Monday, 29 September 2014

Take up the Stoptober Challenge

On Wednesday 1st October, take up the challenge to give up smoking for 28 days with the Department of Health's Stoptober Challenge. Over 150,000 people are expected to kick their smoking habit during the month of October this year.

Research shows that stopping smoking for just 28 days can extend your life by up to one week if you remain smoke-free. And those who stop smoking for 28 days are five times more likely to stay smoke-free for good.

The only way to find out if the Stoptober Challenge works for you is to give it a go. Click here to register and get started.

Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health, your family and your finances. But while most smokers know the risks, they still struggle to give up in the long-term. Nicotine cravings are one of the biggest obstacles to quitting for good.

You can seek the help of your local pharmacist for one-to-one support and advice on smoking cessation medicines to combat cravings.  All licensed smoking cessation products can help you stop smoking. In fact, using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can double your chances of quitting, but it's important that you choose the right products for you (gum, patches, lozenges, inhalators, nasal or mouth sprays or oral strips and micro tabs). Some types of NRT are designed to help you cut down on smoking, rather than stop all in one go. You will need to speak to the pharmacist about the right strength for you and, if you are a heavy smoker, about combination therapy (where you use two types of NRT together e.g. patches and gum).

GP surgeries in crisis

According to the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), waiting times to see a GP are now a national crisis. The latest predictions from the RCGP show that on 60 million occasions over the next year, patients will have to wait a week or longer to see their GP or practice nurse.

In the latest poll commissioned by the RCGP, two-thirds of those surveyed said that they worry that GP workloads are a threat to the standard of care that GPs can provide to their patients. Only 23% think that there are enough GPs to deal with Britain's changing and growing population, particularly with more and more people now living longer, often with multiple or complex health problems.

The RCGP and the National Association for Patient Participation have launched the campaign Put patients first: Back general practice in a bid to increase the share of the NHS budget for general practice to 11% by 2017. It's hoped that the extra investment will expand the GP workforce, especially in deprived or under-doctored areas.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Public Health England recently launched a new winter health campaign, called Treat Yourself Better with Pharmacist Advice, to encourage people to seek advice from their pharmacist before going directly to their GP. It is hoped that this will help to free up GP appointments for people who really need them. Research carried out to support the Treat Yourself Better campaign found that only one in five adults make use of their local pharmacist for winter ailments. Yet people wait on average less than five minutes to speak to a local pharmacist about winter ailments, compared with a 3.5 day wait to get a GP appointment, with one in five people waiting at least seven days.

The Treat Yourself Better campaign found that many people also underestimate the normal duration of colds and flu, visiting their GP too early in the infection. Ninety percent expect a cough to last on average only eight days, when in fact it can last for up to three weeks. And 80% expect flu symptoms to last only 10 days, when two weeks in the normal duration.

For more details about the Treat Yourself Better campaign, click here. Find out how you can treat colds and flu yourself, check your symptoms and watch out for warning signs that indicate you may need to see your GP.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Flu - it really is a killer!

This week, I have experienced what it's like to have flu. Not a bad 'man-flu' cold or a chest or sinus infection that makes me feel vile. No, this seems to be the genuine article (although no guarantee without a swab!) and something I haven't had for many many years. 

My waking temperature has been at a minimum of 38.5 degrees celsius for four days now - but is finally showing signs of abating (thanks to regaining my appetite enough to eat and take ibuprofen). I've had the shivers, the shakes and the sweats. Then there's the dry chesty cough, aching muscles, dodgy tummy, difficulty sleeping and exhaustion. My sheets and pyjamas have been dripping for days.

But the good news is that I think I am coming through it … and in one piece. And yes, I know I should be taking it easy, but there's only so much resting I can do.

Over the last day or so, I have been told by my loved ones to call the GP. But what exactly is my GP going to do? Pronounce that I have flu? Tell me I have a viral infection? He/she is certainly not going to be prescribing antibiotics, as these won't help. And I wouldn't want to go into the GP surgery, in case I pass my germs to everyone else.

Plus, any advice that my GP can offer I should already know…
  • Take paracetamol at full dose
  • Take ibuprofen at full dose (but only after food)
  • Drink plenty of fluids (especially warm drinks)
  • Eat whenever I feel hungry - stick to simple things like toast
  • Avoid dairy products if I am chesty
  • Sponge myself with a warm/cool flannel to lower my temperature - I resorted to a cool shower too
  • Keep warm (but not too warm)
  • Stick myself in quarantine (until my kids decided to keep checking up on me to make sure I am still alive - just as well they both went back to school today)
  • Gaze aimlessly at mindless TV programmes to pass the day
  • Don't do anything too taxing - although I seem to have ignored that one today.
And watch out for key signs that complications are developing - chest pain, breathing difficulties, an unexplained rash, coughing up blood, temperature that doesn't drop with paracetamol and/or ibuprofen etc. Nothing to worry about so far … but I am using my asthma inhalers just in case.

Apparently flu can last for seven to 10 days, so I could have at least another three days to go (hopefully not, as I have deadlines looming). At least I am now well enough to write, even if I can't concentrate long enough to work. And on a positive note, flu is great for weight loss and reading time. Not that I would recommend it, of course!