From a cough to a cut or a headache, our health can change on a daily basis and needs to be monitored closely. Pay attention to your body and remember that it’s always best to be informed and proactive if you aren’t feeling 100%.
Below is some important information on some of the key everyday health concerns for our community. Our team of bulk billed doctors are fully equipped to help you with all these, please make an appointment if you report any key symptoms or wish to discuss anything further.
Don’t become complacent with COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our lives upside down. We’re proud to have been part of a coordinated effort from the local healthcare sector and grateful that the Canberra region hasn’t suffered as much as many other parts of the world.
To keep our community safe we strongly encourage our members to follow the directions of health professionals. There are some core principles;
- Try to maintain social distancing, staying 1.5 metres from others where possible.
- Use hand sanitiser regularly, including when available in public spaces and shops.
- Self-isolate if you experience any flu symptoms and get a COVID test as soon as you’re able to.
- If you’ve travelled interstate or overseas, follow the latest Government advice on your return and self-isolate where required.
For our part, we are following all the health advice to keep our clinics COVID-safe and offer telehealth appointments if you’re in quarantine, isolation or need to stay home.
The pandemic has also shown that there is a lot of misinformation about health which is a huge concern. Please check information you receive to make sure it’s from a credible source and know that much of what’s on your social media feed isn’t coming from medical experts.
If you’re based in Canberra, the ACT Health Department’s COVID-19 page is the best source of local information and covers the latest medical advice, restrictions and testing locations. Much of this will also be relevant for those in Yass, Queanbeyan and other nearby towns, though you should also refer the NSW Health Department’s page as restrictions may be slightly different to the ACT.
Is there a difference between a cold and the flu?
Often these two are thrown in together, but the reality is that they’re different – and so are the best ways to treat them. Both often start with a sore throat, cough and/or a headache, however other symptoms will differ. This infographic from the Department of Health provides a great overview of how colds and flu are different and the key symptoms to look out for in either case. Whilst they also have different remedies, simple strategies like resting, eating healthy foods and staying hydrated are always a good idea.
As many of these symptoms are also common for COVID-19 please be as cautious as you can if you have any of them and get the COVID test as soon as possible.
A cold is a viral infection which impacts the throat, nose and upper airways. These are really common – there are often several present within the community at the same time, with children getting up to 10 colds a year and adults as many as four.
Aussies regularly shrug and say “it’s just a cold” and don’t take the necessary action when they feel symptoms coming on. Whilst a sneeze or sore throat needn’t be a reason for panic, you should reach out to your doctor if;
- Your symptoms persist more than a few days.
- You can’t drink fluids.
- You have an intense headache.
- You are pale and tired.
- You have chest pain or breathing difficulties.
- You have a rash and fever symptoms.
Children are particularly vulnerable so please monitor their symptoms carefully. In particular, look out for poor feeding, dehydration and difficulty breathing and see a doctor immediately if these occur.
The flu (influenza) is also a viral infection which targets the nose and throat. It shares some of the symptoms of a cold, but is also more likely to cause muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach pain.
Another key difference between colds and the flu is that the flu can be prevented via a vaccine. As the influenza virus changes constantly, you need to get the vaccine annually to make sure it’s up to date. We encourage everyone aged over 6 months to come in once a year and get the vaccine, it protects not just yourself but the whole community.
There are some great resources available online if you’d like to know more about Cold and Flu.
Is a migraine just a really bad headache?
Having a headache is no fun. Whilst they can be incredibly uncomfortable and disrupt your day, the majority of headaches are ultimately harmless and can be treated with over the counter paracetamol.
It is important to speak to your doctor if you experience prolonged or repeated pain, as this could be a sign of a more serious condition.
Migraines are often thought of simply as a bad headache, but in fact, this is a separate condition. It is a neurological disorder which generally causes a throbbing pain on one side of the brain. The team at NIB have put together this helpful infographic which maps out the different symptoms for a headache and migraine.
Migraines are most common in women, with 35-45 the most affected age group. For women, the severity and frequency of migraines is related to hormonal changes, as often change during adolescence, pregnancy and menopause.
Migraine and Headache Australia is a fellow not-for-profit who have a wealth of information about both conditions and how they can best be managed. If you are experiencing any severe or frequent symptoms you should see your doctor immediately.
