Unsure if your warts, hiccups or bruises are a sign of something more serious? Our experts tell you the warning signs to look out for, as well as quick fixes for 10 of these common ailments.
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1. Common Health Problem That Could Mean More: Sore Throat
That burning, scratchy sensation at the back of your throat has many causes, but the most common is viral infection (usually by flu viruses). Other causes include bacterial and yeast infections, smoking, overuse of the throat and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which causes stomach acid to back up into the food pipe and irritate the throat.
Sore throats are serious when… It persists for more than five days and is accompanied by a fever that lasts more than three days. This could point to an infection that has spread to the sinus, middle ear or chest. In severe strep throat (a bacterial infection in the throat and the tonsils), kidney disease and inflammation of the heart muscle may develop. Telling signs include swelling in the neck, blood in the phlegm and difficulty swallowing, says Dr David Lau, consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon at Raffles ENT Centre.
Get rid of sore throats Most throat sprays, gargles and lozenges contain antiseptic and anaesthetic ingredients to kill germs and numb the area. Just be careful not to exceed the recommended dose for medicated lozenges. Also avoid taking them continuously for more than a week. “Certain chemical compounds in lozenges can stimulate the nervous system excessively, causing restlessness, disorientation and aggravate abnormal heart rhythms,” warns Dr Lau.
2. Common Health Problem That Could Mean More: Cold Sores
Red and swollen sores on the lips and around the mouth are the result of an infection by a strain of the herpes simplex virus, which can stay dormant in the body for years before causing an outbreak of blisters. In some cases, the virus never becomes active. Scarily, even without visible symptoms, it can be highly contagious and spread from person to person through direct contact, warns Dr Chris Foo, consultant dermatologist at Raffles Skin & Aesthetics Centre. Most cold sores clear up on their own within two weeks and rarely develop into anything more.
Cold sores are serious when… The blisters start to secrete pus. The open wounds are more contagious than usual and the virus can spread to other parts of the body. Red, itchy and painful sores can develop on the fingers, reports the UK National Health Services (NHS). See a doctor immediately.
Get rid of cold sores There are over-the-counter (OTC) creams that help speed up the healing process. “Those with alcohol and lemon extract are popular as they shorten healing time and prevent recurrence,” says Portia Phua, a pharmacist at Watsons. In the meantime, practise good hygiene, wear a mask and use a cold sore patch to prevent the virus from spreading to others or elsewhere on your body.