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Body Systems

Skin Cancer Facts

By | Body Systems, Cancer, Skin | No Comments

It’s beginning to heat up, and Australians are eager to get out into the sun. We all know that skin cancer is a problem, but many people show a concerning disregard of sun safety. Australia has some of the highest melanoma rates in the world – two out of every three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer before they are 70. It’s clearly an issue we need to address as a nation. Here are some facts about skin cancer that serve as a reminder to take sun safety seriously.

Melanoma is very common – and it can be deadly. Melanoma is the third most common cancer in men and women. It accounts for only 2% of diagnosed skin cancers, but it is responsible for 75% of skin cancer deaths. In the last 20 years, melanoma rates have doubled and are still on the rise. That being said, if melanoma is detected early it can often be completely cured with just a simple procedure.

But melanoma isn’t the only concern. Skin cancer occurs from damage to skin cells, and there are three main types. Along with melanoma, you could be at risk of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. While melanoma is the leading cause of skin cancer death, there are still significant numbers of deaths due to non-melanoma skin cancer.

It’s not worth it for a tan. Tanned skin used to be considered healthy, but actually a tan is a sign that you have been exposed to enough UV radiation to damage your skin. Many people ignore sun safety in favour of tanning for beauty-related reasons, but tanning can also cause wrinkles, sagging, and yellow or brown discolouration on the skin. A fake tan is ok from a skin cancer point of view, but don’t forget that it won’t actually protect you from the sun – you can still get sunburn.

You and your doctor make the best team. You should take time to get familiar with how your skin looks to make it easier to identify any changes. There are many great resources around to help you understand what you’re looking for. The Cancer Councils website is a great place to start. They suggest you keep a close eye out for:

  • any crusty, non-healing sores
  • small lumps that are red, pale or pearly in colour
  • new spots, freckles or any moles changing in colour, thickness or shape over a period of weeks to months.

If you notice any changes or haven’t had a skin check recently, you should see your GP to get your skin assessed. You will need to go to a skin specialist, who will examine your skin to identify any potential areas of concern.  Keeping up regular checks, both at home and every year or so with a professional, will help make sure your skin isn’t preparing a nasty surprise.

We all love the sun, but with summer on the way make sure you protect yourself and your loved ones. Team up with your doctor to ensure that if there is a problem, you’ll pick up on it early. Sunburn is a serious issue, so don’t forget to enjoy the sunshine – but stay safe.

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Broken Toes

By | Body Systems | No Comments

All about Broken Toes

When people break a bone, it’s usually a serious occurrence that requires a trip to hospital. With broken toes, that’s not always the case. Here are some ways to tell if you might have a broken toe, and what you should do about it.

How can you tell if your toe is broken?

Unless you have an extreme break, the only sure way to tell that your toe is broken is to be diagnosed by a medical health professional. The diagnosis is often made by a physical examination combined with medical imaging like an x-ray when necessary. The symptoms of a broken toe can be very similar to other injuries, so it’s important to get your toe looked at by your doctor if you suspect it might have a fracture.

There is no easily definable set of symptoms to diagnose a broken toe – some people with toe fractures are in extreme pain and unable to walk, whereas others can still move around. There are a number of factors that determine how severe your symptoms are, such as:

  • How severe the break is
  • How it was broken
  • Where the break is
  • How close to a joint the break is
  • If the bone has been displaced
  • Other conditions like arthritis or gout

Types of toe fractures.

There is more than one type of fracture that can occur. The two main types are:

Traumatic Fractures. Traumatic fractures are a result of an incident involving the toe, such as dropping something on it or kicking something. They can be minor or severe.

The symptoms happen straight after the event, and could include pain that doesn’t go away with rest, swelling, throbbing and redness.  Most traumatic breaks will develop a dark bruise. These symptoms can persist for weeks if they are left untreated.

Stress fractures. Stress fractures don’t happen as a result of a single event, but build up over time. They are usually hairline fractures that come as a result of repeated stress on the bone. Sometimes stress fractures occur when the muscles become too weak to absorb impact, making toes vulnerable to impact and pressure, which leads them to eventually crack.

