Common presentations
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Common Presentations. Dr J Tomkinson 16/10/13. Around half of consultations in A&E and 20 – 40% of GP consultations are for minor illnesses 57 million GP consultations/ yr OR accounts for over an hour a day for every GP

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Common presentations


Dr J Tomkinson





  • Highly contagious and often missed as a diagnosis. consultations are for minor illnesses

  • Diagnosis is based on history and examination: you don't need to see the parasite.

  • Whole family (and all close contacts) must be treated, even if asymptomatic.

    5% permethrin cream is recommended 1st line as this has the best evidence base.


Head lice

  • Wet combing consultations are for minor illnesses is cheapest and can be used for all the household and for recurrences. Persistence is required, along with cooperation and patience from all involved

  • Insecticides are as effective as wet combing but resistance is common and many want to avoid chemicals. Ensure patients follow the instructions above, not those on the packet!

  • Non-insecticide based shampoos seem not to be associated with resistance, and may be more effective than wet combing/insecticides. They are, however, chemicals, and some may not want to use them for that reason.

  • Patient choice and good compliance are clearly important here!

Head lice


  • Primary consultations are for minor illnesses

Patient may not want a prescription

Non phamacological suggestions

  • Avoid known triggers egspicy foods and alcohol.

  • Use antiperspirant spray frequently

  • Avoid wearing tight, restrictive clothing and man-made fibres

  • Wearing black or white clothing can help to minimise the signs of sweating.

  • Armpit shields can help to absorb excessive sweat and protect your clothes.

  • Wear socks that absorb moisture

  • Buy shoes that are made of leather, canvas or mesh, rather than synthetic material.



Primary consultations are for minor illnesses

  • First line:Aluminium chloride antiperspirants

    (e.g. Anhydrolforte, Driclor, Odaban).

  • Second line:Iontophoresis

    (for hands, feet and axillae).



Primary consultations are for minor illnesses

For more generalised hyperhidrosis, anticholinergics (e.g. oxybutinin) and glycopyrronium can be used, but have significant side-effects.

Endoscopic sympathectomy only if all other therapy fails.

Botulinum toxin very effective for the axillae but often not available on the NHS because of cost (£300–500 per treatment, usually required 3 monthly).

Retrodermal curettage also useful in axillary disease, but again, usually not available on the NHS


Secondary causes of hyperhydrosis

The consultations are for minor illnessescommonest causes are:

  • Menopause

  • Hyperthyroidism

  • Intoxication / withdrawal from drugs / alcohol

  • Drugs: Antidepressants (SSRIs, tricyclics….)

    Antipyretics (aspirin, NSAIDs)

    Hormonal drugs (tamoxifen, GnRH agonists)

SecondARY causes of hyperhydrosis

Secondary causes of hyperhydrosis1

Other consultations are for minor illnessescauses include:

TBPhaeochromocytoma Parkinson's disease Myeloproliferative HIV Carcinoid syndrome Neuropathies Lymphoma

Endocarditis Acromegaly Diabetes

Hyperhidrosis Support Group

SecondARY causes of hyperhydrosis

Common presentations

1 consultations are for minor illnesses



  • 2

Sore throat

  • 40% of sore throats will be better by day 3. consultations are for minor illnesses

  • Antibiotics increase re-attendance rates.

  • SIGN advise adequate analgesia usually all that is required in most cases.

  • Consider using Centor score to aid diagnostic acumen.

Sore throat

Centor criteria

> consultations are for minor illnesses3y (1 point for each of the following).

  • Tonsillar exudate

  • Tender anterior cervical lymph nodes

  • History of fever

  • Absence of cough

    Score 1: 2–23% chance of having group A b-haemolytic strep (GABHS)

    Score 4: 25–86% chance of having GABHS

    NICE say treat if unwell and score more than ¾

    Treatment :

    Phenoxymethylpenicillin 500mg qds 10 days (or macrolide)


Centor Criteria

Sore throat1

  • Evidence consultations are for minor illnessesfor tonsillectomy in children is lacking but SIGN provide referral criteria to determine who to refer to secondary care.

  • Oral steroids have a small evidence base in adults only. Not yet recommended.

  • Lemierre's syndrome is very rare but Fusobacteriumnecrophorum, the organism responsible, can cause sore throats and quinsy. Consider FN as a cause in young adults with sore throat who are more unwell than expected.

