A GP writes ‘try nothing’

I remember an advert which went ‘Nothing acts faster than Anadin’…To which the standard quip was “I’ll use nothing.”
It was this latter approach that my parents followed when I had a cold, hot Ribena and sympathy. Not even baby aspirin (the 60s equivalent of Calpol.)
This came to mind the other day when I was seeing yet another toddler with a cold.
“I just panic if they get a temperature” said the Mother “I tried calpol but the fever came back so I’ve come to you in case it is anything serious”
This is a story I hear with increasing frequency and I cannot help think that, in these days of ever more accessible information, patients’ ability to cope with minor illness is going down, not up.
Some of the blame for this lies with well-meaning campaigns to highlight the possibility of rare but serious illness.  Unfortunately the symptoms they describe often occur far more commonly in self-limiting minor illness.
But Doctors and Pharmacists have not done themselves any favours.  Doctors, seduced by the quick fix of antibiotics, helped produce a population dependent on them and have been slow to stop prescribing them. At the same time pharmacists continue to recommend proprietary products with scarce evidence for efficacy. Neither give patient the right impression
We both need to change to a strong message that colds are self-limiting and mild fevers may not even need paracetamol.
How about “Use nothing, because nothing is better”

Dr Julian Spinks BSc. MBBS. DGM. NHS Medway CCG.

One Response to A GP writes ‘try nothing’

  1. Steve Mann says:

    A recent paper in SelfCare (SelfCare 2014;5(5):110-114) showed that educating people about the typical duration of illness in self-limiting upper respiratory tract infections reduced demand for antibiotics substantially – presumably because knowing what to expect reduces worry if not symptoms.
    Julian’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek advice might have unforeseen consequences however…. Untreated symptoms may not be suffered in silence, and may even be a reason to miss school or work. Perhaps a middle way would be to use something rather than nothing for symptoms – and pharmacists now have an impressive range of evidence-based medicines for the purpose – while accepting that most illnesses are minor, get better by themselves and don’t need a doctor.
    Dr. Steve Mann

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