Keep away from A&E

So we’re in mid-winter again and everyone knows that their local hospital is under pressure to cope with the demand. So what can you do to minimise the likelihood that you’ll need to go to A&E? What could you do to avoid getting really sick?

Well first off, if you do have a health condition take any medication prescribed by your doctor regularly. Set up text reminders if you sometimes forget. If you have asthma, take the inhaler that prevents the breathlessness symptoms of your condition. If you have a high blood pressure or an irregular heart rate (atrial fibrillation), take your tablets everyday- or you might have a stroke that you could have otherwise avoided. Make sure you’ve ordered your monthly repeat medication in good time – as your doctor’s surgery and local pharmacies will be closed for some extra days over the Xmas to New Year period. Try out the repeat prescription ordering system via Patient Online if you’ve signed up to that service with your GP practice – that’ll be easier for you.

If the weather’s cold or the ground is icy, wrap up warm if you walk outside and wear grippers on the soles of your shoes- that might stop you slipping over and ending up with fractured bones – your hip or wrist maybe.

It’s fairly common for a cancer to be diagnosed after a person has presented with severe symptoms to A&E. So don’t ignore any early signs of lung cancer- like coughing up blood, or of bowel cancer like blood in your poo or a change of bowel habit with diarrhoea/constipation that you’ve not had before, or pancreatic cancer like a swollen abdomen and/or loss of appetite. Go to see your GP if you’ve any of these ‘red flag’ symptoms and they will refer you for tests with a hospital doctor who’ll assess you within 14 days of getting your GP’s request.

It’s always a good time to check that you have stocked up on medication that you can buy over the counter that should come in handy if you or a family member are unwell. Keep it on standby at home. So if you or they have a raised temperature but are reasonably well try paracetamol (dose according to age – see instructions on packet or bottle). If you are in pain with a swollen joint say, try a heat pad or ice pack as well as paracetamol or maybe ibuprofen if there’s no reason that you should avoid such an anti-inflammatory treatment -such as you’re already on a similar medication or have had a stomach bleed in the past. Anti-inflammatory cream can help relieve a painful joint- and only a small percentage is absorbed to circulate in your blood stream, compared to taking the medication by mouth. The bargain shops often have a wide range of such medication as well as support bandages for your wrist, knee, ankle – and cost less than the taxi or car parking fee at the hospital!