16 Common Medical Conditions in Singapore

by Yuyu. Published on .

In today's fast-paced world, health can sometimes take a back seat, and the wealth of medical information available can often be overwhelming. To help you navigate this complex landscape, we've listed down 16 common medical condition and different ways to treat it based on the symptoms you're experiencing.

From early warning signs to essential steps for assessment, this guide covers 16 common medical conditions that aims to empower individuals to be proactive and informed so you know if you need to head over to the Emergency Department or visit your nearest general practitioner.

Man with bandage
Photo by Tom Jur

16 Common Treatments in Singapore

From understanding symptoms to figuring out the right course of action, check out the following 16 health conditions so you know when you need to see your general practitioner (GP) or go to the Emergency Department.

Abdominal Pain or Indigestion

Abdominal pain is commonly referred to as stomach ache.

Stomach aches can be due to indigestion, trapped wind, overeating, smoking, a viral or bacterial infection.

If the stomach ache is sudden and severe in a particular area of your belly, it could be due to more serious causes like appendicitis, ulcers, gallstones or kidney stones.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME

  • Sip water.
  • Avoid solid food for a few hours.
  • Avoid milk and other dairy products.

SEE YOUR GP IF YOU HAVE:

  • Fever.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Vomiting that persists for a few hours.
  • Severe pain.

GO TO THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING:

  • Sudden and severe pain.
  • Sweating and breathlessness.
  • Vomiting that does not subside.
  • Blood in your vomit.
  • Bloody or black stools.

Cold and Flu

Colds are caused by viruses that attack the nose and throat, leading to inflammation which could cause a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, water eyes, sore throat and a cough.

Influenza or flu is more severe and contagious than a cold, and is caused by a different group of viruses. It can lead to fever, headaches, body aches, tiredness, a sore throat, cough, loss of appetite and nausea.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME

  • Stay home and get lots of rest
  • Take a warm bath to help relax and sooth your body aches.
  • Drink lots of fluids
  • Consult your neighbourhood pharmacist on using over-the-counter medication like Paracetamol or Ibuprofen, antihistamines, nasal decongestants, and antitussives.
  • Massage mentholated or vapour rubs onto your chest, neck and back to help you breathe better, especially before sleeping.

SEE YOUR GP IF YOU:

  • Have a fever of 38°C or higher
  • Experience a cold or flu that lasts for more than 3 days
  • Have difficulty in breathing
  • Are 65 years old and over
  • Are pregnant
  • Have long-term medical condition(s) like diabetes, heart disease, lung disease or kidney disease.

GO TO THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING:

There is no need to visit the A&E for a cold or flu, unless your GP says so.

Cuts

Cuts are common injuries that can often be treated at home. Cuts are wounds where the skin is lacerated or torn. If the cut is deep, there may be bleeding.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME

  • Clean the cut by rinsing it under cold running water.
  • Use sterile gauze swabs to clean the wound.
  • Swipe gently outward from the wound area, using a new swab for each swipe.
  • With the corner of the swab, gently lift any foreign material out from the wound area.
  • Carefully pat the area dry with a clean gauze swab.
  • Apply a plaster or bandage.

SEE YOUR GP IF:

  • There are sand particles or wood splinters in the cut.
  • The cut is caused by an animal or rusty object.
  • You develop an infection, e.g. you also develop a fever, persistent redness and pain, swelling, or pus forming in the wound.

GO TO THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT IF:

The cut is deep and the bleeding does not stop.

Open Wounds

Open wounds are caused by injury to the skin. Apart from scarring, they may also result in infection.

HOW TO TREAT OPEN WOUNDS

  • Wash your wounds with clean water as soon as possible to remove dirt and debris.
  • Apply non-adherent dressing to the wound.
  • Keep the wounds clean and review them daily, looking out for signs of infection.

SEE YOUR GP IF:

  • Notice persistent bleeding or discharge from the wound.
  • Notice worsening pain or redness over the wound.
  • Develop a fever.
  • Were bitten by an animal. Animal bite wounds are more likely to be infected compared to non-bite wounds.
  • Have a dirty wound and have not had a tetanus booster in the last 5 years.

