Most GPs would agree that prevention is better than cure. Doctors have worked and studied hard to help give patients the best care they can, but what they really want is for us all to be well-informed and on top of our health, to minimise the risk of becoming unwell.
We spoke to Dr Rhianna McClymont, Lead GP at Livi, who shares some important advice about what doctors really want their patients to know.
1. Get it checked ASAP
Don’t ignore any symptoms that have been worrying you – even if it turns out to be nothing, always let a doctor make that call. ‘I often hear “I didn’t want to bother you, doctor” – but if something’s concerning you, especially if it’s been there a while, it’s best to get it checked out,’ says Dr McClymont.
During the pandemic, many patients have put off seeing a doctor about their symptoms because they’re worried about contracting the virus, or they don’t want to burden the health system. That’s totally understandable, but since the pandemic began, doctors have been seeing an increase in late presentations of serious conditions like strokes and heart attacks. So if you have a new problem or symptom, see a GP.
By using an app like Livi, you can usually get a video appointment within minutes of registering. Livi GPs can offer medical advice and the reassurance you need for most symptoms, and can refer you to see a specialist if you need to see one.
2. Antibiotics aren’t always the answer
Antibiotics are an incredible tool we have to treat a whole host of bacteria. But they can’t be used for everything, and will have no effect at all on viruses. So no matter how under the weather you feel when you have flu or another viral infection, antibiotics aren’t the answer.
‘It’s so important that you don’t use antibiotics when they’re not needed. If you do, you’ll likely increase bacterial resistance to them, so they don’t work as well when you really need them to. What’s more, antibiotics can have unpleasant side effects, so sometimes it’s not worth running the risk’ advises Dr McClymont.
3. Mental health should be a priority
‘The fact we need to get physical symptoms checked out is a given, but don’t forget to get help or advice for your mental health, too. Doctors genuinely care about your wellbeing, and mental health is just as important as physical,’ says Dr McClymont.
‘Mental health symptoms can even show physically. Anxiety, for instance, can cause palpitations, shortness of breath or dizziness, and depression can augment pain.’
If you suspect you might be struggling with your mental health, you can speak to a Livi GP, who can help you better understand your problems, and give you advice and support on how to deal with things that feel difficult.
4. Family history is important to know
Many conditions, like eczema, asthma, high cholesterol and certain types of cancers, run in families. So if your parents or siblings are affected by something, you may have a higher chance of getting it too.
‘It may be uncomfortable to talk to your parents or family members about health, but knowing their medical history will help you be more aware of any future risks,’ says Dr McClymont.
‘Get to know your family history and try to have more open conversations about health – you’ll be glad you did once you’re older’.
5. Please, don’t be shy!
‘Many patients – men and women – put off coming to the doctor because they’re feeling awkward or consider their symptoms embarrassing,’ Dr McClymont highlights.
Whether it’s a cervical cancer screening, a prostate exam or a discussion about poo, there’s nothing too intimate for a doctor or nurse – they’ve seen it all before!
‘I’ve lost count of the number of times a patient has apologised to me that she hasn’t trimmed her pubic hair. This is a classic example of something that I wouldn’t even take notice of,’ says Dr McClymont.
The truth is, doctors don’t mind. They just want to help treat your symptoms, or give you the right advice to prevent illness occurring in the first place. If you have a symptom you need to get checked out, you can see a GP through Livi without having to leave your home.