When you experience nausea and vomiting, or a sudden attack of hives, you may have the urge to rush to the hospital. But did you know that your General Practitioner (GP) can treat these conditions?
In 2020, SKH joined the GPFirst scheme to encourage people in northeastern Singapore to visit a GP for mild to moderate medical conditions instead of heading to the Emergency Department (ED).
In this issue, we share tips and advice on two common conditions that your GP can treat:
Nausea and Vomiting
Many conditions can cause nausea and vomiting. The most common ones like food poisoning, food allergies, and viral infections, are all treatable at your neighbourhood GP clinic, says Dr Koh Shao Hui, GPFirst Clinical Lead, SKH.
Vomiting is the body's way of eliminating harmful substances from the stomach, or it may be a reaction to something that has irritated the gut. One of the most common causes of vomiting in adults is gastroenteritis—usually caused by bacteria or a virus— which normally improves within a few days.
For example, a GP can quickly diagnose a patient who has persistent nausea and vomiting after eating raw salmon, with food poisoning. To relieve his symptoms, the GP will prescribe anti-emetic and anti-spasmodic medications to stop the urge to vomit. The doctor will also provide some oral rehydration salts and advise a light diet for the patient and plenty of rest.
"Nausea and vomiting are usually treated with a period of rest and followed up with rehydration as you need to replenish the fluids and electrolytes lost. If there is vertigo (giddiness), closing your eyes and avoiding sudden head movements will help reduce the 'spinning' sensation," adds Dr Koh.
Occasionally, vomiting can be a sign of a more serious problem which will require a visit to the ED. "Vomiting that does not stop, coupled with a persistent inability to keep liquids down, high fever, and severe abdominal cramps may signify a more sinister underlying cause (such as acute appendicitis)," explains Dr Koh.
Head to the ED immediately if vomiting occurs after an injury to the head or accompanied with double vision, one-sided weakness or numbness, or slurred speech, as these could signify a stroke.
How to treat nausea/vomiting at home
• Sip small amounts of water or sports drinks
• If you can hold it down, take some light bland food like small pieces of bread
• Do not eat solid food until vomiting has stopped
• Vertigo as a side effect: Close eyes and avoid sudden movement of head
Hives are raised, itchy rashes that appear on the skin. They can be caused by stress, infections, insect bites, changes in temperature, or allergic reactions to substances or chemicals, including alcohol, pollen, latex, caffeine or certain foods.
However, despite the uncomfortable symptoms of itching and warmth associated with hives, the condition is largely self-recovering and can be easily treated by your GP.
A GP can prescribe anti-allergy the symptoms, if the medical diagnosis is of a mild allergy. "Cooling the skin in various ways such as moving to a cool room can also help reduce the blood flow to the affected area, thereby reducing its severity," says Dr Koh.
However, hives accompanied with swelling of the eyes, lips, tongue or throat, difficulty in breathing, or giddiness or near fainting, indicate a more severe allergic reaction. Head immediately to the ED if these happen.
How to treat mild hives at home
• Move to a cool room to work or sleep
• Apply an ice pack (wrap a bag of ice in a towel) to the affected areas
• Wear light, loose-fitting clothes
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