Sore throat

Referral criteria

  • Infections must be documented, clinically significant and adequately treated.

  • 7 or more in last 1y OR 5 or more in each of last 2y OR 3 or more in each of last 3y

  • The sore throats are due to acute tonsillitis

  • The episodes are disabling and prevent normal function.

  • Appropriate stress should be placed on whether the frequency of episodes is increasing or decreasing and SIGN suggest an ENT surgeon might consider a six-month period of watchful waiting prior to consideration of tonsillectomy, particularly if the history is patchy.

Referral Criteria

Common presentations

  • If an adult patient has had 4 episodes of sore throat in 12m or 3 in 6 months then…

  • If they decide NOT to have the op they would expect to have 2 episodes in the next 6 months (12 days of sore throat, 2–3 days of fever)

  • If they decide to have the operation they should expect 13 days of severe pain post-op and an average of 3 days of sore throat in the next 6 months

  • Minor post-op complications are possible, life-threatening ones are rare.

(BMJ 2007;334:909)

Role play
ROLE PLAY or 3 in 6 months then


  • Most people get better on their own with or without antibiotics.

  • Antibiotics have an NNT of 15.

  • Although some research suggested that no clear sub-groups could be identified who might benefit from antibiotics more than most, other research has suggested that those with multiple symptoms, or persistent symptoms (>10d) or a biphasic illness (worsening after 5–7d) are more likely to have a bacterial infection.


Otitis media

  • 80% of children get better within 3 days without antibiotics.

  • NNT runs between 3 and 7 depending upon how you measure success.

  • NNH can be just as high.

  • The National Prescribing Centre does not recommend routine use of antibiotics.

  • Antibiotic use may increase the risk of future AOM infections.

Otitis media

Onychomycosis fungal nails

  • Are you sure it is antibiotics.fungal?

  • Does any treatment work? If so, which is better; oral or topical?

Onychomycosis (fungal nails)

Common presentations

  • Systemic treatment example:

  • Terbinafine 250mg daily

  • 12-16 weeks average treatment

  • Clinical success 70% but relapse 15%

Acute bronchitis

Acute Bronchitis

How do i know it isn t pneumonia

The British Thoracic Society (BTS) defines pneumonia as infection, presenting almost always with a :

Cough and at least one other lower respiratory tract symptom


New focal chest signs on examination


EITHER sweating, fevers, shivers, aches and pains or fever >38°C


No other explanation for symptoms.

How do I know it isn’t pneumonia?

Common presentations
Crp infection, presenting almost always with a not felt to be usefulcxr Not helpfulCough medicines have no proven benefitB-Agonists have no evidence to support use

How long will it last

  • The average cough lasted 12 days, although 25% were still coughing 2.5w later.

  • Antibiotics made no impact on duration of cough (or any other outcome).

  • Those given delayed or no antibiotics were less likely to believe in the benefit of antibiotics next time.

  • Those not given immediate antibiotics had slightly lower satisfaction scores!

    (JAMA 2005;293:3029–35):

  • Average duration of cough was 3 weeks.Antibiotics made no difference to the duration of the cough.

    (BJGP 2008;58:88–92)

How long will it last?


  • Neither sputum production nor sputum colour are good predictors of severity of illness. 

  • Antibiotics do not offer more than minor and clinically insignificant benefits e.g. a reduction of cough by half a day two weeks into the illness.

  • Those with more significant illness may benefit from antibiotics.


Common presentations

NICE predictors of severity of illness. guidance on respiratory tract infections recommends not prescribing or using a delayed script for acute cough unless:

Co-morbidity or >65y with at least 2 of the following or >80y with at least 1 of the following:

  • Hospitalised in the last 12m

  • Diabetes (type 1 & 2)

  • Heart failure

  • On steroids

    (NICE 2008, CG69)

Common presentations

RCT predictors of severity of illness. of over 800 people over the age of 3 with a LRTI (not URTI) showed that:

  • Those offered antibiotics were twice as likely to re-attend with the next illness.

  • Offering a delayed prescription reduced re-attendance rates by a whopping 78% compared to those given immediate antibiotics!

Summary acute bronchitis cough

  • There predictors of severity of illness. is no evidence for cough mixtures or beta-agonists in acute bronchitis.

  • The cough with bronchitis lasts, on average, 3 weeks.

