Monks Park Doctors Surgery's monthly column - March 2019
Coughs and colds affect many of us and we need to help ourselves to a speedy recovery and get the right care first time.
What is a cold?
Most colds are caused by a mild viral illness causing the typical symptoms that we all know so well - blocked or runny nose, sneezing, cough, sore throat, slightly raised temperature (up to 39°), headache and feeling really rather rotten. If these are your only symptoms, then it is unlikely your GP will be able to prescribe anything to help. Antibiotics do not work on colds which are harmless in the vast majority of people and tend to get better by themselves.
Catching a Cold
We catch colds by breathing in droplets containing the virus, from someone who has sneezed or coughed or by touching contaminated objects such as doorknobs, and then touching our nose, mouth or eyes. So wash your hands regularly and don’t share cups or drinking bottles. If you have a cold, always carry tissues and use them to catch your cough or sneeze. Dispose of your used tissue as soon as possible as germs can live for several hours.
Antibiotics don’t work on colds. They work on bacterial infections only and colds are caused by viruses. You can do a lot at home to ease the symptoms of a cold.
Firstly, rest as much as possible to help you recover;
Drink plenty of fluids especially if you have a fever;
Eat healthily and make sure you have your five a day fruit and veg. For a sore throat, eat softer food;
Ask your pharmacist for over the counter medicines such as paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin (although don’t give aspirin to children under 16 years of age), decongestants and medicines to help relieve a sore throat. Gargling with warm salty water or sucking lozenges can also help ease a sore throat or eat an ice lolly!
Steam inhalations can help clear a blocked nose;
Don’t smoke and avoid smoky environments.
When should I see My GP?
Most colds resolve by themselves within 5-7 days and you can make yourself more comfortable with self-care at home. However, book and appointment to see your GP if you have any of the following symptoms:
If you have a chronic condition such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease. Babies and older, frail people should also get advice if they’re unwell; A very high temperature over 39° could be a sign of a more serious infection;
You feel confused or disorientated;
You feel a sharp pain in your chest;
You cough up green or blood stained mucus;
You find it difficult to breathe;
You have significant swelling in the glands in your neck and/or armpits;
You have a sore throat that doesn’t get better and doesn’t respond to painkillers;
Your symptoms last longer than three weeks.
Flu is much more serious than a cold and some groups of people are offered a flu vaccination every winter. Make sure you visit your GP to get yours if you’re in one of the at-risk groups to prevent a more serious illness.