When should you see a doctor for cuts and wound care?
From a small nick through to serious wounds, cuts can happen at any time – including often when it’s least convenient.
If you have a wound with serious bleeding, potentially broken bones, a serious or a risk of head injury – please call the ambulance immediately on 000.
For more common, everyday cuts and abrasions there are some easy steps you should take immediately.
- Clean the wound under a tap immediately, washing out any dirt and gravel.
- Use saline or a diluted antiseptic to clean the wound. It’s going to sting, but it really helps reduce the chances of infection.
- Clean the surrounding areas with a hand towel and hot water. Don’t use cotton wool as this can get stuck in the wound and wipe away from the wound rather than towards it.
After taking these initial steps, you should reach out to your doctor if;
- It’s a deep wound or you can’t get the bleeding to stop.
- There is dirt in the wound.
- The wound is near your eye.
- There is swelling or pain around the area of the wound.
- You have a high temperature.
- You have been bitten – by an animal or another person.
- You have diabetes.
- You’re not sure whether your Tetanus vaccine is up to date.
Where can I get help to quit smoking, alcohol or drugs?
There are lots of places to turn if you want help. At the NHC, all of our GPs are highly trained in these areas and a conversation with a doctor can be a great place to start if you’re noticing that substance use is impacting on your life.
Cigarette smoking has reduced significantly in Australia in recent decades. That said, 13% of Australian adults still smoke an average of 12.3 cigarettes a day.
Within 10 seconds of your first puff of a cigarette toxic chemicals with reach your brain, lungs and other organs. Nicotine is highly addictive, which means that what starts as the occasional smoke can easily turn into a habit.
Data shows that up to two-thirds of long term smokers will die of a smoking related illness. Cancer is the biggest culprit, however respiratory problems, heart disease, diabetes and many other illnesses can be caused smoking. On average, long term smokers live for about 10 years less than non-smokers.
If you’re looking to quit smoking, there are some great resources online that can help you make the first crucial steps.
- Quit – Lots of tips and content on how best to quit and a Quitline to allow you to talk to experts when you need their help.
- Department of Health ‘How to Quit Smoking’ – A comprehensive guide on the motivation to quit, approaches to follow, and strategies to ensure you stay on track.
Excessive consumption of alcohol is another common cause of serious health problems, including mental health. Many of us enjoy a drink or two, but knowing exactly where to draw the line to look after your health is often easier said than done.
To assess your consumption levels it’s essential to understand what classes as a standard drink – this guide from the Health Department lays it out really clearly. Adults are recommended not to exceed 10 standard drinks a week – with no more than 4 on any given day – and of course the less you consume the better for your health.
Exceeding these levels can impact your behaviour in the short term and your health over time. Alcohol consumption has been shown to increase the risk of depression and suicide, diabetes, a range of cancers, heart problems, brain disease and many other potentially fatal conditions.
If you’re pregnant or planning to have children, you should eliminate alcohol wherever possible. Not only does it reduce fertility, once pregnant alcohol consumption increases the chances of your baby being born prematurely and developing abnormally. Once the baby is born it is really important to be careful when breastfeeding as alcohol can enter breast milk and cause further complications.
If you are looking for help to reduce alcohol’s role in your life, you’ll find helpful information on the Health Department’s alcohol page. To speak to someone immediately, call the Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015.
The term ‘drugs’ spans a large range of substances, including banned illicit drugs as well as stimulants, painkillers and prescription medication. The Drug Wheel from the Alcohol and Drug Foundation is a great summary of common drug categories and their side effects.
Please stay informed on the risks of all the substances that you consume. If you don’t know where it was sourced, what exactly it contains and what the common side effects are, it’s always best to not put it in your body.
A common feature of many of these substances is that they are highly addictive. Measured or social use can quickly spiral into an unhealthy habit, please seek out help if you feel you might be at risk. A conversation with a doctor can be a great starting place, though there is also a lot of useful content available online.
- To speak to an expert immediately, please call the Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015.
- The Alcohol and Drug Foundation – provides a very detailed guide on the risks of different drugs and management strategies for individuals and communities.
- The ACT Government Drug and Alcohol Services – details local information on drug and alcohol risks and public services available here in Canberra to help.
We’re here to help
From a lingering cold or headache, to health checks and more complex procedures, our team of GPs is here to assist with your everyday health needs.