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Communication for five minor conditions

Advice on five minor conditions

1. Athlete’s foot
2. Cold
3. Cough
4. Heartburn (without indigestion)
5. Lower urinary tract infection

This section is about Communication
How to actually Self Care is very important and should of course be at the center of your communication. In this section, however, we focus on some of the the communicative potentials and challenges of the 5 minor conditions – read more about the actual acts of self care here.


Athlete’s Foot

Primary causes
Primary causes
Athlete’s foot is a common fungal infection of the foot. An itchy red rash develops in the spaces between the toes. The affected skin may also be scaly, flaky and dry.

As the best way to prevent Athlete’s foot is to practise good foot hygiene, the focus in prevention should be to promote good basic foot hygiene and care. Repeated treatments (e.g. by antifungal creams) are not recommended, but information and knowledge dissemination about good care practices can help people to alleviate symptoms.

Suggested tools, media, or target groups
As it important to keep your feet clean and dry in preventing and caring for Athlete´s foot, using targeted communication tools to inform shoe stores and sporting goods retailers on how to inform customers about wearing good socks with natural fibers and regularly changing them might be considered.

Communication tools might include posters and leaflets. These could be distributed throughshoe stores, so thatcitizens are informed in a situation (buying shoes) where they may be more receptive than usual to messages about proper foot care.

Sports facilities, changing rooms and showers are other potential venues, because again they are situations where users are more acutely aware of their health and possible foot-related ailments.


Primary causes
Colds are usually caused by a mild viral infection of the upper respiratory tract which primarily affects the nose. Symptoms include coughing, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and fever, and usually resolve in seven to ten days, with some symptoms lasting up to three weeks. Well over 200 virus strains are implicated in the cause of the common cold; the rhinoviruses are the most common. The immunity status after specific viral infection, for example rhinoviruses, does not protect the individual against other viral respiratorx infections and another cold.

A common cold should not be cause for alarm, however inconvenient it may be. So far there is no clear evidence for medication or herbal remedies shortening the duration of the disease. Good self-care involves proper hydration and having plenty of rest – possibly the use of painkillers to alleviate symptoms – but not antibiotics! There are very good and effective ways of preventing the infection, the foremost being hand washing.

Suggested tools, media, or target groups
Good hand hygiene practices – both at the right times and in the right way – can hinder most cases of cold from occuring in the home. Adults practising this – and especially showing and teaching children in the home – is a good prevention method.

In some countries national campaigns, involving instruction events in schools, day care centers, work places, hospitals etc., have been quite popular. Stickers on bathroom mirrors – especially in combination with signs, instructions and other information – have proven effective in some target groups.



Primary causes
A simple cough may be the cause of quite banal irritation of the throat (from exposure to dust, smoke, or even by straining the vocal cords) or the precursor to more serious illness.

Good self-care would entail a consideration as to severity and time span of the cough. As most cases are quite banal, one should consider whether the cough is severe (either associated with pain or even the taste or specks of blood) or extended (continuing for more a few days).

Suggested tools, media, or target groups
Relevant places for communication would be where citizens buy cough relief products or at GP surgeries. This might be best achieved by putting up small signs and placing concise handout leaflets next to relevant products in retail outlets or in the GP’s waiting room.

Information about quitting smoking might also be a way to inform about good self-care on cough (beside other health benefits).


Heartburn (without indigestion)

Primary causes
Heartburn is usually associated with regurgitation of gastric acid (gastric reflux), which is the major symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It may also be a symptom of ischemic heart disease, though this is true for only 0.6% of those experiencing heartburn.

Immediate help should be sought if one experiences severe chest pain or pressure, especially when combined with other signs and symptoms such as pain in the arm or jaw or difficulty breathing. Chest pain may be a symptom of a heart attack. So, people should contact their GP if symptoms are persistent or happen often. Occasional heartburn is not a matter for concern and treatment of its symptoms will lead to better well being.

Focus of information could be to enable citizens to both better distinguish between serious and benign cases of heartburn, and making common self-care practices better known.

Suggested tools, media, or target groups
As diet is a contributing factor in some cases, retailers might be used to inform their customers about dietary considerations for heartburn. It would probably be harder to get restaurantsinvolved, but national TV/media could have a role in promoting “heartburn-friendly” diets. Information about quitting smoking might also be a way to inform about good self-care on heartburn (beside other health benefits).


Lower urinary tract infection

Primary causes
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is also known as acute cystitis or bladder infection. In uncomplicated cases, UTIs are easily treated with a short course of antibiotics, although resistance to many of the antibiotics used to treat this condition is increasing. In complicated cases, a longer course or intravenous antibiotics may be needed, and if symptoms have not improved in two or three days, further diagnostic testing is needed.

However, good prevention (drinking proper amounts of water, wiping with care front to back and avoiding the use of strong hygienical products in the genital area) would be much better than any treatment.

In women, UTIs are the most common form of bacterial infection with one in ten infected yearly. In those who have bacteria or white blood cells in their urine but have no symptoms, antibiotics are generally not needed, although pregnant woman are an exception to this recommendation.

Personal hygiene is essential in preventing UTI frequency for the average citizenThe use of urinary catheters for other conditions poses a challenge; they should be used as little and for as short of time as possible to prevent infections.

Suggested tools, media, or target groups
Most cases of UTI affect women so to some extent a prudent way of communicating about better self-care would be to use either media (by use of PR) or associations with a high proportion of woman (perhaps by use of printed material or joint ventures as to courses and training on women’s health).

Men should not be disregarded as a target group, especially as many men who are at risk of UTIs are unaware of this. Targeted information towards male dominated trades or associations might be considered, e.g. by use of printed material or information/training events on health.