Binfield Surgery
Terrace Road North
Binfield
Bracknell, Berks
RG42 5JG
Tel: 01344 286264

Fax: 0844 576 9802

When Closed: 111

Binfield Self Help Guide

These self-help guides are designed to empower you, our patients, to manage your own minor and self-limiting illnesses.

We hope that they will:

  • Save you the time and trouble of attending the doctors when not necessary.
  • Helps us and enables us to maintain our ability to see you promptly when you do need our advice.

We hope that this correspondence is helpful. Please direct any constructive feedback, or comments, to the Business manager.

Coughs, colds, sore throats

As I write this, the central heating is on and the leaves are turning brown. Today I will leave work in the dark. This is the beginning of the season of the familiar and tiresome viral upper respiratory tract illnesses. You will be lucky to escape one this winter.

Adults average two such episodes per year, teenagers four, and school age children more. They are transmissible between people by droplet infection. “Coughs and sneezes spread diseases” as countless viral particles are ejected from your inflamed nose and throat, and settle on table tops and shop counters, and smeared on to door handles off your hands. Another victim then touches these surfaces, and transfers the particles to their eyes, nose or mouth.

Prevention...

  • WASH YOUR HANDS! (This may be why your doctors get less viral illnesses than many people!).
  • Keep your hands away from your face.
  • Use paper tissues and then bin them.
  • Vitamins, nutritional supplements and herbal remedies are of no value, except to increase the profits of the shop where you buy them.

You are unwell…

You may have a runny nose, sore throat, hoarse voice, cough. The virus may attack the whole of your respiratory tract from nose to windpipe, leading to these familiar symptoms.

You may have a fever, as your immune system gets going to repel the invaders. You feel shivery, or boiling hot and flushed, weak and listless. Headache is common, and may be related to dehydration after all that sweating with a fever.

You may have widespread muscle aches, joint pain and feel fatigued.

How to feel better...

There is no cure. Your immune system will deal with this on its own.
You can improve the way you feel:

  • Regular paracetamol (2 tablets four times a day) or ibuprofen (400mg three times)   lowers temperature and will help aches and pains. Proprietary remedies (eg Beechams Powders; Lemsip) often do not contain enough paracetamol, and are expensive. Stick to 2 paracetamol tablets and a cup of tea.
  • Nasal decongestants (eg Otrivine) are very effective, but their effect is short lived, and prolonged use (more than a few days) can lead to dependence and rebound symptoms. Take care!
  • Cough mixture is rarely effective.
  • Drink lots of fluid
  •  Avoid strenuous exercise (but go to work if you feel well enough and it is rarely an excuse to avoid the household chores, husbands!)

Complications and when to see us...

  • Prolonged illness. Fever lasting more than 4 days, particularly if you are particularly unwell, or there are drenching night sweats for this long
  • Chest pain or breathlessness (as opposed to “tightness” or pain in the front of the chest on coughing) which may represent the uncommon but important complication of pneumonia. The patient that we see with this is usually more ill for longer than average.

NB – a cough and coloured sputum is not of itself a reason to see us if you are otherwise getting better.

Verrucas and warts

People do not like unsightly warts on any part of the body. Verrucas are warts on the sole of the foot, which are flattened by the weight of walking on them. The compaction of the hard skin that may arise can lead to pain on walking.

Warts and verrucas are caused by a viral infection. Your immune system will get rid of them eventually, but often after months or even years. In the meantime, the treatment consists of destroying the hard, dead skin associated with them.

Leave them alone, as often they will go away. 70% by 2 years. If you are intent on self-treatment, do the following BUT start only if you mean to finish or all you will have done is to make it worse. Soak the wart/verruca in warm water to soften it then apply any of the proprietary products (they are all equivalent) eg Bazuka comes as a gel or paint. Follow the instructions.

  • Do not pick it with your fingers! Do not waste your time filing with an emery board. Take the top layer off with a strong pair of tweezers daily. Continue for several weeks.
  • Finish what you started, and beware it can be painful to complete the task, especially for children.
  • Liquid nitrogen may work, but it is likely that you can’t cause yourself enough pain to treat adequately! We no longer have access to liquid nitrogen, and so we have no better treatment than that which you can get yourself.

Special cases...

  • On the face: take great care as the gels or paints can burn. Probably better to get a referral.
  • Genital warts are sexually transmitted, and often associated with other infections – we recommend a check-up at the genitourinary medicine clinic.

Infectivity...

Yes, you can spread warts from person to person. However, this is less of an issue than you may think, as the virus is everywhere. You are almost as likely to get a wart from someone who doesn’t have one. Therefore simple covering of your verruca in the swimming pool is adequate.

Athletes’ Foot

Athletes’ foot is a very common irritant and occasionally serious condition affecting, typically, the space between the toes. The condition is caused by a yeast, which thrives in moist, warm conditions which are typical in this area under nice warm socks.

For the most part, people have just itching and irritation in this area, with skin peeling. In people with diabetes or poor circulation, deeper infection can occur. I have seen microscopic breaches in the skin’s protective layer leading to spreading of infection into the foot in people without any underlying illness.

Athletes’ foot can be treated effectively with an over the counter preparation and we advise you do the following:

  • After washing feet, dry between toes! It was only when I got athletes’ foot that I realised that I never actually did this...
  • Use a hairdryer to ensure toes are actually dry (no, really) but don’t burn yourself.
  • Apply terbinafine cream (Lamisil) to the affected area. Creams containing anything ending in –onazole are available but these merely inhibit the growth of the fungus rather than killing it. Powders are completely useless.
  • Get in the habit of drying your feet in the future, especially if very sweaty.

If you suffer from diabetes or if your athletes' foot is getting worse despite treatment, see your GP.