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Common ailments: building a solid base of knowledge

French journal Prescrire publishes a special issue devoted to the most common ailments.

Headaches, runny nose, coughs, minor cuts and scrapes, diarrhoea, heartburn, etc. All the contributors to this special issue of the French journal Prescrire have drawn upon their own knowledge and experience to give practical answers to such questions as when to seek medical advice, when certain symptoms could be serious, and what is the best treatment.

Every case is individual and there are no universal answers, but there is a need for a solid core of knowledge on which to draw.

Prescrire’s special summer issue will serve as a base of useful knowledge for all those involved in care decisions, whether they are healthcare professionals or not.

The first section focuses on essential concepts for reaching reliable decisions: taking into account the natural course of common ailments, knowing a drug’s components, routinely considering the adverse effects of drug-based and other treatments, etc.

The second section looks at various common situations: minor burns, lice, teenage acne, athlete’s foot, cold sores, colds, irritating coughs, headaches, high temperature in adults, regurgitation in infants, haemorrhoids, constipation in infants, flatulence, travel sickness, the morning-after pill, etc.

Bearing in mind the natural course of these ailments, what are the warning signs that should set alarm bells ringing?  In a given situation, what actions should  be taken, without exposing the patient to too many adverse effects? Which treatments have an acceptable harm-benefit balance, and which should be avoided?

It is not a matter of encouraging just anyone to try to stand in for a healthcare professional, but rather of giving everyone concerned the means to draw on reliable, independently compiled evidence in order to make the best choice among available treatments, within the limits of their own capabilities. 

©Prescrire 1 August 2011

"Socle commun" Rev Prescrire 2011; 31 (334): 561.

For more information:

Contents of  the special
issue of La Revue Prescrire
"Affections du quotidien -
Retenir les traitements utiles,
sans ou avec médicaments"