Feeling Unwell?

 
 

Feeling unwell? Should you go to the GP, or head straight to the Emergency Department (ED)? Read on to find out more about the options available to you.

Depending on the severity of your condition, you  can seek consultation at a GP clinic, an Urgent Care Centre, or the ED. Except for life-threatening conditions, your GP should be the first healthcare professional to consult. For urgent and serious cases, you can visit the Urgent Care Centre located conveniently at Admiralty, or the hospital’s ED department.

Here are some common conditions and recommendations on when you should visit a GP, UCC or the ED, depending on the severity:

Abdominal pain is commonly referred to as stomachache.

Stomachaches can be due to indigestion, trapped wind, overeating, smoking, a viral or bacterial infection.

If the stomachache is sudden and severe in a particular area of your belly, it could be due to more serious causes like appendicitis, ulcers, gallstones or kidney stones.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME
  • Sip water
  • Avoid solid food for a few hours
  • Avoid milk and other dairy products
SEE YOUR GP IF YOU HAVE:
  • Fever
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Mild pain
VISIT THE UCC IF YOU HAVE:
  • Persistent diarrhoea
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Moderate pain
GO TO THE ED IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING:
  • Sudden and severe pain
  • Sweating and breathlessness
  • Vomiting that does not subside
  • Blood in your vomit
  • Bloody or black stools

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Colds are caused by viruses that attack the nose and throat, leading to inflammation which could cause a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, sore throat and a cough.

Influenza or flu is more severe and contagious than a cold, and is caused by a different group of viruses. It can lead to fever, headaches, body aches, tiredness, a sore throat, cough, loss of appetite and nausea.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME
  • Get ample rest.
  • Take a warm bath to help relax and soothe your body aches.
  • Stay well-hydrated.
  • Consult your neighbourhood pharmacist on using over-the-counter medication like Paracetamol or Ibuprofen, antihistamines, nasal decongestants, and antitussives.
  • Massage mentholated or vapour rubs onto your chest, neck and back to help you breathe better, especially before sleeping.
SEE YOUR GP IF YOU:
  • Have a fever of 38°C or higher.
  • Experience a cold or flu that lasts for more than 3 days.
  • Are 65 years old and above.
  • Are pregnant.
  • Have long-term medical condition(s) like diabetes, heart disease, lung disease or kidney disease.
VISIT THE UCC IF:
  • You have difficulty breathing.
  • You or your GP suspects that you may have a chest infection and require a chest X-ray.
GO TO THE ED IF:
  • Your GP thinks a further treatment is necessary and provides you a referral.

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Cuts and bruises are common injuries that can often be treated at home.

 

Cuts

Cuts are wounds where the skin is lacerated or torn. If the cut is deep, there may be bleeding.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME
  • Clean the cut by rinsing it under cold running tap water.
  • Use sterile gauze swabs to clean the wound with antiseptic solution.
  • Swipe gently outward from the wound area, using a new swab for each swipe.
  • With the corner of the swab, gently lift any foreign material out from the wound area.
  • Carefully pat the area dry with a clean gauze swab.
  • Apply a plaster or bandage
SEE YOUR GP IF:
  • There are sand particles or wood splinters in the cut.
  • The wound is caused by a bite from an animal or a rusty object.
  • You develop an infection, e.g. you also develop a fever, persistent redness and pain, swelling.
VISIT THE UCC IF:
  • You develop worsening infection with pus forming in the wound.
  • The cut is deep, and the bleeding does not stop.
GO TO THE ED IF:
  • The cut is very deep and the bleeding is severe.

 

Bruises on limbs

Bruises are wounds caused by hard contact with an object or person. Small blood vessels may burst and form a mark under the skin that is reddish at first, becoming dark blue or purple after a few hours. After several days, it will turn yellowish before fading away completely.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME
  • Rest the bruise and allow the blood to clot.
  • Elevate the bruise to reduce swelling, e.g. if your leg is bruised, lie down and prop your leg up on a pillow.
  • Apply an ice pack (wrap a bag of ice in a towel) gently on the bruise.
  • Do this every 3 to 4 hours, for 2 to 3 days.
VISIT THE UCC IF:
  • You suspect you have a fracture.

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A fever is when your body temperature is higher than normal, i.e. above 37°C.

It is caused by infections or other illnesses like flu, overheating, or dehydration.