  • Antibiotics do not make the cough get better more quickly.

  • Neither sputum production, nor sputum colour, are good markers of severity.

  • In children, even if quite unwell, antibiotics do not speed recovery.

Summary:Acute bronchitis & cough


Areata predictors of severity of illness. 

  • Autoimmune, non-scarring disorder of hair growth. Often a genetic link.

  • Diagnosis is clinical.

    Often you see a circular bald patch with exclamation hairs (isolated short broken-off hairs in a patch of baldness). Lifetime prevalence 1.7%. Alopecia totalis (all of head hair loss) is rarer and alopecia universalis (loss of all body hair) rarer still.

  • Prognosis

    In an initial patch: 33% will have re-grown in 6m, 50% in 12m BUT 33% will never recover. Almost everyone who gets a first patch will do so again, but this may be many years later.


Treatments for alopecia areata

  • 50% resolve spontaneously predictors of severity of illness. 

  • Intra-lesionalcorticosteroids (triamcinolone). This is usually used first line.

  • Dithranol. Often used second line in persistent disease. Aim is to induce low-grade dermatitis.

  • Topical immunotherapy. Dinitrochlorobenzene, diphencyprone and SADBC used, but not in primary care. The aim is to induce a low grade contact dermatitis that stimulates hair regrowth. The more extensive the hair loss, or the longer it has been present, the less effective this treatment is.

  • Topical super-potent steroids (often under occlusion) or less potent steroids in the form of a foam. Only small trials, showing limited effectiveness.

  • Systemic corticosteroids. Only one tiny RCT showing one third of patients responded but relapse rates were high. Rarely used because of systemic side-effects.

  • Minoxidil. May be most beneficial in preventing relapse rather than to induce hair growth initially.

Treatments for alopecia areata

Tinea capitis scalp ringworm

Complications predictors of severity of illness. 

  • Severe hair loss

  • Scarring  alopecia

  • Psychological impact (ridicule, bullying, isolation, emotional disturbance, family disruption)


    Topical rx : eg ketoconazole shampoo / terbinafine cream

    Systemic rx: egterbinafine

TineaCapitis(scalp ringworm)


How do you explain shingles to a patient? predictors of severity of illness. 



  • Shingles is an infection of a nerve area caused predictors of severity of illness. by the varicella-zoster virus

  • Causes pain and a rash along a band of skin supplied by the affected nerve

  • Symptoms usually go within 2-4 weeks

  • Post herpetic neuralgia: up to 1 in 4 people with shingles, over the age of 60, has pain that lasts more than a month



Aciclovir predictors of severity of illness. 800mg five times a day if within the first 72 hours

Pain and post herpetic neuralgia

  • tricyclic antidepressants

  • anticonvulsants such as gabapentin

  • Capsaicin, a topical treatment made from chilli peppers, can be applied to the affected area several times per day (avoid any mucous membranes!)

  • oxycodone


Warts and verrucae

Left predictors of severity of illness. untreated, most viral warts will eventually disappear (some pts happy with this info)

Warts and verrucae


Not everyone wants a prescription

Remember reassurance / non-pharmacological treatments

Warts and verrucae1

Treatment Options predictors of severity of illness. :

  • Cryotherapy

  • Salicylic acid

  • Duct tape

  • Herbal – egthuja

Warts and verrucae

Warts and verrucae2

  • An predictors of severity of illness. RCT of 240 people with warts/verrucas compared salicylic acid with cryotherapy

  • There was no difference in cure rates between the two groups.

  • At 12w cure rate was 14% in both groups and around 33% at 6m. Not that encouraging…

    (BMJ 2011;342:d3271)

Warts and verrucae

Impetigo treatments

Oral or topical antibiotics predictors of severity of illness. ?

  • Topical antibiotics are as effective as, if not more effective than oral antibiotics & have fewer side-effects. However, oral therapy should be used if impetigo is widespread.

  • Which antibiotic?

  • Fusidic acid cream

  • Flucloxacillin

  • Macrolides (e.g. erythromycin) and cephalosporins are also effective.

  • There is no evidence for disinfecting treatments

  • Retapamulinointment 1% (Altargo) is a new therapy for impetigo (no clinical benefit vsfucidin and much more expensive)

Impetigo treatments

Common presentations

Molluscum predictors of severity of illness. Contagiosum