Health and wellbeing blog

In this regular blog, our GP Chair Dr Joanne Watt shares her top tips and advice for staying well and getting the most from health services. Please click on the links below to read her latest articles.


Body Fluid Facts-Useful Information About Tears and Keeping Your Eyes Healthy

What are tears?
Tears are made up of water, oil and mucous and these elements work together to make a film that covers the surface of the eye when you blink. Tears protect your eyes from dust and infections and reduce irritation. Tears are made by glands above your eyes and then drain into tear ducts near the inner corner of your eye, tears run down the tear duct to drain into your nose which is why your nose runs when you cry.

Why are my eyes watering?
Watery eyes are more common in babies and older people and are commonly caused by a blocked tear duct. There are other causes including irritants, infections, allergies, and eye injuries.  The treatment depends on the cause.

If a baby has a blocked tear duct it will usually improve by the time your baby is 1 year old, and often resolves without treatment although you may be advised to massage the tear duct to help drainage. You should talk to a community pharmacist or your GP practice if the eye becomes inflamed or red or if your baby seems in discomfort especially if light bothers your baby. If your baby’s eyelids start to look different you should also seek further advice.

In older people the tear ducts can get narrow and stop draining normally which makes eyes water. Sometimes eyelids can turn start to turn inwards or outwards which can makes it very uncomfortable and watery, this may need surgery to correct the problem

What happens when you do not have enough tears?
Dry eyes are more common if you are a woman or aged over 65 and makes your eyes feel gritty, and irritated and can even makes your eyes water. Artificial tears are very helpful, and your local community pharmacist can advise you about which ones to buy and you do not need a prescription for them. If the glands that produce the oily part of your tears get blocked this may cause blepharitis, which is treated by eyelid cleansing and warm compresses to help to unblock the glands.

What do I do if I get a Stye or Chalazion?
A stye is a painful red lump on the eyelid where a gland is blocked and is filled with pus and usually only affects one eye. A chalazion is where the eyelid lump is filled with clear fluid rather than pus. These conditions are more common in people who have blepharitis. You can treat a stye or chalazion by using a flannel soaked in warm water as a compress held against the stye for 5-10 minutes 3-4 times a day. This will help the blocked gland to drain, do not try to burst it in any other way. If a stye is still there after 2-3 weeks then contact your GP practice since you may need to have it treated, a chalazion may take up to 6 months to resolve. During this time don’t share towels or flannels and avoid wearing eye make-up.

What tips are there for contact lens wearers?
Make sure your hands are clean before touching your eyes or lenses. Switch to wearing glasses if you have any problems with your eyes. Change your lenses when advised to do so by your optometrist. Have check-ups with your optometrist when they advise you to or if you are having problems. If your eye is red seek advice from your optometrist, local community pharmacy or GP surgery that day. Do not use tap water or saliva to wet your lenses or go swimming in your lenses

What do I do about conjunctivitis?
In conjunctivitis the white area of the eye usually looks inflamed, the eyelids may be inflamed and there may be discharge, however vision should not be affected and if it is you need to talk to a health professional since this may mean there is a different more serious cause. Conjunctivitis can be caused by allergies such as hay fever as well as bacterial or viral infections.  Infections usually settle within a week without treatment, if it is not settling at this point discuss this with your local community pharmacist, or with your GP practice if your child is under the age of 2 years.

How do I manage my eyes if they are affected by hay fever?
Use an eye wash bought from your local community pharmacy to remove pollen from your eyes. A cold compress or eye drops kept in the fridge can also be soothing. Talk to your local community pharmacy about anti-allergy eye drops which can be bought without a prescription, and you may also find that nasal sprays and antihistamines help your eye symptoms. Wear sunglasses when you are outside, and switch to wearing glasses if you usually wear contact lenses. When pollen counts are high keep windows closed and stay indoors.

