MY sister is studying bacteria and infectious diseases at university and has told me not to go the doctor if I get the flu, is this true?

Seasonal influenza, more commonly known as flu is highly infectious and spreads at speed via coughing and sneezing. To help avoid spreading germs to others and avoid picking them up, cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, dispose of the tissue in a bin as soon as possible. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, use hand sanitizer and clean surfaces regularly to get rid of germs. The best protection against the virus is to get the seasonal flu vaccination and if you are in an ‘at risk’ group contact your GP. For the rest of us, regular hand washing and eating a balanced diet is the best plan. If you catch flu, and you’re otherwise fit and healthy, you can manage symptoms at home. Rest, drink plenty of fluids and use paracetamol-based cold remedies to reduce your temperature and help relieve your symptoms. You may be bed bound for a few dayswhen your symptoms are at their worst but once you start to feel better you should try to and get back to normal activities.

Most people get better without needing to see their GP and will recover from flu within a week. However, if you’re concerned about your symptoms or they’re getting worse, despite regularly using simple remedies contact your GP. They will decide the most appropriate action to take. Some groups of people have a higher risk of serious illness or complications if they catch flu. See your GP if you’re in a high-risk group, for example, if you have a long-standing illness like diabetes or chest problems, and have flu-like symptoms.

CAN I pick up a prescription for my elderly mum when it’s bad weather?

You can collect a repeat prescription for a friend, or relative, from the GP surgery. You will usually be asked to confirm the name and address of the person you are collecting the prescription for.

he GP surgery is not legally required to check your identity, but it is considered good practice to check in order to prevent the wrong prescription being given out to a patient. Your local pharmacy may offer a prescription collection service, which means that a pharmacist will collect your prescription from the GP surgery for you. They need to be able to confirm their identity and prove that they are acting on your behalf and with your permission. Pharmacists, like GPs, have a responsibility to make sure that all patients' details are kept confidential. You can take a prescription to the pharmacy to collect someone else's medication for them. If the person is registered with a Scottish GP and you are taking the prescription to a pharmacy in Scotland, then complete part B of the prescription form (GP 10). Sign and put a cross in the box to indicate that you are the patient's representative.

WHAT is Gout?

Gout is a type of arthritis in which small crystals form inside and around the joints. It causes sudden attacks of severe pain and swelling. It's estimated that between one and two in every 100 people in the UK are affected by gout.

In order to diagnose gout, Your GP will ask about your symptoms and medical history. He or she will also examine the affected area, which will help make a diagnosis. Your GP may also ask you about your diet, particularly your intake of beer, spirits and foods high in purines, such as red meat and seafood. As the symptoms associated with gout are common in a variety of conditions, your GP may also refer you for further tests which may include a blood test, joint fluid test, x-ray or ultrasound scan.

Treatment for gout includes pain relief to help you cope with a gout attack, as well as medication and lifestyle changes to prevent further attacks.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are normally recommended as the first treatment for gout. These painkillers, such as ibuprofen, aspiring or naproxen work by reducing pain and inflammation during an attack. If you're unable to take NSAIDs or if NSAIDs are ineffective, a medicine called colchicine can be used instead. Colchicine reduces some of the swelling and pain associated with a gout attack. Lifestyle changes can also help reduce further attacks of gout, these include avoiding foods with high levels of purine, such as red meat, seafood and foods containing yeast extracts, avoiding sugary drinks and snacks, maintaining a healthy weight whilst following a balanced diet and taking regular exercise.

There's some evidence to suggest that taking regular vitamin C supplements can reduce gout attacks. Talk to your GP first if you're thinking about taking vitamin C supplements, as they aren't suitable or safe for everyone.