Stress fractures often hurt after walking or running, but the pain goes after rest. They are generally sore or tender when touched, and are swollen but without bruising.

Treating a broken toe

If you are diagnosed with a broken toe, there is a range of treatment options that doctors might recommend.

  • Standard treatment for mild fractures, bruises and sprains is following R.I.C.E. – rest, ice, compression and elevation. These techniques reduce pain and help the toe to heal. If the break isn’t severe, it’s possible that this will be the only treatment you need – but let your doctor decide if this is the only treatment you need
  • Strapping toes together or “buddy taping” to keep the broken toe supported
  • A shoe or boot to help you walk without bending the your toe
  • Resetting the bone where the break has caused the toe to become displaced
  • Antibiotics or tetanus shot if the skin has been broken
  • Surgery if the break is very severe and can’t be fixed suing another method.

There is such a wide variety of symptoms and a range of how severe a break could be that it is very important to get your injury assessed by a medical professional. Your GP is a great place to start. When it comes to a sore toe, it’s better safe than sorry. If your toe is giving you trouble, get it check by a professional, and get back on your feet in no time.

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4 Reasons Your Urine Might Smell

By | Body Systems, Diabetes, General Wellbeing, Lifestyle | No Comments

4 Reasons Your Urine Might Smell

One of the best ways to tell what’s going on inside your body is to pay attention to what’s on the way out. Your kidneys act as filters for your body, and urine is how the waste they remove leaves your body. Urine is mostly water, so the waste is usually what gives it any smell or colour.

Normal urine is clear to straw coloured, and generally should not have a strong smell. If your urine output significantly changes and you can’t think of an obvious reason why, it could be a sign of something going on in your body. Here are 4 common changes to urine and what they might mean.

 

1. Dehydration

If you are not consuming adequate liquid, your urine output will reduce and become more concentrated. That could lead to a darker colour and strong smell, getting more noticeable as the dehydration worsens. Simple dehydration can be managed at home by drinking more liquids, but if your dehydration doesn’t resolve quickly, if you have other symptoms like diarrhoea and especially if your urine becomes very dark, you should see your doctor.

2. Oral Intake

 

Sometimes food and medication can change the colour or odour of urine. Asparagus is a classic example – often after eating this vegetable, urine can take on a very distinct odour. If the change is due to a food source it should go away within a day or two. If the change is due to medication, the changes might stay for as long as you are taking the medicine. Some foods and medications can even turn your pee pinkish-red. Feel free to mention the change to your doctor if you are concerned.

3. Infection

 

A urinary tract infection, or UTI, could cause your urine to change in appearance and smell. The presence of bacteria could cause your urine to have a foul smell, as well as appearing cloudy or even bloody. These symptoms could go along with a burning sensation when you pee, and a frequent urge to urinate. UTIs are fairly common, and will need to be assessed and treated by your doctor.

4. Diabetes

 

When a person has high blood sugar, excess sugar is excreted through the urine – which can cause urine to have an unusually sweet smell. In more dangerous cases, a “fruity” smell could be an indication of ketoacidosis, a condition where the body produces toxic substances due to extremely high blood sugar. Undiagnosed or untreated diabetes and ketoacidosis are potentially life-threatening conditions and should be considered an emergency.

If you see any change in your pee and can’t immediately think of what caused it – a recent meal or a new medication – you might want to think about seeing a doctor. Changes that last longer than a day or two and are accompanied by other symptoms should be addressed by a doctor as soon as you can. Some additional symptoms that can go along with urine changes could be pain in your side or back, fever, significantly increased thirst, fatigue, vomiting, or discharge. Your doctor can easily refer you for a urine test to see what’s going on.

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Common Health Myths

By | Body Systems, Featured, General Wellbeing, Lifestyle, Uncategorized | No Comments

It’s important to revisit what we know about our health to check that our knowledge is actually based on good science. Here are 5 common health myths you might have come across, and why they might not be as accurate as many people think.