How do I keep my eyes healthy?
Make sure you protect your eyes from bright sunlight by wearing sunglasses with UV protection. Tobacco contains toxins that are bad for your eyes as well as other parts of your body, so this is another good reason to stop smoking. Try to eat plenty of colourful fruit and vegetable containing nutrients that are good for your eyes especially kale, spinach, peppers, raspberries, blueberries, broccoli, kiwi, squash, courgette, grapes, and orange juice. Oily fish contain fatty acids which are helpful for dry eyes, or you can take a fish oil supplement. Most people need eye examinations every 2 years, check with your optometrist if you need to have more frequent checks than this. Regular checks with an optometrist will also check your general eye health and spot problems early.



What is in the vaccine?
A vaccine contains a small part of the coating of the virus but cannot cause infection. A vaccine stimulates your immune system to protect you against the virus, exactly like it would if you were exposed to the disease. After getting vaccinated, you develop protection against the disease a few weeks later, without having to get the disease first. There are different licensed vaccines and they all give very good protection. The vaccine is given as injection in your upper arm and you may have an uncomfortable arm for a few days after the injection.

Since the first COVID-19 vaccination in the county was administered on 8 December 2020, more than 250,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered to local people across Northamptonshire. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective, and it gives you the best protection against coronavirus. The NHS is offering the COVID-19 vaccine to those most at risk from coronavirus, starting with the most clinically vulnerable. You should have received an invitation for the vaccination if you are:

• Aged 50 and over

• Clinically extremely vulnerable (You will have received a shielding letter from the NHS)

• Someone who lives or works in a care home

• A health or social care worker

• Someone who has a condition that puts you at higher risk (This is also called clinically vulnerable, and you will be contacted if you have a condition that makes you eligible)

• Someone who has a learning disability

• The main carer for someone at high risk from coronavirus, and are registered with the council or your GP surgery

People in these groups have the choice about where they wish to be vaccinated so if you have received a letter or text you can choose to be vaccinated at a local GP site, the vaccination centre at Moulton Park or one of the pharmacy sites. You may need to wait until the next vaccine delivery date to book your appointment. Please only book a vaccination at one site, and cancel the appointment if you cannot attend.

You will need to have a second COVID-19 vaccine at the same site as your first one, this will usually be 12 weeks later. Please make sure you also attend for your second vaccination to make sure you get maximum protection against coronavirus. After your vaccination you still need to observe social distancing and the other national guidelines. If you fall into one of the groups listed above but have not yet received a letter or text or communication from your GP practice, please visit any time or call 119, free of charge between 7am and 11pm, seven days a week to book an appointment at the vaccination centre or a pharmacy site only. If you would prefer to be vaccinated at a local GP practice, please call your own GP practice directly to make an appointment. 

1. Please take the time to look after your body and mind by making sure that you get enough sleep, eat a balanced and varied diet, and take the time to exercise now that we have more options available to us. Exercise on Referral is back and will be able to help you with weight and mood as well as building confidence, and your GP surgery will be able to arrange this for you if needed. Think about how much alcohol you are drinking and get it back to below 14 units a week if you have been drinking more. Consider stopping smoking or switching to e-cigarettes and the smoking cessation services will be able to help you with this.

2. Please remember that Community Pharmacies can provide you with useful information and medication without a prescription. Simple painkillers and hay-fever treatments are among the wide range of products that are available.

3. Please remember to order your regular medications from your GP surgery in plenty of time and ideally at least 3 working days before you run out. If you are going on holiday please request them early, and order extra if necessary and do not leave it to the last minute.

4. Monday is usually the busiest day of the week in most GP surgeries, if you do not need to contact them on a Monday consider making contact on another day of the week when you may find it easier to get through.

5. GP surgeries are now doing reviews of long-term health conditions and other check-ups, some of these were postponed due to the peaks in Covid infection and are important to catch up on. If your GP surgery contacts you to have a routine check please make sure you know what you need to do before the check such as blood tests, bringing a urine sample or keeping a diary. Please attend immunisation appointments when you are invited. If you have not had a dental check or an optician check-up recently this is a good time to make an appointment.

