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Tuesday, September 29, 1998 Published at 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK


DIY treatment urged for colds and 'flu

Dr George Rae: "Do not make doctors your first stop"

BBC Health Correspondent Richard Hannaford reports
Doctors have launched a campaign to persuade people that cold and 'flu symptoms can be successfully treated at home.

The Doctor-Patient Partnership, a joint initiative set up by the British Medical Association and the Department of Health, has produced a patient pamphlet entitled Fighting Colds and Flu, posters and a comic for children entitled Baby Bunny Catches a Cold.

The materials have been sent to health authorities, GPs and GP co-operatives for local distribution.

Nottingham GP Dr Simon Fradd, the chairman of the DPP campaign, said that while patients tended to go to their doctor to find out if they were suffering from a cold or from 'flu there was no need to differentiate between the two.

Dr Fradd said: "I can only offer the same advice as the pharmacists to treat both - drink plenty of liquids and take over the counter remedies.

"It is futile for me to write a prescription for antibiotics as they are not an effective treatment against these symptoms and they can have harmful side effects for the individual and the community."

Dr George Rae, of the British Medical Association, said: "The majority of patients will get better.

"It is only if you have had the sympoms for a week or longer or you are starting to get breathless that I think patients should come and see the family doctor."

Unnecessary requests

The government recently published new guidelines that advised doctors not to prescribe antibiotics for coughs and colds.

The medicines are ineffective against viral conditions, and their overuse is leading to fears that bacteria will become immune to their effects.

[ image: Campaign poster strikes light tone]
Campaign poster strikes light tone
Dr Fradd said many patients were also asking doctors for a medical certificate for time off work with colds and 'flu when no such certificate was needed for the first seven days absence.

He said: "We strongly recommend that people seek advice from the local pharmacist on what over-the-counter medication they can take to treat their symptoms and keep in their home medicine chest.

"Everyone who has cold and 'flu symptoms should try to self-medicate for a week before they call the GP for an appointment."

Dr Fradd said elderly people and those who are chronically ill should get a 'flu jab to protect themselves against the virus.

'At risk' people include those over 75 years of age and people living in nursing, residential or long-stay homes where rapid spread of the virus is more likely.

Adults with the following conditions may also have difficulty combating the symptoms of 'flu:

  • Chronic lung disease, including asthma, bronchitis and emphysema

  • Chronic heart failure

  • Kidney failure

  • Diabetes

  • HIV

  • Cancer requiring chemotherapy

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