When you have a fever, you may also experience a hot and flushed face, headache, loss of appetite, body aches, shivering, sweating or weakness.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME
  • Use a thermometer to take your temperature.
  • If your fever does not exceed 37.9°C, rest and drink plenty of fluids. There is no need to take medicine.
  • If you feel uncomfortable, consult your neighbourhood pharmacist about over-the-counter medication such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen.
  • Take a cold shower to lower your body temperature.
SEE YOUR GP IF:
  • Your fever is 38°C and above.
  • Your fever lasts more than 3 days.
  • You are pregnant.
  • You travelled overseas recently.
  • You also have chronic conditions like asthma, cough, diabetes and pain when passing urine.
VISIT THE UCC IF:
  • You have a high fever (39°C and above), and require prompt symptomatic relief.
  • Your GP recommends a blood test for early diagnosis.
GO TO THE ED IF YOU EXPERIENCE:
  • Difficulty in breathing (especially in children)
  • Chest pain
  • Severe headache
  • Coughing with blood
  • Fits or seizures, e.g. spasmodic body shakes, rigid and arched body, clenched jaw, and eyes rolling upwards

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Feeling pain or pressure in the head is very common. Headaches can be caused by stress, insufficient sleep, hunger, flu, sinus problems, excessive alcohol, allergies, or more serious illnesses like head injuries, stroke or brain tumours.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME
  • Consult your neighbourhood pharmacist about over-the-counter pain reliever, such as Aspirin (not recommended for children) or Ibuprofen.
  • Rest
SEE YOUR GP IF:
  • Your headache lasts for more than one day, even after taking pain relievers.
  • You get headaches frequently.
  • The pain or throbbing is so strong that you cannot go about your daily routine.
  • You are experiencing nausea or vomiting.
VISIT THE UCC IF:
  • Your headache is persistent despite having taken medication from your GP.
  • Your vision is blurry.
GO TO THE ED IF YOU EXPERIENCE:
  • Slurred speech
  • A stiff neck
  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness or numbness in your limbs
  • Fits or seizures, e.g. spasmodic body shakes, rigid and arched body, clenched jaw, and eyes rolling upwards
  • Or if you had sustained a head injury recently.

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Hives are raised, itchy rashes that appear on the skin. The rashes can appear on just one part of the body, or over large areas.

Also known as urticaria, hives can be caused by stress, infections, insect bites, changes in temperature, or allergic reactions to a range of substances and chemicals, including alcohol, pollen, latex, caffeine or certain foods. In many cases, the exact trigger is not found.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME
  • Move to a cool room.
  • Apply an ice pack (wrap a bag of ice in a towel) to the affected areas.
  • Wear light and loose-fitting clothes.
SEE YOUR GP IF:
  • Your hives persist or worsen after a few days.
VISIT THE UCC IF:
  • Itch from the hives is persistent and severe.
GO TO THE ED IF YOU EXPERIENCE:
  • Swelling of the eyes, lips, tongue or throat
  • Difficulty in breathing or swallowing
  • Abdominal pain or diarrhoea

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Insect bites and stings usually only cause minor irritation, such as swollen, itchy, red marks on the skin that last for a few days.

Some bites or stings can be painful or trigger more serious allergic reactions like nausea, facial swelling, breathing difficulties, stomach pain or shock.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME
  • If there is a stinger in your skin, gently scrape it off with your fingernail or the edge of a card. Do NOT pinch the sting out with your fingers or use tweezers as you may spread the venom.
  • Wash the bite with soap and water, and pat dry.
  • Place an ice pack (wrap a bag of ice in a towel), then place this on the wound.
  • Do not scratch the bite as this may cause infection.
  • If the bite is painful or swollen, consult your neighbourhood pharmacist about over-the-counter medication such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen.
  • If the wound is itchy or swollen, apply a topical cream containing antihistamines or mild hydrocortisone (1%).
SEE YOUR GP IF:
  • There are signs of infection, e.g. increasing redness, pain, swelling, fever.
  • You experience flu-like symptoms.
VISIT THE UCC IF:
  • There are worsening signs of infection, e.g. increasing redness, pain, swelling, fever.
  • The sting is filled with pus.
GO TO THE ED IF YOU HAVE:
  • Been stung three or more times.
  • Been stung in the mouth.
  • Pain itching or swelling on other parts of your body, e.g. mouth or face.
  • Symptoms like:
    • Difficulty in breathing
    • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
    • Fast heart rate
    • Giddiness
    • Confusion or agitation
    • Pale skin

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Burns and scalds are injuries to the skin caused by heat. Burns are caused by dry heat, e.g. fire or a clothes iron and are classified between the different degrees of burns, from first degree (least serious) to third degree (most serious).

Scalds are caused by liquids, steam and chemicals.

Both can be very painful and lead to blisters or red, black or charred skin.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME

For first-degree and second-degree burns on a small area:

  • Remove any clothing or jewellery near the burnt area. If clothing is stuck to the wound, cut around it but do NOT remove any stuck fabric.
  • Pour cool water over the wound for at least 10 minutes. Do NOT use ice, iced water or butter and other greasy substances.
  • Loosely cover the burn with a sterile gauze bandage or cling wrap. Do NOT touch the burn or burst any blisters.
  • Consult your neighbourhood pharmacist about over-the-counter medications like Paracetamol or Ibuprofen to treat the pain.
SEE YOUR GP IF:
  • You develop an infection, e.g. you also develop fever, persistent redness and swelling.
VISIT THE UCC IF:
  • You notice pus in the wound.
  • The pain is severe.
GO TO THE ED IF YOUR BURNS ARE:
  • In the mouth, throat, eyes, ears, joints, hands, or genital area.
  • Large, i.e. bigger than your hand.
  • Caused by chemicals, electricity or lighting
  • Third-degree burns, i.e. burnt skin is white, leathery or charred.