GO TO THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT IF:

  • Can see fat or deeper underlying structures like tendon, muscle or bone in the wound.
  • Suspect a foreign body in the wound.
  • Have painful swelling of the limb affecting movement (which may indicate a fracture).

Fever

A fever is when your body temperature is higher than normal, i.e. 37°C.

It is caused by infections or other illnesses like flu, overheating, or dehydration.

When you have a fever, you may also experience a hot, flushed face, headache, loss of appetite, body aches, shivering, sweating or weakness.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME

  • Use a thermometer to take your temperature
  • If your fever is less than 38°C, just rest and drink plenty of fluids. There is no need to take medicine.
  • If you feel uncomfortable, consult your neighbourhood pharmacist about over the counter medication like Aspirin (not recommended for children) or Ibuprofen.
  • Take a cold shower to lower your body temperature

SEE YOUR GP IF:

  • Your fever is 38°C and above
  • Your fever lasts more than 3 days
  • You are pregnant
  • You have recently returned from overseas
  • You also have chronic conditions like asthma, cough, diabetes and pain when passing urine.

GO TO THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT IF YOU HAVE:

  • Difficulty in breathing (especially in children)
  • Chest pain
  • Severe headache
  • Coughing with blood
  • Fits or seizures, e.g. your body is shaking spasmodically, or becomes rigid with arches back, clenched jaw, and eyes rolling upwards.

Headaches

Feeling pain or pressure in the head is very common. Headaches can be caused by stress, not enough sleep, hunger, flu, sinus problems, too much alcohol, allergies, or more serious illnesses like head injuries, stroke or brain tumours.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME

  • Consult your neighbourhood pharmacist about over-the-counter pain reliever, such as Aspirin (not recommended for children) or Ibuprofen.
  • Rest.

SEE YOUR GP IF:

  • Your headache lasts for more than one day, even after taking pain relievers.
  • Your get headaches frequently.
  • The pain or throbbing is so strong you cannot go about your daily routine.
  • You are experiencing nausea or vomiting.
  • Your vision is blurry.

GO TO THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT IF YOU HAVE:

  • Slurred speech.
  • A sniff neck.
  • Weakness or numbness in your limbs.
  • Fits or seizures, e.g. your body is shaking spasmodically, or becomes rigid with arches back, clenched jaw, and eyes rolling upwards.

Hives

Hives are raised, itchy rashes that appear on the skin. The rashes can appear on just one part of the body, or over large areas.

Also known as urticarial, hives can be caused by stress, infections, insect bites, changes in temperature, or allergic reactions to a range of substances and chemicals, including alcohol, pollen, latex, caffeine or certain foods. In many cases, the exact trigger is not found.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME

  • Move to a cool room to work or sleep
  • Apply an ice pack (wrap a bag of ice in a towel) to the affected areas
  • Wear light and loose-fitting clothes

SEE YOUR GP IF:

  • Your hives persist or worsen after a few days

GO TO THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT IF YOU EXPERIENCE:

  • Swelling of the eyes, lips, tongue or throat
  • Difficulty in breathing or swallowing
  • Abdominal pain or Diarrhoea

Insect Bites and Stings

​Insect bites and stings usually only cause minor irritation, such as swollen, itchy, red marks on the skin that last for a few days.

Some bites or stings can be painful or trigger more serious allergic reactions like nausea, facial swelling, breathing difficulties, stomach pain or shock.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME

  • If there is a stinger in your skin, gently scrape it off with your fingernail or the edge of a card. Do NOT pinch the sting out with your fingers or use tweezers as you may spread the venom.
  • Wash the bite with soap and water, and pat dry.
  • Place an ice pack (wrap a bag of ice in a towel), then place this on the wound.
  • Do not scratch the bite as this may cause infection.
  • If the bite is painful or swollen, consult your neighbourhood pharmacist about over-the-counter medication like Paracetamol or Ibuprofen.
  • If the wound is itchy or swollen, apply a topical cream containing antihistamines or mild hydrocortisone (1%).

SEE YOUR GP IF:

  • There are signs of infection, e.g. increasing redness, pain, swelling, fever.
  • The sting fills with pus.
  • You experience flu-like symptoms.

