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Dr Andy's autumn update

Dr Andy, in-house GP at British Lung Foundation, discusses how his GP surgery and patients are adapting as autumn brings with it more colds and viruses. And offers tips on how to look after yourself this winter.

Autumn has well and truly started, and everyone is trying to keep their lives ticking along as best as they can within the ever-changing restrictions that come with COVID-19.

Cold or COVID-19?

In my GP surgery we’ve seen a change too. Autumn has brought colds and viruses, which can cause runny noses, sore throats, coughs and chest infections. As well as making people feel unwell, they can also cause a flare-up of people’s asthma or other lung conditions.

Because of the threat of COVID-19, and because it’s hard to tell COVID-19 from other viruses, many people with a cough, high temperature, or loss of taste and smell are having to self-isolate and get a test done. However, as I keep telling my own patients, don’t delay taking action if anything is making your lung condition worse. It’s important to know what to do.

I’ve had a few patients who were so worried about finding out whether they had COVID-19 or not, that they didn’t consider calling their surgery. In each case, it took longer to get their condition under control.

Flu vaccines

The other big thing this time of year is flu clinics. I’ve worked three weekend clinics and have given several hundred vaccines already. Luckily, we have plenty in stock (and we’re expecting more!) as people are wanting theirs earlier this year. People are also coming for their flu jabs, even if they haven’t had one for years. This is great news. It’s really important this year that we protect as many people as possible – to stop people getting ill and dying due to flu and to protect all parts of the NHS.

Each surgery will have different plans for making sure as many people as possible can get their flu vaccine safely. My parents went to a drive-thru flu clinic, which worked well. Our surgery has a one-way system within the building, and enough protections to keep all staff and patients as safe as possible. It was a pleasure seeing some of my patients after several months of telephone and video consultations, even if we are all hidden behind masks.

Staying well this winter

Apart from getting your flu vaccine this year, there are other simple things that you can do to stay well this winter:

  • Take your medicines as prescribed
  • Check that you have a written plan that details how to manage your condition, what to do to stay well, and what to do if your symptoms get worse
  • Stop smoking
  • Keep active
  • Don’t delay seeking medical help if your symptoms are getting worse.

Thank you!

My final note is a massive congratulations to all the people who completed the virtual London Marathon for the British Lung Foundation. My wife completed the London Marathon last year, so I know how much time and effort goes into the training, and how much of a toll the 26.2 miles takes on the day. With dreadful weather and without the amazing support of the London crowds, I really take my hat off to the determination these runners showed. Thank you!

Dr Andy Whittamore

Dr. Andy Whittamore

Andy is an in-house GP at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation. He’s a practicing GP in Portsmouth with over 15 years experience, and a wealth of knowledge about respiratory care.


Thank you for your time a good read
All good advice. May I add one more idea, which is this. If you are overweight and are able to do something about it, try to lose some of your excess weight, particularly if your BMI is over 30. It's another good defence against Covid-19 having a seriously bad effect on you if you're unfortunate enough to catch it.
Thank you for your useful information
I have COPD just had a spell in hospital because I couldn’t breath had panic attacks this is the first time I had the panic attacks and it frightened me. When can I get the flu jab before winter comes. Was told in Nov/Dec don’t want to leave it for far to long.

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13 October 2020