  1. You can catch a cold by getting cold

It sounds obvious – if you get cold and wet, you’ll come down with a cold.  These days, most people know that colds are in fact caused by a virus, but they’re still quick to blame being cold for their illness.

We pick up viruses and other organisms through contact with other infected people. While these colds are more likely during the cold winter months, it’s likely that the majority of infections are picked up because bad weather forces people indoors, in closer proximity to one another.

The air temperature might have some impact on how long viruses can stay alive, and that inhaling cold air can cool the nasal passage down which can help some viruses to break the mucus barrier and enter the body. However, while cold weather can make it more likely that you will catch a cold, it’s not the weather’s fault when you’re ill.

  1. Cracking your joints can cause arthritis

People who crack their knuckles are routinely told they are making themselves more susceptible to arthritis. The truth is that the risk of arthritis is almost exactly the same for people who do crack their knuckles when compared to people who don’t.

When you crack your knuckles, you are pulling apart the joint very slightly. That causes a pressure decrease in the fluid that keeps the joints lubricated. Bubbles form in the fluid, and the variation in pressure causes the cracking sound. It might be annoying to people around you, but it won’t give you arthritis.

  1. Drink eight glasses of water every day.

Drinking water is essential for a healthy body, but how much should we be drinking? The answer is – enough. The amount of water each person needs can vary widely. Another factor that can influence how much water you need to consume is how much liquid you are consuming from other sources. 80% of an average person’s water intake is sourced from drinks (including caffeinated beverages like coffee), with 20% coming from the food they eat.

Studies show that on average, women require 2.7 litres of water per day, with men requiring 3.7 litres. However, that figure represents the total water intake – meaning your coffee counts. You should still try to drink water, but forcing yourself to drink a pre-determined amount is not necessary.

  1. Choosing low-fat products is better for your health

Low-fat products are sold as healthier options, but that advertising is misleading in many cases. Many low-fat products have increased sugar and salt to compensate for the loss of taste. Low-fat products can contain as many (or even more) kilojoules than their full-fat equivalents. Fat can help you feel full for longer, and a carefully balanced diet will include some healthy fats. Advertisers are very good at getting you to choose their product, but don’t be deceived by claims on the packaging.  A better strategy for choosing healthier options is to practice reading nutritional labels.

  1. The flu vaccine causes the flu

It’s a common misunderstanding that the flu vaccine can give people the flu. The truth is, you cannot catch influenza from a flu shot. The flu vaccine contains inactivated viruses that can’t harm you. However, some people do have mild side effects from the vaccination such as low-grade fever and body aches that can cause them to incorrectly self-diagnose with the flu. It’s important to remember that the flu vaccine is most often offered during periods of increased risk of catching the flu, which can cause a false association between the symptoms and the vaccine.

The vaccine only contains the strains of the influenza virus that authorities predict are the most likely for that season, which leaves people potentially open to other strains of influenza. It also does not provide 100% immunity, although most people will experience reduced symptoms if they do happen to catch the virus. Lastly, many people pick up a bad cold and mistakenly assume they have the flu – and blame their flu shot. Getting the flu shot helps protect you and vulnerable members of the community, and could save you from getting seriously sick.

When it comes to your health, the right advice is crucial. If you are looking for answers to your health questions, your GP is a great place to start. Cut through the conflicting information and get health advice tailored directly to your personal situation.

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Psoriasis: HealthMint Skin Series

By | Body Systems, Skin | No Comments

What You Need to Know About Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a skin condition that can be uncomfortable and make people unhappy with the appearance of their skin. Because it often comes and goes, many people just put up with the symptoms. While the condition isn’t curable, it can be managed with help from your GP.

