12 health tips we should all know

Health tips by Dr Kartik Modha, GP

Please share this general guidance with others

1. If an adult has central chest pains, is feeling short of breath on walking short distances, unable to complete a full sentence, or is taking more than 30 breaths in a minute, then they need urgent assessment – call 999.

2. A temperature of over 38°C in a child less than 3 months old and over 39°C at 3-6 months old is unusual and needs medical assessment. An axillary (underarm) thermometer is best for checking temperature in this age group. 

3. Avoid ibuprofen in children with chickenpox as it can cause a severe skin infection. Paracetamol is fine. 

4. Talking to close friend or family member if you have a worry can prevent anxiety and depression escalating at an early stage. If you suspect a close friend or relative is suffering in silence, letting them know you are there if they want to speak, and creating opportunities for them to do so, could be hugely beneficial. 

5. Drink 2.0-2.5 litres of water each day.The average adult is made up of 55-60% water and therefore we need to drink plenty of it (unless otherwise advised by your doctor)! Not enough can lead to poor concentration, headaches and dizziness. 

6. Antibiotics are of no use in viral infections – and could lead to an increased chance of getting diarrhoea and vomiting infections if good bacteria in the gut are unnecessarily cleared.  Ensuring adequate rest, calories, fluids and time to recover is essential in the first instance.

7. Low vitamin D is widespread in the UK (we don’t get much sun!) and especially in those with darker skin. This can lead to muscle and joint aches. Our body creates the majority of our vitamin D from direct sunlight on our skin. March to October is the best time to make vitamin D from sunlight, especially from 11am to 3pm.  Vitamin D can also be found in certain foods, including oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, as well as meat and eggs.  Daily supplements are also available over the counter at pharmacies for those with dietary restrictions, or those who are unable to get enough sun exposure.  If you are ‘deficient’, your GP can prescribe a higher replacement dose. 

8. Sitting for a prolonged period can cause neck and low back pain – but did you know it also increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease and all forms of death! It’s essential to move for 1-2 mins at least every 30mins of sitting to reduce your risk. 

9. Any diabetic taking medication to lower blood sugar (tablet or injection) should have a blood-testing kit at home and by law inform the DVLA if they are a driver.  Not all diabetic medications actively lower blood sugar so if you are unsure check with your prescribing doctor. 

10. You don’t need a doctor’s certificate for the first 7 days of an illness.  Under UK law all citizens are able to self-certify for the first 7 days of an illness and can complete a self-certificate form provided by their employer or a SC2 form if you have had 4 or more days off in a row. 

11. Not all UK healthcare computer systems are currently linked (though we’re moving that way) so it’s important we all know our own medical problems, allergies and current medications when consulting any new healthcare professional. It can help to write them down and take them with you if memory is an issue. For severe allergies, please wear an alert bracelet and ensure close family and friends are aware of this too. 

12. The Internet is a wonderful resource, but can equally create panic and anxiety through misinformation. It takes at least 10 years of medical training to become a GP and longer for other specialties, so getting professional advice from an expert means you’re more likely to be reassured appropriately, or guided to relevant investigations and assessment in a timely manner.  Indeed your own GP may even direct you to trusted online resources so you know where to look in the future.  

Dr Kartik Modha, GP