Ask Dr Ellie Cannon! This week: Colds at nursery, anxiety and COPD

Ask Dr Ellie Cannon! This week: Colds at nursery, anxiety and COPD

Our resident GP Ellie Cannon answers your burning health and medical questions...

Q  My seven-month-old has frequent colds and runny noses since starting nursery. Is there anything I can do to prevent this?

Unfortunately, colds are a normal part of babyhood, especially for a baby going to nursery. It can be rather frustrating though, because no one has a great answer as to what to do about it.

It’s very reassuring to be told by a GP that there is nothing to worry about, that it’s just a cold or snotty nose, but that can still leave you with a miserable baby whose sleep may be broken. It can also make them too congested to drink much, which really can be important. So it could be worth trying a few things to relieve it.

Moistening the air in the bedroom eases blocked noses and helps discharge dribble away at night, so either use a humidifier designed for babies or simply put a wet towel on a warm radiator.

It also helps to tilt the cot slightly: if a baby sleeps ever so slightly upright, snot can dribble out of their nose to clear their airways.

Baby vapour rubs can help to loosen mucous in the airways and many parents will use “snot-suckers”, which aspirate the mucous from the nose.

With drinking, make sure you offer small amounts little and often: it can be hard to take in a full bottle with a congested little nose.

Make sure your baby is drinking as much as normal and producing wet nappies.

Dr Ellie Cannon
Dr Ellie Cannon

Q  I’m a naturally anxious person, but recently someone suggested I may have anxiety as a condition.  How can I know for sure? 

Feeling worried or being anxious about a specific event or issue is totally normal. It is a routine part of life at any stage, as a child or as an adult living a busy life.

It is perfectly normal to feel worried or anxious, especially when there are things to worry about, such as finances, health, or world events.

Anxiety becomes pathological, and therefore a mental health illness, when it is occurring so often that it actually interferes with your life and even simple, mundane activities. Feeling anxious is to feel worried, nervous, tense and even fearful: this becomes a fully-blown anxiety disorder when these feelings stop you getting on with your day or specific activities, such as getting yourself to work or even making yourself a sandwich.

Whether you have many symptoms or just a couple, if your daily life is affected or you are distressed by your anxiety, then you need help.

We call this generalised anxiety disorder. Characteristic features include feeling anxious most days and being unable to stop yourself from feeling that way.

The worry itself may upset you or stress you out and it often stops you doing normal things, including fun activities you enjoy.

People with anxiety don’t worry just about the usual things, but their worries are very wide-ranging.

If this sounds familiar, you need to have a chat with your GP.

Q  After years of smoking, my 70-year-old dad has been told he has COPD. Can you tell me more about the condition?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is an umbrella term encompassing the two chronic lung conditions emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Both cause narrowing of the airways in the lung and COPD is a debilitating, progressive condition that interferes with normal breathing.

First, stopping smoking, no matter at what stage of the disease, can prevent it from worsening and, if he has early emphysema, stopping smoking could be the only treatment he may need.

Looking at all those who smoke 20 cigarettes a day, fewer than one in five of them will develop COPD: we don’t know why some smokers develop it while others don’t. Likewise, with lung cancer, it is not possible to predict which smokers will suffer.

Coughing, breathlessness and producing a lot of phlegm are common features, which signal damaged airways.  Symptoms start off mild, but may evolve into daily, distressing symptoms. Patients with terminsl COPD can be housebound owing to their breathlessness, and quality of life is, sadly, very poor for people with advanced disease.

There is a range of treatments for COPD, but none can reverse the lung damage. Inhalers are a common treatment, as are steroids and tablets, to break up the mucous or open up the airways. Your father can help himself by losing weight, exercising and having flu and pneumonia vaccines.

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