Winter is upon us

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COVID-19 – where did that go? It’s still here in our population – we’re fortunate to be part of the Public Health England/ Royal College of General Practitioners team who are actively swabbing our community to understand the viral illnesses in our community. This not only helps nationally, but at a local level it has enabled our team to understand which viral illnesses are circulating – including some less common strains. Most recently, we’re seeing COVID-19, Respiratory Syncytial Virus and Adenovirus strains. 

Now that the winter months are here the NHS as a whole sees many more respiratory illnesses – ranging from typical ‘cold’ symptoms – such as sore throat, snotty nose, cough and a fever, to exacerbations of chronic respiratory illnesses such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD). 

For most people, having a respiratory tract infection makes them feel unwell; but the good news is that they do not last too long – usually less than 3 weeks – and often resolve without medical treatment. Many patients/ parents/ carers are concerned about being unwell and consult with us here St Mary’s Surgery. You may not see a GP, but often a clinician like Katy Draper or I – Advanced Practitioners – or a Practice Nurses trained in assessing minor illnesses. We are all trained to an exceptionally high standard to assess and diagnose illnesses. Often, one question we are asked during consultation is “do I need antibiotics?” for a common cold, ear infection, sinusitis, or cough – if you’re normally fit and well the answer is likely to be no. 

There are guidelines and audits of antibiotic use which promote ‘Antibiotic Stewardship’. These common illnesses can frequently be treated without antibiotics and you can obtain help from our fantastic local Pharmacist who are able to offer advice and support and treating symptoms; this could range from analgesia to nasal sprays. We are very fortunate to have multiple pharmacies in the local area with trained experts in medication who are able to offer free and fast advice, without an appointment. 

Unwell children are often a cause for concern to both parents and professionals alike. If your child has been assessed by one of the team, you may be sent a link to one of two fantastic resources – ‘What 0-18’ or ‘when should I worry’. They can offer advice on treating illnesses, what to expect and when to seek help. Here are the links if you would like to review them before your child becomes unwell:

Did you know:

  • The usual duration of an acute cough can be 3-4 weeks – with 80% of people improving without antibiotics by week 3? Most people who take antibiotics do not get better any faster than people who do not take them. Looking at adults and children with bronchitis (chesty cough), on average, people taking antibiotics will have a cough for only 12 hours less than those who don’t
  • Parents and doctors have long believed that the colour of nasal discharge (snot) gave an indication of the type (or seriousness) of an infection. Recent research suggests that this is not the case. Green nasal discharge can be caused by many types of infection and does not need to be treated with antibiotics.
  • In ear infections: after one week, more than three-quarters of children will be better whether they take antibiotics or not. Most (14 out of 15) children who take antibiotics get better just as quickly as if they had not taken them.
  • Antibiotics can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, thrush and lead to antibiotic resistance if use incorrectly.

We are all here to help you if you or a loved one are unwell and need our help; please help us by using askmygp ( ) in the first instance- it opens before we open the phone lines in the morning and is often quicker and easier; otherwise you can call us on 01353 663434 to speak to a member of our Patient Services Team who are trained to take clinical details and ask questions about illnesses – they do this to help the clinical team ensure you get the most appropriate appointment for your needs. 

Thank you for taking the time to read. 

Best wishes, 


Mr Jake Fretwell

Advanced Clinical Practitioner

St Mary’s Surgery