6. When you contact your GP surgery please give information to the receptionist so that they can help to make sure you get the right help, the GPs have asked them to do this and they can be trusted keep your information confidential. Please be kind and polite to the receptionist who will help to get you to the right care more quickly.

7. Many GP practices now have First Contact Physiotherapists who you can talk to directly if you have a new problem with your muscles, joints or back. There are Practice Pharmacists who you can help you with medication concerns and queries and can review your medication with you. There are also Social Prescribing Link Workers who can help to connect you with things going on in our area and increase your social contact. Your GP receptionist will be able to book you an appointment to speak to them if this is appropriate for you.

8. When you are talking to a health professional please mention the most important problem first otherwise you may run out of time to talk about the thing that really matters to you. Taking the time to talk about an important problem is usually more important than an examination when trying to decide what needs to be done next. If you have a list of items please let them know since you may need to find another time to be able to discuss other issues.

9. When a health professional orders a test the results go back to the team that requested them, this means that you should contact the hospital team directly via the departmental secretary if you are waiting for a result from a test they requested or awaiting a follow up appointment. If you do not get the result you need it is worth remembering that all hospital and community trusts in England have a Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) that you can contact directly via switchboard to get the information you need about their services.

10. There are a number of services you can use for Self-referral without speaking to a health professional first. These include NHS 111 (by phone and online at and The Mental Health Hub (0800 448 0828) and you can look at the MiDOS site ( to find out about more services. Your Covid vaccination proof is now available on the NHS App or by calling 119. There will also be more information about local services on your GP practice website

We have now been dealing with the Covid pandemic for over a year, living through waves of infection, and have had times when we have felt optimistic and times when we have felt less so. Some of us have lost loved ones during this time, and we have all been affected in some way. As we go into the second summer of this pandemic it is still really important that we do everything we can to protect each other and respect that the freedoms offered to some may result in additional restrictions and worries for others.

Many of our family and friends have long term conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to Covid, and it is helpful to make sure that we support them to be vaccinated with both doses if they have not already done this. Some of our community will need a Covid vaccine booster in the autumn too. Some people may not have a physical health condition that makes them vulnerable but may be feeling understandably worried about Covid infection for other reasons, including caring about vulnerable family and friends that they have contact with.

You may wish to make sure that people close to you, who are worried about Covid infection, are comfortable with the changes in Covid restrictions that you might want to make. Perhaps you could bear this in mind and be more cautious when they are around. This could include offering to meet them outdoors, making sure that everyone does a lateral flow test just before meeting up and making sure that everyone washes their hands. You may wish to do regular lateral flow tests to protect those around you, and these are available from 119 or lots of other local venues. If you are feeling unwell, please stay away and self-isolate from other people and make sure that you request a PCR covid test by calling 119. This is the best way to keep others safe.

When we are in a public place we do not always know who needs additional protection from Covid, and who may be feeling uncomfortable about some of the changes. People who have problems with their immune system or conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure do not look any different and you would not know if you were near a person who is vulnerable in a public place. Some people might be caring for a vulnerable family member or friend and want to take extra precautions to protect the person they care for.

Wearing a face covering in crowded indoor public places, on public transport or where there is poor ventilation shows your consideration for the people around you who may be feeling anxious about their risk of Covid infection. Many shops will also wish to protect their customers and staff by continuing to mandate face coverings, hand sanitising and distancing because they respect their customers and staff. It is also particularly important to continue to wear a face covering in all healthcare settings, since there will be a higher number of vulnerable people in those environments. We all want to minimise the risk to those patients as well as the staff who continue to care for them. This means that many of the aspects of healthcare that have kept people safe so far will continue to be used, including wearing face coverings, and remote and telephone consultations. When you are asked to wear a face covering or to sanitise your hands in a particular environment doing this is your opportunity to show your respect for others and your willingness to protect them from Covid, since you may not know that you have it.