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Nausea is discomfort in the stomach that makes you want to vomit. Vomiting is the forced emptying of the stomach through the mouth ("throwing up"). Both can be due to things like overeating, viral infections, motion sickness, food allergies, intestinal blockage, morning sickness in pregnancy, concussion or head injuries.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME

NAUSEA

  • Sip small amounts of water or sports drinks
  • If you can hold it down, take some light, bland food like small pieces of bread.

 VOMITING

  • Sip small amounts of water or sports drinks
  • Do not take solid food until vomiting has stopped.
SEE YOUR GP IF:
  • Vomiting continues for more than a few hours
  • You have stomach pains
  • You have diarrhoea
VISIT THE UCC IF:
  • Have persistent vomiting and diarrhoea despite self-medication or seeing a GP.
  • Have signs of dehydration, e.g. you feel very thirsty, giddy, or have a dry mouth.
  • Or your GP thinks that you are at risk of dehydration and you require an intravenous drip.
GO TO THE ED IF YOU:
  • Have severe fever, stomach pains, or headache.
  • Are vomiting after sustaining a head injury.

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Nosebleeds can look scary, but they are very common. Bleeding can be from one or both nostrils, heavy or light, and may last from a few seconds to over 10 minutes.

Nosebleeds happen when the tiny blood vessels in your nose burst, due to a variety of disturbances like digging your nose, blowing your nose too hard, dry climates, irritation from foreign objects in the nose, being hit in the face, allergies, infections, alcohol or drug use, etc.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME
    • Sit down and lean forward
    • Using your thumb and index finger, pinch the nose just above the nostrils
    • Breathe through your mouth
    • Continue until the bleeding stops, usually after 10 minutes
    • If the bleeding continues, hold for another 10 minutes and suck on some ice cubes.
    SEE YOUR GP IF:
    • Your nosebleed recurs for no apparent reason. Bleeding is mild, and can be controlled.
    VISIT THE UCC IF:
    • Your nosebleed is moderate, and is difficult to control.
    GO TO THE ED IF:
    • Your nosebleed is severe and persistent.
    • Your nosebleed is caused by injury to the nose, like being hit in the face by a fist or object.
    • You are on blood thinners.

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    'Sore Eyes' is the common name for conjunctivitis – the inflammation of the thin layer of tissue covering the front of the eye (the conjunctiva).

    Symptoms include redness, itchiness, slight pain, watering of the eyes, a feeling like you have sand in your eye, and a sticky coating on the eyelashes (usually when you first wake up).

    It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, allergic reactions to smoke, pollen, dust, or chemicals in makeup or contact lenses.

    HOW TO TREAT AT HOME
      • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently
      • Do not share towels or pillows
      • Remove any discharge from your eyes with clean tissue paper, or with cotton wool soaked in water.
      • Do not wear any eye makeup or contact lenses until your symptoms clear up.
      • Use over-the-counter lubricant eye drops in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions
      • Hold a warm, damp cloth over your eyelids to relieve discomfort.
      SEE YOUR GP IF:
      • There is pain and discharge from the eye.
      • You have been wearing contact lenses.
      VISIT THE UCC IF:
      • The soreness is persistent despite administering eyedrops prescribed by the GP.
      GO TO THE ED IF:
      • Your sore eyes were caused by chemicals or foreign bodies.
      • You have significant blurring of vision e.g. difficulty reading newspapers.

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      Strains and sprains are injuries affecting muscles and ligaments, usually because of accidents while moving, such as during sports.

      A strain is the stretching or tearing of your muscles or tendons (the tissue connecting your muscle to your bone). Strains are common in the legs and back.

      A sprain is the tearing or stretching of the ligaments (the tissues around the joints that connect bones to one another). Sprains are common in the knees, ankles, and wrists.

      Both may involve pain, swelling, bruising, soreness and restricted movement.

      HOW TO TREAT AT HOME
      • Stop doing the activity that caused the strain or sprain immediately.
      • Administer the PRICE therapy:
        • Protect the injured area
        • Rest
        • Ice the area by placing an ice pack (wrap a bag of ice in a towel) on the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes.
        • Compress the injured area with an elastic bandage until the swelling stops.
        • Elevate the injured area by raising it above the level of your heart, especially at night.
        SEE YOUR GP IF:
        • There is severe pain or swelling.
        • You are experiencing numbness or coldness in the wounded area.
        • There is bruising.
        • Symptoms have not improved after 3 days of treatment at home.
        VISIT THE UCC IF:
        • The injured limb looks crooked or has unusual lumps.
        • You suspect there is a fracture.
        • You cannot move the injured joint or muscle.
        • You cannot put any weight on the injured limb.
        • There is persistent pain and stiffness.

        There are physiotherapists on site to assess soft tissue injuries caused by exercise/sports.

        GO TO THE ED IF:
        • Joint dislocation is suspected.
        • The injury is caused by significant trauma e.g. road traffic accidents, high-impact sports activities.

        Click here to find a GPFirst clinic near you.