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a skin condition where the life cycle of skin cells is sped up, which causes cells to build up thickly on the skin’s surface. The patches of skin that have an excess skin build-up can form into scales or red patches. These areas tend to be itchy and uncomfortable, and sometimes even painful. It is most often found on the outside of the elbows, knees or scalp, though it can appear on any part of the skin. Some people get a few small patches of scaling that look almost like dandruff, while others get major eruptions that cover a large area of skin.

Psoriasis is associated with other serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and depression. It also causes a particular type of arthritis known as psoriatic arthritis, which can sometimes occur without a noticeable skin irritation.

Who can get psoriasis?

People of any age can get the skin condition, from small babies right up to elderly people. However, most people are diagnosed in their early adult years. Men and women have almost equal instances of psoriasis. All people groups can get it, although it does occur more frequently depending on racial background.   

How long does psoriasis last?

Psoriasis is a chronic condition, which means the potential for the irritating skin patches is probably not going to go away any time soon. The irritated areas themselves will probably come and go.

How do you know if you’ve got psoriasis?

The signs and symptoms are different for everyone, but here are some common identifiers  you should look out for:

  • Small scaling spots (commonly seen in children)
  • Red patches of skin covered with thick, silvery scales
  • Dry, cracked skin that may bleed
  • Thickened, pitted or ridged nails
  • Itching, burning or soreness
  • Swollen and stiff joints

If you develop a rash that doesn’t go away with an over-the-counter medication, psoriasis is one option your doctor might consider.

What can you do to treat psoriasis?

Because psoriasis currently has no cure, the aim is to improve the symptoms. With mild psoriasis, products are usually recommended or prescribed to be used on the skin, such as moisturisers, vitamin D preparations, or corticosteroid creams.  Ultraviolet light therapy is another way medical professionals can slow down the production of skin cells.

If your psoriasis is severe or not responding to other options, you might need oral or injected medication. You can work with your health professionals to manage your symptoms by giving up smoking, managing stress, regularly moisturising and following the treatment plan given to you by your doctor.

Skin conditions are almost always manageable, and you don’t have to put up with your symptoms. Get in touch with your GP if you think you might have psoriasis, and start yourself on a journey towards clear, healthy skin.

Want more information?

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Is Your Poo Normal?

By | Body Systems, General Wellbeing | No Comments

Without special tests and equipment, it can be hard to know what is going on inside your body. However, there is one way you can get some clues – your poo. It might not sound pleasant, but paying attention to what is leaving your body might help you understand what is going on inside it.

What should your poo look like?

There is an ideal type of poo! You want a poo that comes out easily in one go, is smooth and soft and a shade of brown. It shouldn’t smell too bad, and ideally would sink. Once you’ve finished, your bowels should feel properly emptied. It’s normal for people to poo from three times a day to once every three days. Go with what’s normal for you – if you go from needing to empty your bowels once every three days to suddenly heading to the toilet three times a day, it could potentially signal a change in your diet or your body.

Obviously, your faeces is related to what you eat and how you’re feeling. If your poo varies a bit for a day or two and goes back to normal, it probably isn’t anything to be concerned about. If you have an issue that lasts for a number of days or weeks, you might want to talk to your GP. You might notice a change in frequency, if you have constipation or diarrhoea, or if the colour of your stool changes. It’s also important to note if there are any accompanying symptoms like abdominal discomfort, nausea, change in appetite, or weight loss.

Colour

Black and red can signal that there is blood in your poo – black stools have had the blood in them for a longer time, causing them to change from red to black. The colour could signal problems in the upper digestive system like a stomach ulcer, but sometimes can be related to a food or medication. Bright red blood in your stool is most likely a haemorrhoid or small tear, but it’s best to get this checked out. Any potential blood in your stool is a symptom you will need to talk to your doctor about.

Stools can be yellowish, tan, clay-coloured or grey, which would probably indicate digestive problems with the liver, gall bladder, or issues like celiac disease. Green stool can be related to an infection in the digestive tract. Sometimes the colour of your poo can be simply related to what you’ve eaten – a dark red stool might be alarming, but if you ate a lot of beetroot that might explain the colour. If you have any concerns, make sure you ask your GP.