If you are feeling ready to reconnect with activities but are not sure what is going on locally or what you might fancy doing, then you can speak to a Social Prescribing Link Worker (Social Prescriber) who will be attached to your registered GP surgery. They will be able to talk to you about how to make the most of the local opportunities and be able to put you in touch with activities that you will enjoy and where you can connect with like-minded people. They can also help you to make some positive changes in your life including getting more active, dealing with unhelpful habits and supporting you to make future plans.

We all have different attitudes to risk, and it is important to recognise this in conversations with friends and family when you are planning activities and events, so that everyone feels comfortable and can enjoy their social contact. This means that continuing some of the adaptations that we have become used to over the last year may make an event feel more comfortable for others. It is important not to pressurise people into reducing their restrictions if they do not feel it is safe to do so. Communicating about our feelings is very important, and showing a willingness to adapt and take a considerate approach is usually much appreciated by those worried about infection. We all want to protect our community, and by being flexible and understanding these are some of the ways you can show those around you that you respect their feelings and concerns.

Thank you

Northamptonshire General Practices currently offer about 17,000 appointments each day and there will be times that the demand for appointments may sometimes be more than the capacity available, we know this can be frustrating. Most health professionals would like to spend more time with each patient, and need to balance this with how many appointments they can offer to their patients each day. Northamptonshire GPs and General Practice teams have been working hard for their patients throughout the Covid pandemic offering vaccinations, screening, long term conditions checks, providing medication prescriptions and supporting patients who have needed to shield as well as those who reside in care homes. During the pandemic we know that many people have struggled with mental health problems as well as Covid and LongCovid, and practices have also supported the people who are on waiting lists for appointments or procedures.

Telephone, video and online appointments became the first point of contact with health care professionals in all practices in the UK in July 2020; this instruction from the government was put in place to help to keep vulnerable patients safe and to reduce the risk of Covid infection happening in GP waiting rooms. Many practices adapted their premises with screens and one way systems to further improve safety, as well as their staff wearing PPE for face to face appointments. GP practices are also required to offer online consultations as well as face to face appointments when they are needed. If your initial appointment is remote using phone or video, a face to face appointment can be arranged by the clinician if needed. You still need to wear a face covering when entering any healthcare settings to protect other patients as well to protect the staff caring for you, Covid has not yet gone away and some of the people attending the surgery may be vulnerable. Consider doing a lateral flow test before going into a GP surgery building to reduce the risk of Covid even more.

You may be offered a consultation with a range of professionals when you contact your GP practice. The GP partners have asked the reception team to ask a range of questions to work out who the best team-member is to help you, and to help to prioritise your need. Your GP has been there throughout the pandemic to support all of the team members as well as to see or speak to those patients who need them. GP surgeries have a range of professionals working as part of the team in addition to the GPs, Advanced Nurse Practitioners, Nurses and Health Care Assistants that have worked at practices for many years, not all surgeries will have all of these team members. Sometimes the person you need to help you may not be based in your practice. There may be other team members that the receptionist can direct to you to such as Coaches, Care Coordinators and trainee health professionals once they know what problem is.

Here are some more tips to support and empower you to get the most out of appointments:

1. Please be aware that appointments may be offered by telephone, video, or online. If your consultation is remote try to find somewhere quiet and private with not too many distractions and use headphones if possible. Make sure you keep your phone with you, and notify the health professional if you will not be available at a particular time. Make sure your phone is fully charged and plug in your device if needed, and check that your wi-fi is working if that is required and consider using hand free. Ask someone if you need help to set up the technology

2. Consider keeping any hospital or GP letters with you, have a pen and paper with you to write notes if you are worried that you will forget important facts. Take the time to write down what you want to get from the consultation, the symptoms and how serious you think they are, the questions you want answered, and the concerns on your mind. At the end of the call repeat what has been agreed if the clinician does not. Let the clinician know if you feel they have not answered your questions.

