Patient Talk: Hypos, burning pain and travel health

As a GP, my life is all about answering patients' queries - whether in person or on the phone from my consulting room. But we've entered a brave new world of technology, and many people are just as likely to turn to the internet to answer their health queries as to make an appointment with their GP.

I'm answering your queries regularly in our Patient Talk series, taking questions from our Facebook and Instagram page. This week we covered everything from what to do if you find yourself abroad without the right health documents, to how to spot low blood sugar and what to do about burning pain.

EHIC - don't leave home without it!

If you're travelling to any country in the European Economic Area (EEA) including Switzerland, an EHIC card gives you access to much cheaper - or sometimes free - publicly funded healthcare including at public hospitals. You can get treatment for long term medical problems that cause complications when you're away, and antenatal care (as long as you haven't gone abroad to have your baby).

Anyone who lives in any of these countries is entitled to a free EHIC card - you have to apply for a new one every 5 years (link to If you find yourself needing medical help abroad but you've left your card at home, you can still take advantage of the system by phoning (+44 191 218 1999) from 8-5pm Monday-Friday and applying for a provisional replacement certificate.

Don't forget that an EHIC card doesn't cover you for private care, or getting you home if you fall ill abroad. Every country is different, and you certainly can't expect to get all your healthcare free, as you can in the UK. So it's still worth taking out health insurance.

How low can you go?

If you have diabetes and take insulin or sulphonylurea tablets (for type 2 diabetes) you're at risk of 'hypos' or low blood sugar. Low blood sugar can leave you unfit to drive and can even be fatal in some cases. So it's essential to know what signs to look out for, so you can treat it by eating or drinking some fast-acting carbs.

Early symptoms include feeling hungry and irritable, anxiety, palpitations, blurred vision and headache. If left untreated, this can progress to confusion, lack of co-ordination and loss of consciousness. Unfortunately, some people don't get the early symptoms, so the first they know about having a hypo is getting confused. That means they're much less likely to be able to help themselves, and their risk of serious consequences is much higher.

That means that if you're at risk of hypos, it's essential to test your blood sugar regularly with a glucose monitoring machine

Ouch! It burns!

Burning pain over a patch of skin can be down to local trauma to the skin (you're likely to know about this), or a problem with a nearby nerve or a nerve well away from where you're hurting.

One of the most troublesome local nerve pains causes burning and numbness on the outer side or your thigh - a condition called meralgia paraesthetica.

You can also get pain, numbness, tingling or weakness in your legs because of squashing of a nerve coming out of your spine. A prolapsed disc can be the culprit here.

If you have a query you'd like answered, follow us on Facebook Facebook or Instagram - and even if you're in tip top shape, follow us regularly to hear me answer more questions on a range of health problems from Patient Talk

Follow us on Facebook to join us for our next Patient Talk coming up soon!

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.


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