Consistency

Hard poo can mean you are constipated, which is usually caused by inadequate fibre intake or not drinking enough water. Loose stools can indicate a digestive problem such as celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome. Diarrhoea is often related to a bacterial infection in the digestive tract, lactose intolerance, food poisoning or medicine intake. Pay very careful attention to keeping hydrated, and if diarrhoea lasts for more than a few days, see your GP.

There are many different explanations for why your poo might be unusual, so it’s worth checking and considering what is normal for you. It’s important for everyone to have a good fibre intake, drink lots of water, exercise and avoid stress as much as possible. If you’ve done these things and notice any significant changes, you should have a chat with your GP. It’s smart, not embarrassing – poo is your best clue to what’s happening inside you.

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Four Tests You Should Have Every Year

By | Body Systems, Cancer, General Wellbeing, Men's Health, Skin, Women's Health

Four Tests You Should Have Every Year

 

 

Many people avoid seeing the doctor until there is something obviously wrong. There is a huge need for preventative health measures, and early diagnosis is crucial in the successful treatment of many conditions.  A good GP will work with you to not only fix existing problems, but to prevent and identify possible areas of concern to make sure you are not only healthy now, but stay healthy for the future.

Here are four simple tests that you should have at least every year to make sure your body is functioning well.

Full Blood Tests

Your blood holds so many clues to your wellbeing, and if you don’t check you will never know. From potentially serious conditions like diabetes and cancer, to general fatigue that can come from low counts of vitamins and minerals in your blood – it’s best to find out. Your blood can give you an indication of your heart health and levels of cholesterol, and can give clues as to how your other organs are performing.

If you have any concerns about your health, talk to your doctor before the tests are ordered so they can advise you if it’s worth having some extra areas looked at. A follow-up appointment once the results come through is important as it gives your doctor the opportunity to address any concerns or send you for further tests if necessary.

Blood Pressure

If you have personal concerns about your blood pressure or any family history of unhealthy blood pressure you will need to be checked more often, but everyone should be checked at least yearly. While you can often get the tests done at a local chemist, making an appointment with your GP allows you to record your readings to notice any changes over time, to discuss what the numbers mean, and to be advised on whether any further action may be required.

“Down Under” tests – Prostate Checks, Mammograms, Colon Checks and Pap Smears

No one said they were fun, but on the other hand they are not as bad as you might imagine. Chat to your doctor about how often you should get these checks and what form they should take – your age and family history will determine how frequent they should be. For example, prostate health can sometimes be measured using a blood test, rather than the manual examination some people fear, and mammograms are not recommended for women under the age of 40. Regardless of the form these tests take, don’t let your fear of discomfort get in the way of routine checks that could save your life.

Skin Checks

Melanoma and other types of skin cancer are on the rise in Australia, and can usually be easily diagnosed by a specialist in a quick, non-invasive appointment. The specialist will look closely at your skin, paying special attention to any moles or spots you might have. Family history of skin cancer increases your risk of getting the same disease but even one bad sunburn over a lifetime has a similar increased risk. Early detection is vital for successful treatment, and many places even bulk bill their skin scans – so cost shouldn’t be a factor.

 

It’s important to find a GP who you have a good relationship with, who will work with you to guard your future health as well as treating your present concerns. Book an appointment to discuss what tests might be right for you, and don’t let nerves or apathy get the better of you. Your health is worth guarding, and a few simple tests could literally save your life.

 

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When Bacteria Go Bad – Antibiotic Resistance and What You Can Do About It

By | Body Systems, General Wellbeing, Immunisation

When Bacteria Go Bad – Antibiotic Resistance and What You Can Do About It.

 

 

A killer disease that can’t be treated sounds like the plot to a horror film.  Antibiotic resistance is just as scary, and it’s a very real threat. Hollywood normally solves the problem with an attractive scientist coming up with a simple solution. In the real world, the heroes are everyday people who choose to safely use antibiotics only as prescribed by a qualified professional. Here are some facts you might not know about antibiotic resistance, and how you can make a difference.

