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Six common illnesses to avoid in Sweden this fall

Candles and cosy knits at the ready – autumn is here! Unfortunately, along with the changing season comes an array of seasonal illnesses that may afflict you and your family.

Six common illnesses to avoid in Sweden this fall
Photo: GeorgeRudy/Depositphotos

You're probably already familiar with many of the illnesses that are common in Sweden during autumn. What might not be as familiar is what to do or where to turn when illness strikes.

The good news is that many of the typical fall maladies usually go away on their own. Certainly, some illnesses do require medical intervention. High fevers, stubborn skin rashes and bacterial infections of the throat are just a few symptoms that a doctor’s knowledge and treatment can alleviate. Fortunately, in these cases, help is closer than you might think – through Swedish healthcare app KRY.

Just download the app, sign in with your BankID and see a doctor by video – in a matter of minutes. No more dragging yourself out of bed and to the doctor’s office just to mingle with other ill patients in the waiting room. Instead, you and your family can get the care you need from the comfort of your home and at your own convenience.

Download KRY and get help or advice from a doctor in minutes

Below are some of the most common illnesses you or your children might come across while living in Sweden (and how to treat them).

Photo: boggy22/Deposit photos 

1. The flu

Sometimes mistaken for a nightmarish version of the common cold, flu includes symptoms such as fever, headache, tiredness and physical pain.

Just like the majority of colds, the flu is caused by a virus, something that no doctor or medicine on earth can cure. Yet we often want a quick fix; the advice to “wait it out” is seldom appreciated but often correct. Viruses must run their course and most go away on their own after several days.

2. Svinkoppor

The unappealing but mostly harmless svinkoppor, or impetigo, typically affects primary school-aged children who develop blisters and sores, usually around the nose and lips. These blisters develop over time, turning into itchy yellowish crusts (aren’t kids fun?).

You can aid the healing and the appearance of impetigo by gently cleaning the sores with warm water and soap and then removing the crusts. This should be done regularly until the sores heal. If the sores haven’t disappeared within 5–7 days, it might be time to see a doctor.

3. Höstblåsor

Also known as hand-foot-and-mouth disease, höstblåsor causes sores in the mouth and rashes on the palms, soles and buttocks. This common childhood illness (that can also affect adults) usually clears up by itself in 7–10 days.

Photo: alebloshka/Deposit photos 

4. Eczema

Eczema is an uncomfortable condition that causes the skin to become inflamed, itchy and irritated. The specific cause remains unknown but flare-ups can occur in colder weather.

Luckily, there are various home remedies that reduce the itching and need for medications, before seeking treatment from a doctor. These include moisturizing your skin frequently with ointments, creams, and lotions that are free of alcohol, fragrances and dyes, as well as avoiding skin irritants, such as wool or man-made fibers, strong soaps and detergents, and situations or environments that cause sweating.

Renew your prescriptions – for free – with KRY

5. Vinterkräksjuka 

“I won’t be coming to work for the rest of the week, I have vinterkräksjuka.”

“Eh?”

Non-Swedes tend to be baffled when they first hear of the infamous Swedish ‘winter vomiting bug’. Otherwise known as norovirus, this highly contagious stomach flu causes vomiting, diarrhoea and around three days of I-need-to-stay-by-the-toilet-itis.

For the majority of winter bugs, the tried-and-true advice is always the same: get plenty of rest and stay well hydrated.

6. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

It’s not just physical illnesses that can afflict you during autumn.

With the weather getting considerably colder and the shorter days plunging us in darkness, you may feel sluggish and unmotivated. This is completely normal. However, a seasonal slump can quickly turn into a more serious issue. 

SAD’s symptoms can include a depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness, a lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, changes in sleep and appetite, and a loss of pleasure in activities you previously enjoyed. Where SAD and depression differ is in the timing: symptoms get worse as winter creeps in and improve as spring begins. 

If your symptoms are disrupting your life and have lasted longer than two weeks, you might want to seek help. KRY connects you with a psychologist or a doctor who can support and help you deal with your emotions and, in some cases, prescribe medication.

Download KRY and get your prescriptions delivered to your doorstep

Don’t let SAD get you down – get KRY today and start enjoying all that autumn in Sweden has to offer. The app is free to download and health professionals are available daily between 06:00–24:00. 

Consulting a doctor or a psychologist by video with KRY costs 250 SEK for adults and is free of charge for children and adolescents up to the age of 20. High-cost protection is applicable. Payment can be made by credit card or through Klarna.

This article was produced by The Local Client Studio in association with KRY.

For members

HEALTH

EXPLAINED: What to do if you face a long wait for healthcare in Sweden

Sweden theoretically has a "healthcare guarantee" limiting your wait to see a GP to three days, and to see a consultant to three months. The reality is somewhat different. Here's what you can do if you face a long wait.

EXPLAINED: What to do if you face a long wait for healthcare in Sweden

What is Sweden’s ‘healthcare guarantee’? 

Sweden’s “National Guaranteed Access to Healthcare” or vårdgaranti, is a right to care, protected by law, that has applied in Sweden since 2005. You can see the latest version of the relevant laws here and here. Here is a summary of the guarantee on the website of the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SKR).

Under the system, all patients are guaranteed:

  • contact with a primary care centre by phone, in-person, or by video-link on the day they seek care 
  • an appointment with a doctor, nurse, physio, or psychotherapist within three days of seeking help 
  • an appointment with a specialist doctor or consultant within 90 days of seeking help 
  • treatment or operation within 90 days, if the specialist considers this necessary 

Does the guarantee mean I have a right to treatment? 

