About once every five years I get the same blister in the same spot on my lip. In the past it disappeared in two to four days.
Now I have some on my nose and they’re pus-filled and painful. How do I get rid of them for good?
This is a classic case of the herpes virus, an infection that comes and goes over the years.
Don’t be alarmed. Herpes viruses that cause blisters around the mouth are not usually sexually transmitted infections.
This virus is herpes simplex 1 – otherwise known as cold sores.
For most people, herpes simplex 1 starts as a infection in childhood, usually alongside a sore throat, and often goes unnoticed. But even when the spots and other symptoms have disappeared, the virus lays dormant in a nerve for ever.
Some people never have symptoms again. Others suffer recurrent infections.
Herpes viruses that cause blisters around the mouth are not usually sexually transmitted infections. This virus is herpes simplex 1 – otherwise known as cold sores. according to Dr Ellie Cannon (stock image)
Blisters and cold sores pop up in the same spot, and in severe cases might come alongside an angry-looking rash.
The virus remains in the body for the rest of your life but you can avoid triggers to prevent outbreaks. Sunlight, fatigue, stress and even dental work are all known to spark outbreaks.
So use face creams and lip balms that contain a high SPF. At the first sign of an attack, apply an anti-viral cream – available over the counter – to the area daily. This may help. For severe, regular attacks, a GP can prescribe anti-viral tablets.
Should forest bathing – as recommended by the Duchess of Cambridge – be prescribed to treat mental health problems?
I certainly think so, as does the boss of conservation charity, The Woodland Trust, who argued the case passionately last week for immersing yourself in trees and greenery.
Its head of innovation, Stuart Dainton, urged GPs to make use of their 1,000 lush sites, which he says could help patients with stress-related illnesses.
The Duchess of Cambridge (pictured), along with The Woodland Trust, recommend immersing yourself in trees and greenery, also known as forest bathing, as a way to help with stress-related illnesses.
Thousands of GP surgeries across the country, including mine, already practice this new NHS approach, known as ‘social prescribing’.
A member of clinic staff, known as the Professional Care Navigator, matches patients to local activities and support groups instead of prescribing drugs.
For example, lonely people might be helped by voluntary work or a book club. Remarkably, regular gardening with like–minded people can make a profound difference to both physical and mental health – over and above any pill.
Cervical cancer is in my family – my grandma had it. Should I be more vigilant about regular smears?
I am worried because I am 23 and too young to have smear tests at my GP surgery.
About 3,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year.
By far the biggest risk factor is human papilloma virus, also called HPV, which is carried by roughly 80 per cent of the population and is initially transmitted by sexual contact.
Unlike breast and bowel cancers, family history is not too much of a concern with cervical cancer.
The risk is increased if your mum or sister had cervical cancer, but we don’t know if this is caused by a gene or similar behaviours, such as smoking, within families.
According to Cancer Research UK 99.8 per cent of cervical cancers are considered preventable. Almost all are smoking and HPV related.
Family history is not too much of a concern with cervical cancer, unlike breast and bowel cancers. A smear test detects changes within the cervix that can become cancerous and these can be treated before anything develops (stock image)
DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION FOR DR ELLIE?
Email [email protected] or write to Health, The Mail on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London, W8 5TT.
Dr Ellie can only answer in a general context and cannot respond to individual cases, or give personal replies.
If you have a health concern, always consult your own GP.
Since 2008, all teenage girls in the UK have been vaccinated against four of the most harmful strains of the virus. Women who have not had the vaccination can pay for it in certain pharmacies.
A smear test detects changes within the cervix that can become cancerous and these can be treated before anything develops.
Women have to wait until they are 24-and-a-half for their first screening because non-problematic cell changes can happen before then.
Screening at an earlier age could result in unnecessary treatment which could cause long-term harm.
Britons don’t know when they’re constipated, according to a survey of more than 2,500 people.
I’m hardly surprised given most people think constipation is defined only by spending a long time on the toilet, or not going for a couple of days. This is wrong.
Going to the toilet once every three days can be perfectly normal, and there are a host of other tell-tale signs, including bloating, pain in the abdomen or bottom area and frequent wind.
Most cases of constipation can be eased by eating more fibre – wholegrains, fruit and vegetables, for instance.
But some can be a sign of bowel disease and even cancer. If you’ve upped your fibre but something still doesn’t feel right, see your GP.
Tell-tale signs of constipation include bloating, pain in the abdomen or bottom area and frequent wind. But some of these symptoms can be signs of bowel disease or cancer (stock image)