3. Find out how long the appointment is and consider discussing the most important thing that you are worried about first if you have more than one problem, so that you do not run out of time to discuss it. You will usually be asked how long a problem has been present so you may wish to think about the answer to this question in advance.

4. Consider asking someone to be with you for support, they can join you remotely if you have a video call if they cannot be with you in person at the time of the consultation. Please notify the reception team if you need an interpreter. Sometimes interpretation will be via a telephone translation service. Thank you for being polite and kind to our receptionists and the whole General Practice team, they having been working hard throughout Covid and are trying to do their best to help you. Thank you to our patients and our public for supporting your local GP surgeries.

Key to the General Practice team

Practice Pharmacists
They help you with queries about medications and possible side effects and to review your medication, some pharmacists will offer a minor illness service.

They help you if you have problems with your bones, joints or muscles and can both diagnose and treat many problems. They will be able to talk to other team members about investigations or referrals if they think these are needed.

Social prescribing link workers (also called social prescribers or link workers)
They will help to connect you to different groups and activities that are available near to where you live.

Physician associates
They will be able to look after minor illnesses and some simple conditions.


Coughs, colds and sore throats are very common in young children and are to be expected at this time of year. Many of the young children in the UK did not have as many infections last year due to Covid restrictions and have started to experience winter infections such as bronchiolitis a little earlier this year. Many of the things we have been doing over the last 20 months to prevent Covid will also protect us against other viral infections during this coming winter. This means all of us continuing to wash our hands regularly, using a tissue to catch coughs or sneezes and washing your hands afterwards, and staying away from others if you or your household are feeling unwell.

For the majority of children, these illnesses will not be serious and they will soon recover following rest and plenty of fluids. Most children will not need antibiotics for these conditions. Make sure that you have a thermometer in your home for checking for fever and that it is suitable for the ages of the children living with you, a pharmacist can help you to decide which thermometer to buy. Please remember to buy some simple remedies from the pharmacy such as liquid paracetamol to have at home to treat these common illnesses.

Fever associated with common, simple viral infections such as a cold typically rises and falls over a total of 12-48 hours. Children often complain of feeling cold at the start of a fever. They may feel shivery, although they will feel hot and dry to the touch. Later they often say they feel hot, and will be sweaty and flushed. Make sure that you also remember to arrange a Covid PCR test (by calling 119) for your child if they are unwell with a fever or any respiratory symptoms, a lateral flow test is not accurate enough to test for Covid in people who have symptoms.

Children under two are at risk of more severe infections from common seasonal illnesses including bronchiolitis. Fever in babies aged 3-6 months has a higher chance of being serious, and you should seek medical advice if the temperature is 39°C or more in this age-group. Fever in a baby aged less than 3 months is unusual and is more worrying, you should seek medical advice if the temperature is 38°C or more in this age-group.

Other signs that may suggest more severe infection in a child of any age and that indicate that you need to seek more advice for an infection include:

  • a child who is pale or who has mottled skin
  • a child who does not respond normally or who cannot wake up
  • a child who has difficulty breathing especially if the skin is being sucked in between each rib on every breath or if they have grunting when breathing
  • a child who is unable to feed normally due to breathing difficulties or coughing
  • a child who is not passing the normal amount of urine
  • a child who has a dry mouth, tongue or lips
  • a child who has a rash that doesn’t fade if you put pressure on it or who has neck stiffness (call 999 if you notice this since the child may have meningitis)

It is not necessary to go to A&E departments if children have simple coughs, sore throats and colds. For very young children and babies, you can call the health visitors at the 0-19 Hub on 0800 170 7055 (option 4), Monday to Friday between 8am and 5pm or the Weekend Health Visitor helpline between 8.30am and 12.30pm on 07598 235094 if you have any concerns about feeding and minor illnesses. You can also seek advice using NHS 111, talk to a Pharmacist, or contact your GP surgery. If your child needs to be examined the health professional might direct you to attend a site that is not your own GP surgery, especially if it is overnight or at the weekend.