No. If the doctor at the primary care centre, after examining you and questioning you, decides that there is no reason to refer you to a specialist doctor, they do not need to do so. 

Similarly, if the specialist doctor, after examining you, decides that no treatment is necessary, then your case is considered completed.  

Can the waiting times to see a specialist or to get treatment be longer than 90 days? 

Absolutely. In fact, they very often are. 

According to the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SKR), in February, 32 percent of patients had been waiting 90 days or more to see a specialist, and 43 percent of those who had seen a specialist had been waiting for treatment for more than 90 days.  

The situation in primary care was a little better, with 80 percent of those seeking care in contact with their primary care centre on the same day, and 83 percent having their case assessed by a doctor or nurse within three days. 

In addition, if you agree with your specialist doctor that you are willing to wait longer for an operation, then that wait doesn’t get counted in the statistics. 

So what can I do if I’ve been waiting longer than the guaranteed time? 

In reality, it’s actually less a guarantee than a target.

In primary care, there is no way for individual patients to complain that they have had to wait too long to see a doctor or nurse, or to cut their waiting times by citing the guarantee. 

“There’s no system for enforcing that guarantee,” says Emma Spak, the primary care doctor who doubles as section chief for SKR’s healthcare division. 

It would make no sense to set up a complaints line for those who have had to wait too long for phone contact with their primary care centre, she points out, when they could instead talk to patients seeking a primary care appointment in the first place. 

“It’s more of an incentive system for the regions,” she explains.

Every primary care unit and every region reports their waiting times to the national waiting time register, and then as part of the access agreement between SKR and the government, the regional health authorities receive a bonus if they meet their waiting times goal, or if they improve their waiting times. “That’s one way of sort of enforcing this guarantee,” she says. 

When it comes to specialist treatment, though, patients do have the right to demand to be examined or treated by an alternative specialist or hospital if they’ve had to wait longer than 90 days.

If your primary care centre issues you a referral to a specialist, and the specialist cannot then offer you an appointment within 90 days, the specialist, at the same time as offering you a later appointment, will often put you in contact with a unit at the regional health authority who will offer to find you an alternative specialist, either within the region or elsewhere in Sweden. 

The regional health authority will then have to reimburse any extra travel or hotel costs incurred by the patient.  

Similarly, if after examining you, a specialist cannot offer you treatment within 90 days, they will normally put you in contact with the same unit. 

Some regions have a phone line for people who have been waiting too long, or else you can contact your specialist or primary care centre and ask for information on seeking an alternative specialist. 

What happens if I don’t want to travel to see a specialist or get treatment? 

If your regional health authority offers you an alternative specialist, either within your region or in another region, so that you can get treated within the 90 day period, and you are unwilling to travel, then you lose your rights under the guarantee. . 

“If you’re in Gothenburg, and they say you have to go to Stockholm to get your treatment, and you say, ‘no, I want to go here, then then you’ve sort of forfeited your right, and you have to take what’s on offer,” Spak says. 

What happens if I agree with my specialist to wait longer? 

If your specialist says that they can treat you in four months, but also offers you treatment elsewhere within the guaranteed 90 days, and you choose to be treated by your specialist, then that counts as a patient choice, which will not then be counted in the statistics. 

“The specialist might say, ‘I don’t think you will get any worse for waiting two months extra, and if you wait five months, then I can make sure that you get your surgery done here, and we can make sure that you get all the aftercare and everything here as well,” Spak says. 

But these patient decisions are also counted in the statistics, and if a region sees a sharp rise in patients choosing to wait, SKR will tend to investigate. 

“If some region all of a sudden has a lot of patients choosing a longer waiting time, then we will call them and ask what’s going on here, because patients don’t tend to want to wait extra,” Spak says.  

Can I get financial compensation if I’ve been waiting too long? 

No. 

What other ways are there of speeding up the wait for treatment? 

Don’t underplay your symptoms

When drawing up their timetable for treatment and assessment, specialists will tend to give different patients different wait times depending on the urgency of their case.

For this reason, it’s important not to underplay your symptoms when visiting a primary care doctor, as they will tend to include a few lines on the urgency of your case when they write their referral. 

Stress your flexibility 

If you are unemployed, a student, retired, or have a very flexible job, it is worth telling your primary care doctor about this, because they may write in your referral that you are able to make appointments at very short notice. The specialist may then put you on their list of people to ring if one of their patients cancels. 

“Sometimes I write in my referrals that this patient could easily come at short notice, so please put the patient on the list for people you can call if there’s a time slot available,” Spak says. 

If you haven’t told your primary care doctor this, it’s not too late. You can ring the specialist yourself and tell their receptionist that you are very flexible, and ask to be put on the back-up list. This is particularly useful if you’re waiting for a scan, but you could also potentially work even if you’re waiting for heart surgery or a hip replacement. 

“If they’ve accepted you as a patient, and they’ve made sure that you fulfil the criteria for having that scan or whatever, then you can call them and say, ‘I have a really flexible job, I can come anytime if you have a gap,'” Spak says.

“A lot of people do that, because they can have [back-up] waiting lists. If you tell them ‘I work around the corner and I only need 15 minutes to be there’, then they might call you if someone doesn’t show up.” 

Ring up your specialist 

The queue system tends to be quite ad hoc, with no strict rules over who should be treated first, so it is often possible to reduce your wait by ringing up your specialist a few times a month, just to bring your case to their attention. Sometimes the receptionist will remember a slot that has just come free and bring forward your treatment while you are still on the telephone. 

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