Health advice: Act early if you feel unwell, Northamptonshire experts advise

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People in Northamptonshire who suffer from a long-term health condition are being urged to “act early” if they feel unwell to avoid a minor illness becoming more serious.

With colder weather approaching, local hospitals and GP practices across the county are already seeing large numbers of patients with respiratory conditions and chest infections.

In many cases, patients have developed more serious conditions requiring urgent care after failing to treat a cough or cold that might have been dealt with much earlier if they had taken over-the-counter medicines or sought medical advice from a pharmacy.

People with respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or severe asthma, can be particularly susceptible to the effects of cold weather, finding themselves shorter of breath and coughing more than usual.

Children are also more vulnerable than adults to developing upper respiratory tract infections (RTIs) – which affect the nose, sinuses and throat – because they have not built up immunity to the many viruses that can cause these, including the common cold.

GPs say that taking simple steps to stay healthy during the winter can help ward off colds and infections, and this can ease the pressure on local NHS services.

Dr Matthew Davies, a local GP and Medical Director at Nene Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “If you suffer from a long-term condition such as COPD, it’s important to look after your health during the colder winter months and that means keeping warm, staying active and eating well. Those on medication should also ensure they have it with them at all times – and people with a lung condition should take advantage of the free NHS flu vaccination

“Most coughs and colds pass without the need for medical treatment and you won't usually need to see your GP. You can treat your symptoms at home by taking over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, or drinking plenty of fluids and resting.

“If you do feel unwell, it’s important to act early to ensure a cough or cold does not become more serious. That will help you get better more quickly and save you a trip to your GP or local hospital – allowing our local NHS services to focus on those who need them.”