Medical Advice: What Would A Doctor Do?

Often find yourself Googling your symptoms in order to find medical advice? For those minor health niggles like aches, pains and early wake-ups, instant advice from a doctor can help.

w&h’s resident GP, Dr Rosemary Leonard gives the lowdown on how she copes with the common symptoms she sees in the surgery every day…

The problem: Early morning wake-ups

I hate it when I wake at 3am and can’t get back to sleep, especially if I know I have a very long day of work ahead

My solution? Never pills. I’d still be half asleep hours later, when I have to be working. Instead, I try and work out why I can’t get back to sleep. In the summer, it’s often sticky skin, so I have a tepid shower – yes, even at 3am! If it’s thirst, I prefer orange juice to water (though my dentist would be horrified). But my best solution of all is usually a comforting bowl of cereal, with loasa of milk, eaten while reading a magazine. And because I always set my alarm before I go to bed, I never look at the clock. Knowing there is less than an hour before I need to get up only makes me more anxious, and won’t help.

The problem: Neck pain

Like many women, my neck gives me problems. There have been times when I’ve woken up and, for seemingly no apparent reason, my neck is so stiff I can hardly move my head

My solution? I’ve tried all sorts of remedies, but the only thing that brings quick relief is ibuprofen (600g). It must be after food, though.

The other essential part of my treatment is a very hot shower for at least five minutes, followed by a pummelling by one of my sons or my hubby. If the pain persists, then I head to my physiotherapist, who massages the tense muscles and releases the trigger points with an acupuncture needle.

The pain is usually worse for an hour or so, but at least I can then turn my head. It’s money well spent. Finally, I’ve decluttering my handbag to reduce the weight I carry around on my shoulders.

The problem: Pain passing urine

Like every woman, I’ve had horrible times when it stings when I go to the loo

My solution? The first thing is to sort out why. If the skin feels sore and itchy, then it could be thrush or an allergy. If I feel I need to go more often, or it feels like I’m peeing shreds of glass, then it’s more likely to be a urine infection.

In the past I’ve tried cranberry juice, and it hasn’t helped. So, much as I try to avoid antibiotics, this is one of the few occasions when I do take them. However, I always send a sample to the lab beforehand to check that I’ve been prescribed the right ones.

The problem: Ear pain

My ears get blocked a lot, especially on a plane when they really hurt

My solution? If the problem was wax, my ear canals would feel uncomfortable, and a regular douching with hot water from the hand shower attachment would help. But the discomfort I get is deeper inside my head, and it’s because of a problem in the middle ear cavity. Sucking menthol sweets helps (horrifying my dentist more), but even better is a decongestant, such as Sudafed. But never after 6pm, as it has an adrenaline-like action. 

At night, a tissue soaked with menthol and eucalyptus oil on the pillow is just wonderful. On a plane, my solution is a blast of a decongestant nasal spray, such as Otrivine, before landing, then regularly re-pressurising my ears. That involves breathing out, hard, with my mouth shut, holding my nose. I often have to repeat this several times, and no, it doesn’t do your ears any harm!

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