Rotorua Daily Post health and business reporter

Winter bugs keep GPs busy

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Rotorua doctors are feeling the pressure as more patients start catching winter colds. Photo / Getty Images
Rotorua doctors are feeling the pressure as more patients start catching winter colds. Photo / Getty Images

Rotorua doctors are feeling the pressure as winter illnesses kick in - but one local GP says there is little doctors can do to help most patients with winter colds.

Coughs, colds and sore throats seem to be the main bugs driving people to doctors' surgeries, with many practices noticing the annual seasonal influx.

Ranolf Medical Centre is seeing more than 100 patients a day, but not all of those are for winter illnesses.

GP Dr Harry Pert said that for most patients he was seeing with seasonal illnesses, there was little doctors could help them with.

He said most cases were viral and the surgery had not yet seen many cases of influenza, something which he said could be due to more people getting immunised.

Dr Pert said there was little doctors could do for viral illnesses. "The hospital, emergency department, GPs are all struggling with the volume of work."

Dr Pert said the community could help by considering whether they really needed to see a doctor and managing winter bugs such as colds at home, so more serious cases could be seen promptly. "Self-management is more and more important."

He said doctors were prescribing antibiotics less because of increased concerns about antibiotic resistance.

"Don't come in expecting to get an antibiotic. We are very concerned about the overuse of antibiotics."

Dr Pert said people could call their doctors' surgery or Healthline to talk over symptoms and see if they needed to see a doctor.

He said the surgery was seeing patients who had a cold for two or three days, when most winter bugs took about one to two weeks to settle down. He said sick children should be kept home from early childhood centres, which was difficult when parents had to work.

"It just is a pool of infection."

Three Lakes Clinic doctor Annie Walden said the surgery had been seeing "quite a lot" of winter illness but it had been consistent over the past few weeks and not a sudden influx.

She said the main illnesses seemed to be coughs and sinus infections, as well as quite a lot of hand, foot and mouth in children.

Her latest tip for coughs was sucking on a spoonful of honey.

Dr Walden said that in many cases illnesses could be managed at home but those who were concerned should go to their doctor to ease concerns.

While the surgery had not seen many cases of the flu, she wondered if it was because of a good uptake in the flu vaccination. The small practice was seeing about 10 people with winter illnesses each day.

Te Ngae Medical Centre's Dr Andrew McMenamin said his surgery was seeing more winter-related viruses, but perhaps not as many as previous years.

"The most common complaints are those viral illness such as sore throats and gastroenteritis. As well, many patients with COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] are having infective exacerbations."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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