COLUMN: Avoid a trip to the GP for minor colds

Doctors waiting room.  Chesterfield.
Doctors waiting room. Chesterfield.
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I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a healthy start to the year.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t been the best of starts for everybody. I’ve had a lot of people in the pharmacy this week with a bad cold and generally feeling under the weather.

We all suffer from minor ailments from time to time and when we are suffering they can feel anything but minor.

Perhaps it’s better to think of them as common ailments and feel less alone in the misery. I assure you that we really are not alone! It is estimated that 57 million visits to GPs are made every year for so called minor ailments. That’s around one in five consultations - around half a million consultations just in Southern Derbyshire. This places huge demand on GPs and makes it harder to be seen as quickly as we would like.

However, there is good news – instead of booking a GP appointment you could visit your local pharmacy and save yourself a lot of time and trouble. The pharmacist will be able to advise you on how to keep well and help you to manage your problem. Medication will not always be needed, but hearing this from a professional can be reassuring and even make you feel a little better.

Your pharmacist will be alert to symptoms that warrant further investigation. They will advise on how to treat a wide range of common ailments, tailor their advice to your individual needs and circumstances, make sure that over the counter medications don’t interact with your regular prescription drugs, and take into account any pre-existing medical conditions, before making any recommendations.

Let’s look at the common cold as an example of how they can help and advise. A cold is a mild viral infection of the nose, throat, sinuses and upper airways. It’s very common and usually clears up on it’s own in a week or two.

Antibiotics really aren’t the answer. Colds are caused by viruses and don’t respond to antibiotics. If the pharmacist considers that your symptoms are more severe, or not commonly associated with a cold, then they would advise you to see your GP for further investigation.

There are no drugs that are proven to treat the common cold; only symptomatic relief can be offered by paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin, steam inhalation, decongestants and large doses of vitamin C.

So if you are suffering a common ailment and think you need to see your GP, why not pop into your local pharmacist first to see if it’s really necessary. No appointment is needed and they will give you the right advice to see you on your way. Remember our motto is ‘Think Pharmacy First – Feel Better Fast’.