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10 Things Your Doctor Wants You To Know

4 MIN READ • 29th November 2022

We’ve got the inside scoop – direct from the experts – to help you stay happy and healthy for longer

No matter how fast you try to talk, there’s only so much you can cover in a typical 10 minute-long GP appointment (and the clock always seems to speed up when you’re in there, right?). So, to help you optimise your time together, we asked seven doctors to share advice regarding concerns they commonly see, and reveal what they wish you knew ahead of visiting them.

1. Taking antibiotics unnecessarily can make things worse

We get it: bunged up noses and stuffy heads can make you feel miserable. However, asking your GP for antibiotics to treat them is pointless. Colds and flu are caused by viruses, and “antibiotics only work to treat bacterial infections,” explains Dr Zoë Watson, an East London-based locum GP and founder of Wellgood Wellbeing (wellgoodwellbeing.com). “Taking antibiotics for a viral infection can actually make you feel more ill by giving you diarrhoea or thrush, so you don’t want to take them unless you genuinely have a bacterial infection.”

2. Come prepared

There’s no time to waste during appointments. “A doctor will most likely need to see the area causing problems,” states Dr Shirin Lakhani, women’s intimate health specialist (elite-aesthetics.co.uk). “So, it’s helpful if a patient comes dressed appropriately for an examination, such as wearing a skirt or loose-fitting clothing.” Don’t feel comfortable undressing alone? You can request a chaperone to be in the room while you’re examined. Taking along notes of symptoms, dates and patterns can also be helpful, she adds, and will ensure you don’t forget to mention anything important.

3. Don’t avoid screening appointments

“If you’re contacted for your cervical screening, a mammogram, bowel cancer screening, and so on, please take it up,” says Dr Claire Ashley, GP and founder of selfcare subscription box for medics Do Yourself No Harm (doyourselfnoharm.com). In the UK, cervical screening is offered to women aged over 25 and mammograms to those aged 50 or above so speak to your GP if you think you’re eligible but haven’t been called for an appointment.

4. There’s no question that’s out of the question

Got a rash down there or dealing with dubious odours? No matter how awkward you might feel speaking about your concern, there’s absolutely no judgement once you step foot inside your doctor’s office, so don’t be put off making an appointment. “We have seen it all, treated it all, and it doesn’t faze us in the slightest,” Dr Watson assures us. “We are professionals, and it’s our job to make you feel at ease for even the most difficult-to-talk-about issues and problems.”

5. A pharmacist might be able to help

You’ve likely heard that GP surgeries are short-staffed and under more pressure than ever. “While we’re open and always happy to help, it’s worthwhile considering if there’s another service you could use depending on your problem, such as a pharmacist or optician,” suggests Dr Ashley. Over 50 million GP appointments are made each year for issues such as blocked noses and dandruff* – but pharmacists are trained to help with minor illnesses, including earache, skin rashes and colds, so it could be worth paying them a visit instead.

6. Check your moles regularly

Moles can pop up anywhere on the body and, although often harmless, they can be linked to skin cancer. “Ideally, you should examine your skin every month,” recommends Dr Hasan Benar, dermatologist and founder of Dr Elif Clinic (drelif.co.uk). So, is there anything you should be looking for in particular? Speak with a GP or dermatologist if there’s any change in size, shape, or colour, Dr Benar says: “Especially so if the mole is itchy, crusty, bleeding or if it becomes much darker.” Essentially, if there’s any uncertainty or concern, it’s always best to get things checked out.

7. Don’t rely on friends for medical advice

It’s OK to use your pals as a sounding board and ask for their advice or opinions, but remember that the only person who can give you legitimate medical advice is a qualified professional. When it comes to the menopause, for example: “There are around 40 different symptoms and a wide range of treatment options – from lifestyle changes to cognitive behavioural therapy to HRT which, in itself, comes in different forms,” explains Dr Clare Spencer, NHS menopause specialist and co-founder of My Menopause Centre (mymenopausecentre. com). “Different treatments suit different people, and your friends’ experience or viewpoint may not apply to you.”

8. Vitamin D is a winter must-have

We love a good multitasker, and vitamin D has many important roles in the body, particularly for immunity, bone health, improving muscle pain and energy levels, reveals Dr Nirusa Kumaran, medical director and founder of Elemental Health Clinic (elementalhealthclinic.com). However, as we get much of this nutrient from the sun, those gloomy winter months don’t work in our favour.“It is advisable that everyone takes a vitamin D supplement between September and March,” she notes. Check with a doctor or pharmacist before taking, as dosage requirements can vary between individuals.

9. Eye drops are your hay fever BFF

There’s nothing worse than having a beautiful summer’s day ruined by hay fever symptoms. To help with sore and streaming eyes, “I recommend using lubricating eye drops,” says oculoplastic surgeon Dr Elizabeth Hawkes (drelizabethhawkes.com). While it might seem counterintuitive to add more moisture: “Put them in your eyes three or four times a day, and they’ll wash out the pollen and fine particles,” she adds. Not sure which drops to use? Ask a pharmacist for advice.

10. Going specific could enhance results

There’s nothing worse than leaving an appointment feeling misunderstood or that you didn’t get the answers you were after – but there are ways to help avoid this. “Some GPs will have special expertise in certain areas,” reveals Dr Spencer. “See if there’s a GP in your practice who has more knowledge or a particular interest [in your issue]. The receptionist can be a good person to ask.” Don’t be afraid to request a longer or follow-up appointment if you feel like there’s more to discuss, too.

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