The NHS App and website ( also have lots of useful information about other common childhood conditions and advice on when to call for additional support.


A Guide to Long Covid Recovery
Most infections with Covid make people feel unwell for less than 10 days and get back to normal within the first 4 weeks. “Long Covid” is an informal term that is commonly used to describe signs and symptoms that continue or develop after an acute infection of Covid. If you have been unwell with Covid for longer than 12 weeks it can also be called Post-Covid syndrome.

If you are concerned about any of your symptoms and it has been 4 weeks or more since you became unwell with Covid, contact your GP practice and ask them about “Long Covid”– they should offer you an initial consultation, provide access to any further assessments or care, and advise you on sources of further support. They might refer you to a specialist Post Covid clinic, a specialist with expertise for your specific problem, or a rehabilitation service. You may wish to visit the websites below and also recommend them to friends, family and employers to help them to understand what you are going through.

Here are some of the common Long Covid symptoms and tips for dealing with them after diagnosis:


How you can help your recovery

Breathlessness may make it difficult to walk or go up/down stairs. You may have a cough that continues too.


It’s not harmful to get out of breath when you are physically active, this is normal. Try to increase your activity levels slowly and take breaks. If you are too breathless to speak, slow down until your breathing improves. Try the breathing exercises on

Fatigue and energy levels that may vary from day to day. You may also have aches and pains.


Being ill in hospital or at home with Covid can lead to lower muscle strength, particularly in your legs and is mainly due to inactivity. You need to gradually increase your levels of activity. Yoga and Tai Chi are good ways to increase your flexibility and can also help with relaxation. Try to increase your strength by walking or climbing stairs. Use simple pain relief and discuss your medication options with a pharmacist. If you are finding it difficult at work talk to your line manager who may be able to help you to adapt your role. If your pains keep you awake, if they get worse or if you have a hot/swollen joint please contact your GP surgery since there may be something else going on.

Managing your Oxygen levels


If you have had oxygen equipment supplied make sure you know how it works and who to call if you have a problem with it. Check what level of saturation you are aiming for and when to call for help. Do not smoke if you have oxygen in your house since due to risk of fire.



Try to avoid triggers for your headache and avoid alcohol which may make it worse. Talk to your pharmacist about pain relief and try to avoid taking painkillers every day.

Taste and Smell, and difficulty eating

You may find your taste changes during and following Covid. However it is important to eat and remain well-hydrated. Keep your mouth clean and healthy by brushing your teeth twice a day. Try different flavours, textures and temperatures of food, you may find stronger/sharp flavours and spices make food taste better.

Chest pain can be caused by muscles or the other organs in the chest such as heart/lungs.


Get chest pains checked to make sure they are not due to serious problems with your heart or lungs. Once you have been checked call 999 if you have any new chest pain lasting longer than 15 minutes. Discuss any changes in ongoing chest pains with your GP.

Dry skin and tender swellings in fingers/toes

Use a moisturiser to keep skin healthy, swellings in your fingers and toes will go with time.

Fear and Anxiety, mood changes and sleep disturbance


Feeling anxious or low in mood is very normal when recovering from Covid. You can discuss this with your family and friends and call the mental health hub on 0800 448 0828. This help is also available for your family or carers, who may have anxiety, depression or acute stress reactions following your diagnosis and recovery of Covid. Avoid watching too much news or social media if it is making you feel anxious, try limiting yourself to looking at the news once a day. Try to do activities that you find enjoyable and relaxing. Don’t be too hard on yourself if there are some things that you are finding harder to do, remind yourself that recovery takes time.

Memory and concentration

When you’ve been seriously ill, you may not want to do things you used to enjoy. Try to reduce distractions and take regular breaks, and vary the tasks that you need to do. Use a diary or calendar to write things down that you need to do or have already done. Try to keep a regular routine and break down problems into small and easy steps. Your concentration will get better and your memory will usually improve with time.

