As always at this time of year, I can feel myself becoming unwell: I often end up with a cold or another throat infection over Christmas. What is the best way to deal with this?
At about this time, coughs, colds, flu and the winter vomiting bug circulate more than at any other time – and with all the socialising that goes on around Christmas, it is easy to pick up and pass on infection.
These problems are caused by viruses and do not respond to antibiotics. What they require is love and care to help your body to fight the virus.
With all the socialising that goes on around Christmas, it can be easy to pick up and pass on infection (stock image)
Rest is vital to give your body and immune system a chance. When people do not get enough rest, they are more susceptible to illness – particularly winter viruses.
For symptomatic relief, paracetamol and ibuprofen work well, giving a few hours of relief from aches and pains. These can be taken every few hours on the worst days rather than waiting for the symptoms to escalate.
Cold and flu remedies can also be valuable but are not essential – they can contain decongestants which some people find overly drying or uncomfortable. Saltwater nose sprays, available from pharmacists, work as a natural decongestant and are recommended by ear, nose and throat specialists.
Steam inhalations are also helpful for congested sinuses and noses.
Drinking plenty of fluids is essential when you’re unwell. Avoid alcohol, as it will worsen symptoms. It is fine to eat only a little.
It is possible to seek medical advice over the festive season, even on bank holidays. Pharmacists are healthcare professionals and are an excellent first port of call for winter ailments and symptomatic relief. Staff at the NHS 111 service are well versed in assessing patients over the phone and can also arrange an out-of-hours GP appointment. Evening and weekend GP appointments are available through your GP or a local service, sometimes called a Hub – many of which are open 365 days a year.
I have recently developed a troublesome spot in my eye that obstructs my vision. My optometrist says it is a ‘floater’. What is this and is there anything I can do to treat it?
So-called ‘floaters’ are a common speck or flash that obstructs the vision and are usually not serious. Most people see them as one dark spot, a line, a ring or a wavy line.
They are caused by age-related changes in the eye.
The eye structure is held firm with a jelly-like substance known as the vitreous. With age, the vitreous jelly becomes thinner and small fibres within it clump together and can cast shadows on the retina, which are projected on to your vision at the back of the eye.
Specialists do not consider them to be serious.
However, if floaters appear very suddenly, multiply or present alongside pain or blurred vision, this is considered an emergency and is would warrant a visit to A&E.
Staff deserve mental health help
Should your boss be held responsible for your mental health?
This question is soon to be debated by MPs, it was announced last week, following a 200,000-strong petition calling for the introduction of ‘mental health first aiders’ in Britain’s workplaces.
DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION FOR DR ELLIE?
Email DrEllie@mailonsunday.co.uk or write to Health, The Mail on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London, W8 5TT.
Dr Ellie can only answer in a general context and cannot respond to individual cases, or give personal replies.
If you have a health concern, always consult your own GP.
With a third of Britons experiencing mental health problems, and only half of them opening up about it at work, a colleague who knows exactly what to say (and what not to) is indeed vital.
But is a friendly ear enough? There is no use in identifying a mental illness at work if employers are not equipped to deal with it.
Only those at the very top of companies can implement concrete HR strategies to deal with those who are unwell. Long-term help is just as important – what happens a year down the line when a course of therapy has ended?
Talking is simply not enough. CEOs and industry leaders ought to provide those with mental health issues the crucial treatment and support they desperately need.
It’s good to talk about loss… Just ask Debbie
Coping with grief can be especially tough at Christmas. Just when we are expected to celebrate and be happy, many of us are instead reminded of the pain of losing a loved one.
So it was good to see Debbie McGee discussing her grief two years after her TV magician husband Paul Daniels died. Helping a bereaved caller on the TV show Celebrity Call Centre, she talked about the difficulties she has getting on with everyday life.
Debbie McGee (pictured) has been discussing her grief two years after her TV magician husband Paul Daniels died
Talking about the reality of grief and how it’s still painful, no matter how long has passed, can make it easier to deal with.
If you are grieving this Christmas and need someone to talk to call the Cruse bereavement support line on 0808 808 1677.
Last week brought fantastic news for women’s health – cervical cancer screening is to be revolutionised. A new study has shown that looking at chemicals in the cells known as epigenetic factors, which change the DNA of a cell, can reveal cells that are likely to become cancerous before they are visible via a smear test. The new tests picked up 93 per cent of pre-cancer cases compared to 61 per cent detected using just a smear test, as seen in the Cancer Research UK study of 15,000 Canadian women.
Currently, the NHS screens for abnormal cells and the cancer-causing virus HPV during a smear test every three years for women aged 25 to 49 and every five years for those 50 to 64.
There are still thousands who lose their lives every year as a result of delayed diagnosis. But be patient – researchers predict it could take up to five years for this new test to be established in the UK.
What to read, watch and do
Tough Choices: Stories From The Front Line Of medical Ethics, by Daniel Sokol
University lecturer-turned-barrister and award-winning columnist Sokol explores the fundamentals of medical ethics with questions such as ‘Should doctors always tell patients the truth?’
£9.99, Book Guild Publishing
University lecturer-turned-barrister and award-winning columnist Sokol explores the fundamentals of medical ethics in his new book Tough Choices: Stories From The Front Line Of medical Ethics
The Royal Institution Xmas Lectures: Who Am I?
Have you invited relatives for Christmas? You may have left some off the list – fish and fruit flies. Professor Alice Roberts, explains how we’ve more in common with the animal kingdom than we realise.
BBC4, Boxing Day to Dec 28, 8pm
Professor Alice Roberts (pictured) will present The Royal Institution Xmas Lectures: Who Am I? on Boxing Day
The 12 walks of Christmas
If you’re feeling energetic over the festive season, the National Trust has picked out 12 invigorating walks to help burn off calories – including the clifftops of West Cornwall and the rugged landscape of the Peak District.