils. Nearly all cases of sore throat and tonsillitis settle spontaneously after four to five days.
In the meantime the following may ease the discomfort –
- drink plenty of liquids
- steam inhalations
- dissolve two aspirins in a glass and gargle the solution before swallowing it. If you suffer from asthma or indigestion it may be a good idea to spit out the solution rather than swallow it.
Children under the age of 14 years should not take aspirin. Regular Paracetamol and Ibuprofen may also be helpful.
When treating a sprain, remembering the word “RICE” may be useful:
- Rest the affected limb
- Ice (a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel would suffice)
- Compression bandaging may help
- Elevate the affected limb
Vomiting and Diarrhoea
Vomiting and diarrhoea are often caused by an infection of the gut, commonly due a virus. You may also experience some colicky abdominal pain during the illness. Many attacks begin to get better after 48 hours, but not always.
Antibiotics do not kill the virus and indeed may produce further diarrhoea as a side effect. You may wish to try the following measures instead: –
- Drink plenty of clear fluids – this is very important and may prevent dehydration. Rehydration drinks are ideal as they replace salts and sugars as well as water, all in the correct balance . They can be bought from a pharmacist or obtained on prescription.
- Eat as normally as you can as soon as you feel you are able
- Paracetamol or Ibuprofen may ease fever and pain
- Anti-diarrhoea medication if often not necessary and is not advisable in children under 12. It can be bought over-the-counter at a pharmacist or obtained on prescription if needed.