Resistance happens naturally – but we’re making it much worse.

Antibiotics are used to kill or weaken bacteria, which helps your body to fight the infection.   Antibiotic resistance happens when antibiotics are not used correctly, resulting in bacteria that have “learned” how to resist that type of medication. They can then be passed on to other people.

While bacteria naturally adapt to become “stronger”, humans are making the situation much worse by giving unnecessary antibiotics to people, crops, animals and fish. Antibiotics are essential medications that have saved countless lives, but they should not be misused.

It’s a huge threat.

The WHO state that “Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.” If you get an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection, the standard treatments will not work for you. Your physician will have to find stronger and rarer antibiotics, and in some cases the bacteria is so resistant that treatment options run out. Antibiotic resistance can affect anyone, of any age, in any country.

There are significant consequences.

Some infections that used to be relatively easy to treat, such as pneumonia, gonorrhoea and salmonella infections, now have strains that are resistant to some or all antibiotics. While modern medicine is able to treat illnesses that were previously almost a death sentence, antibiotic resistance puts many modern procedures at risk.

For example, chemotherapy and surgeries like transplanting organs and caesarean sections become much more dangerous with the chance of contracting an infection that can’t be treated. Antibiotic resistance leads to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and a higher rate of death.

We can help fight it.

The situation is far from hopeless, and we can all do our part to slow down the effects. Many colds, flus and sicknesses are caused by viruses or other microbes, which antibiotics cannot kill. Only bacterial infections need antibiotics, and often our body can be given the chance to fight off infection by itself before going on a course of antibiotics.

Avoiding bacterial infections in the first place reduces your chances of contracting an illness that requires antibiotics. Get vaccinated, wash your hands regularly, and seek medical advice before taking medication. Never share your medication or take someone else’s.

Your doctor can help.

Qualified healthcare professionals are the only people who can tell you what antibiotics you should take, the dosage and how long you should be taking them for. You can help by listening to their advice, following it (even if you feel better before the treatment ends), and not pressuring them to give you antibiotics. See your GP if you are unwell, and work with them to find the right solution for your individual circumstances. We all have a personal responsibility to help combat antibiotic resistance.

Click here to book an appointment with a GP to discuss illness and appropriate treatment –>

 

4 Reasons Everybody Should Think About Their Lungs

By | Body Systems, Cancer, Chronic Disease, General Wellbeing

4 Reasons Everybody Should Think About Their Lungs

 

 

We take around 22,000 breaths every day, but more than half of all Australians do not think about their lung health.  November is Lung Health Awareness month, which is a good time for everybody to pause and think about their own lung health, as well as having a supportive attitude towards other people who have been diagnosed with lung disease.

Lung disease symptoms often increase slowly, which causes people to adjust their daily life or treat their symptoms instead of getting help.  Lung disease does not discriminate, and can affect people of any age, any gender, smokers and non-smokers. Yet people with lung disease often feel judged and misunderstood. Here are 4 reasons why we should all take time to think about our lungs.

  1. Most people don’t take lung health seriously

Three out of five Australians who participated in a Lung Health Foundation study were found to have symptoms or risk factors that increased the possibility that they might develop lung disease, while more than one in ten have been diagnosed. Lung health is something that every person should consider. According to Lung Foundation Australia, 1 in 7 Australians die because of lung disease every year, yet many people continue to ignore or misunderstand the signs and symptoms of lung disease.

  1. Lung disease is a very serious diagnosis

Lung cancer has one of the lowest survival rates of any cancer – only 15% of those diagnosed are alive five years after their diagnosis. One Australian dies every hour from lung cancer, which makes it the leading cause of cancer death in Australia – more than prostate, breast and ovarian cancer combined. Early detection gives the best chance of a positive outcome, making it even more important that we are conscious of changes to our lungs.