GO TO THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT IF YOU HAVE:

  • Been stung three or more times.
  • Been stung in the mouth
  • Pain itching or swelling on other parts of your body, e.g. mouth or face
  • Symptoms of systemic reactions like:
    • Difficulty in breathing
    • Nausea, vomiting or Diarrhoea
    • Fast heart rate
    • Giddiness
    • Confusion or agitation
    • Pale skin

Mild Burns and Scalds

​Burns and scalds are injuries to the skin caused by heat. Burns are caused by dry heat, e.g. fire or a clothes iron and are classified between the different degrees of burns, from first degree (least serious) to third degree (most serious).

Scalds are caused by liquids, steam and chemicals.

Both can be very painful and lead to blisters or red, black or charred skin.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME:

For first-degree and second-degree burns on a small area:

  • Remove any clothing or jewellery near the burnt area. If clothing is stuck to the wound, cut around it but do NOT remove any stuck fabric.
  • Pour cool water over the wound for at least 10 minutes. Do NOT use ice, iced water or butter and other greasy substances.
  • Loosely cover the burn with a sterile gauze bandage or cling wrap. Do NOT touch the burn or burst any blisters.
  • Consult your neighbourhood pharmacist about over-the-counter medications like Aspirin (not recommended for children) or Ibuprofen to treat the pain.

SEE YOUR GP IF:

  • You develop an infection, e.g. you also develop fever, persistent redness and pain, swelling, or pus in the wound.

GO TO THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT IF YOUR BURNS ARE:

  • In the mouth, throat, eyes, ears, or genital area.
  • Large, i.e. bigger than your hand.
  • Caused by chemicals, electricity or lighting
  • Third-degree burns, i.e. burnt skin is white, leathery or charred.

Diarrhoea and Vomiting

​Vomiting is the forced emptying of the stomach through the mouth ("throwing up") and Diarrhoea is the frequent passage of liquid stools.

Both occur together commonly due to viral or bacterial infections of the gut. They may also occur due to food intolerance and as side effects of certain medications such as antibiotics.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME:

  • Sip small amounts of water or sports drinks.
  • Do not take solid food until vomiting has stopped.

SEE YOUR GP IF YOU:

  • Have Vomiting that affects your ability to eat and drink.
  • Have stomach pain.
  • Have fever.
  • Have blood or mucous in your stools.
  • Have diarrhoea persisting for more than two days.
  • Have recently travelled to a developing country where infectious diseases are common.

GO TO THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT IF YOU:

  • Have high fever.
  • Have severe stomach pain.
  • Have large amounts of blood in your stools.
  • Have severe dehydration, (e.g. you feel very thirsty, giddy and weak).

Nosebleeds

​Nosebleeds can look scary, but they are very common. Bleeding can be from one or both nostrils, heavy or light, and may last from a few seconds to over 10 minutes.

Nosebleeds happen when the tiny blood vessels in your nose burst, due to a variety of disturbances like digging your nose, blowing your nose too hard, dry climates, irritation from foreign objects in the nose, being hit in the face, allergies, infections, alcohol or drug use, etc.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME

  • Sit down and lean forward
  • Using your thumb and index finger, pinch the nose just above the nostrils
  • Breathe through your mouth
  • Continue until the bleeding stops, usually after 10 minutes
  • If the bleeding continues, hold for another 10 minutes and suck on some ice cubes.
  • If your nose is injured, place ice pack (wrap a bag of ice in a towel) on your nose bridge.

SEE YOUR GP IF:

  • Your nosebleed recurs for no apparent reason

GO TO THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT IF :

  • Your nosebleed does not stop after 20 minutes
  • Your nosebleed is caused by injury to the nose, like being hit in the face by a fist or object.
  • You are experiencing heart failure.

Sore Eyes

​'Sore Eyes' is the common name for conjunctivitis – the inflammation of the thin layer of tissue covering the front of the eye (the conjunctiva).

Symptoms include redness, itchiness, slight pain, watering of the eyes, a feeling like you have sand in your eye, and a sticky coating on the eyelashes (usually when you first wake up).