Palpitations (being aware of your heart beating)


Try to avoid caffeine and try to relax. Contact your GP surgery if they are getting worse, if you have dizziness/blackouts or if you have a history of heart problems



What is urine?
Your blood all goes through the kidneys every day where it is filtered. Your two kidneys make sure that most of the water and some of the other useful substances in blood go back into the bloodstream, while the waste and other chemicals that the body wants to get rid of are filtered out and make up your urine. The urine goes from each kidney to the bladder via a tube called a ureter. Urine is stored in the bladder and when you are ready to pass urine it leaves the body via another tube called a urethra.

How do you know if your kidneys are working?
Kidney function is checked by a blood test for estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR); and if the eGFR is reduced or if you have diabetes then you may be asked to give a urine sample to check the level of protein in your urine.

Increased protein in the urine and decreased eGFR can mean that you have progressive chronic kidney disease (CKD). About 1 in 10 people have CKD and this gets more common as you get older. For most people this will just require yearly checks organised by your GP practice to make sure it is not getting worse. Treating high blood pressure and controlling diabetes is also very important in CKD as well as avoiding medications that will put additional strain on your kidneys.

How do I keep my urinary system healthy?
It is important to drink enough fluids to avoid dehydration. Urine should usually be lighter in colour than apple juice, and if it is darker you may need to drink more. Too much Caffeine (in tea, coffee, cola and energy drinks) stimulates the muscle of the bladder and making it more irritable, causing symptoms such as urinary frequency and urgency. Passing urine more frequently can also be a symptom of diabetes, so you may wish to ask at your GP practice for this to be checked particularly if you have this and are over 40, have a family history of diabetes or are overweight.

What do I do if my urine is leaking (incontinence)?
If urine leaks when you cough or sneeze it is called stress incontinence and is more common in women who have had children. It often improves with pelvic floor exercises, and if it does not you may wish to talk to a doctor or nurse at your GP practice.  If your urine leaks when your bladder is filling it’s called urge incontinence and you should then talk to your GP practice since this may need investigation or medications.

What is a urine infection?
Common symptoms of a urine infection include burning/stinging when passing urine, passing frequent small amounts of urine and smelly urine. If these symptoms last more than a few hours you will probably need antibiotic treatment. Men who have had their first proven urine infection, or children with multiple infections (especially if they are aged under 6 months) will usually require further investigations once the infection has gone. Anyone over 60 years old with recurrent or persistent unexplained urine infections may need referral to a specialist to see if they have a bladder cancer.

Girls and women can prevent urine infections by always wiping from front to back after going to the toilet. This stops bacteria from around the back passage ending up in the urinary tract where they can cause infection. Women who experience lots of urine infections after the menopause may benefit from vaginal oestrogen treatments, especially if they are also experiencing vaginal dryness. Women should also pass urine before and after sex to prevent urine infections.

What does blood in urine mean?
Please talk to your GP if you see blood in your urine. It is important to always investigate visible (or invisible blood detected on a dip stick) in urine especially if you are over 45 years old when you will usually be referred urgently to hospital to make sure you do not have bladder or kidney cancer. If you have a urine infection you may have blood in your urine, but if this continues after any urine infection has gone this needs investigating. Men with blood in urine will also usually have a check on their prostate to make sure they don’t have prostate cancer.

When should men have a prostate check?
Prostates get larger as men get older and can make men get up more times at night to pass urine, increase urinary frequency, make it difficult to start or stop passing urine, reduce urine flow or sometimes even stop men from passing urine at all. If you are experiencing these symptoms then you should have a check-up at your GP practice which will involve a PSA blood test and an examination of your prostate (which is just inside your back passage). Most men will have a benign enlargement of their prostate called Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH) which may respond to medication or may need surgery. Some men with these symptoms will have prostate cancer that requires referral to a specialist and cancer is more likely if you have a family history of prostate cancer, are over 50 or if you are of Afro-Carribean ethnicity, some prostate cancers can be slow-growing and may not need active treatment.

Last updated: 31/05/2022