  1. Lung cancer sufferers face discrimination

While there are many factors linked to lung cancer, almost 90% of Australians think that smoking is the only lung cancer risk. This misinformation has led to a third of Australians believing that people with lung cancer have only themselves to blame.

While factors such as smoking and poor lifestyle decisions do increase the risk of lung disease, many people who are living with a diagnosis have never smoked in their life. Regardless of their status as a smoker, people with lung disease still deserve the compassion and understanding that we would give to anyone suffering from a life-altering illness.

  1. There are symptoms we can all look out for

Most symptoms should be compared to your usual lung functions, so it’s important to be aware of your lung functions even if you don’t think there is a problem. Some of the symptoms that might indicate a problem are:

  • Breathlessness, especially compared to others of your age
  • Chest tightness or wheezing
  • A persistent, new or changed cough
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood, mucus or phlegm.
  • Unexplained weight loss or fatigue
  • Frequent chest infections

Also, you should pay extra attention to your lungs if you have a family history of lung disease, are a past or present smoker, or have worked in a job that exposed you to dust, gas or fumes. If you have any concerns, talk to your GP as soon as possible so they can help you on the road to healthy lungs.

Click here to book an appointment with a GP to discuss your lungs –>

 

Staying Ahead of Hayfever

By | Body Systems, Chronic Disease, General Wellbeing

Staying Ahead of Hayfever

 

 

Spring is a beautiful time of year, but hay fever makes some people more nervous than excited.  While many people self-manage hay fever using over-the-counter medications, working out a strategy with your GP is the most effective way to control symptoms. Learning about your options can help you reduce the negative effects of hay fever and get back to enjoying the weather.

What is hay fever?

The proper term is “allergic rhinitis” and while the condition is stereotypically set off by springtime pollen, there are many triggers that cause different people to react. Hay fever affects around 500 million people worldwide. When the body encounters an allergen in the air, the over-sensitive immune system releases histamines and other chemicals that produce unpleasant symptoms – for example, a runny nose, facial itchiness, headaches, sneezing, puffy eyes, fatigue, and wheezing.

Allergic Rhinitis can be seasonal or occur all year round (perennial). Hay fever can’t be cured but it can be controlled, and if you haven’t seen a doctor recently you might be unaware of new options for treatment.

Hay fever triggers.

Hay fever symptoms are triggered when your body detects a harmless substance that it wrongly perceives as a threat. Allergens are different for everybody. Reactions to airborne allergens can also be made worse by other factors (such as your diet), which is why an individualised plan is important.

Some common seasonal allergens are pollen, fungal spores and other plant matter.  Perennial allergens include mould and fungal spores, dust mites, skin flakes from pets, smoke and air pollution.

Medical intervention.

There are many hay fever medications available without a prescription, but consulting with a doctor will help you get the right medication for your symptoms. Most medications have minimum and maximum dosages for the most effective use, and some nasal sprays can actually make symptoms worse if you use them for longer than three days.

The doctor might advise or prescribe antihistamines, corticosteroids or decongestants in a range of strengths and delivery methods. People with severe hay fever symptoms might require immunotherapy treatments.

Combat your symptoms.

When you have identified the allergens that are most likely to trigger your symptoms, you can create a specialised plan to help you combat your hay fever. Some strategies for common allergens include:

  • Keep pets outside, especially their bedding
  • Keep windows shut, especially at night
  • Monitor your local pollen count
  • Wear a face mask on high pollen-count days (or small nose masks that fit inside your nostrils)
  • Limit alcohol because it contains histamines – alcohol can double the risk of symptoms
  • Buy new pillows every spring
  • Don’t dry clothes and bedding outside on high pollen days
  • Find and kill all household mould

Make an appointment with your GP, follow their suggestions, and then report back on your progress. It might help you to bring a list of symptoms and their frequency and severity to your first appointment. Sometimes hay fever can mask other serious conditions such as asthma, which is another reason to get symptoms checked. You might not be able to cure your hay fever, but with the help of your GP you can get your symptoms under control.

Click here to book a GP to discuss managing your hay fever –>

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