It can be caused by bacterial, viruses, allergic reactions to smoke, pollen, dust, or chemicals in makeup or contact lenses.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME

  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently
  • Do not share towels or pillows
  • Remove any discharge from your eyes with clean tissue paper, or with cotton wool soaked in water.
  • Do not wear any eye makeup or contact lenses until your symptoms clear up.
  • Use over-the-counter lubricant eye drops in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions
  • Hold a warm, damp cloth over your eyelids to relieve discomfort.

SEE YOUR GP IF:

  • There is pain and discharge from the eye
  • You are wearing contact lenses
  • The soreness does not go away after 3 days

GO TO THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT IF:

  • Your sore eyes were caused by chemicals.
  • Your vision is affected, e.g. you experience blurred vision or sensitivity to light.

Strains and Sprains

​Strains and sprains are injuries affecting muscles and ligaments, usually because of accidents while moving, such as during sports.

A strain is the stretching or tearing of your muscles or tendons (the tissue connecting your muscle to your bone). Strains are common in the legs and back.

A sprain is the tearing or stretching of the ligaments (the tissues around the joints that connect bones to one another). Sprains are common in the knees, ankles, and wrists.

Both may involve pain, swelling, bruising, soreness and restricted movement.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME:

  • Stop doing the activity that caused the strain or sprain immediately.
  • Administer the PRICE therapy:
    • Protect the injured area.
    • Rest.
    • Ice the area by placing an ice pack (wrap a bag of ice in a towel) on the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes.
    • Compress the injured area with an elastic bandage until the swelling stops.
    • Elevate the injured area by raising it above the level of your heart, especially at night.

SEE YOUR GP IF:

  • There is severe pain or swelling.
  • You are feeling numbness or coldness in the wounded area.
  • The injured limb looks crooked or has unusual lumps.
  • There is bruising.
  • You cannot move the injured joint or muscle.
  • You cannot put any weight on the injured limb.
  • Symptoms have not improved after 3 days of treatment at home.

GO TO THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT IF:

  • There is no need to visit the A&E for a strain or sprain, unless your GP says so.

Bruises

Bruises are caused by bleeding from injury to blood vessels beneath the skin.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME:

  • Apply cold compress to reduce swelling.
  • Elevate the bruised area to reduce swelling.
  • Take painkillers to relieve the pain

SEE YOUR GP IF YOU:

  • Have severe pain from the bruise.
  • Have pus draining from the bruise.
  • Have red painful streaks around the bruise.
  • Have a fever.
  • Have multiple unexplained bruises over the body.
  • Are taking blood thinning medications

GO TO THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT IF YOU:

  • Have painful swelling of the bruised site affecting movement (which may indicate a fracture)

Hypertension

Hypertension is also known as high blood pressure. It is commonly caused by increased intake of salt and ageing. Rarely, it may occur due to a stroke.

HOW TO TREAT AT HOME

  • Take your regular antihypertensive medications.
  • Avoid excessive salt intake in your diet.
  • Exercise regularly and get plenty of rest.

SEE YOUR GP IF YOU HAVE:

  • Blood pressure readings consistently higher than your usual.
  • Giddiness.
  • Headache.

GO TO THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING:

  • Weakness and/or numbness.
  • Difficulty seeing.
  • Difficulty speaking.
  • Difficulty walking.
  • Chest pain / Shortness of breath.
  • Severe giddiness or headache​

Cellulitis

Cellulitis is painful red warm swollen skin due to a bacterial infection.

HOW TO PREVENT CELLULITS

  • Keep your skin clean and avoid scratching. Broken Skin allows bacteria to enter the body.
  • Control diabetes. Diabetics are at higher risk of infections.
  • Wear proper footwear. Ill-fitting footwear increases the risk of abrasions and ulcer formation.

SEE YOUR GP IF YOU HAVE:

  • Painful red warm swollen skin.
  • Diabetes.

GO TO THE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT IF YOU ARE ALSO EXPERIENCING:

  • High fever and chills.
  • Severe pain.
  • Painful Blisters.
  • Rapid progression of the swelling.
  • Painful swelling of joints affecting movement.

Conclusion

Understanding common medical condition including different types of injuries and knowing how to assess them bridges the gap between prevention and cure. Follow the guide in this article if you encounter any of the 16 medical conditions.

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