Category

Immunisation

Keeping Up To Date for World Immunisation Week

By | Children's Health, Immunisation

Keeping Up To Date for World Immunisation Week

 

A baby being kissed by his mother

World Immunisation Week is here, and it’s time to focus on vaccinations.  Around the world, more than 19 million children are unvaccinated or under-vaccinated. Australia has relatively high rates of vaccination, but there is still a minority of people who do not follow the recommended vaccination schedule.

In Australia, we’ve largely eliminated many once-common diseases through immunisation – but that doesn’t mean they can’t come back. Vaccines work, but we shouldn’t get complacent about illness. Let’s look at why it’s important to keep up-to-date.

Do Vaccines Work?

Vaccines are extremely effective at reducing disease, and are the safest and most cost-effective way to do so. Vaccines use our own immune systems to protect us. A weakened, dead or part of a virus or bacteria is introduced to the immune system. It’s too weak to actually infect us, but enough for our immune system to “learn” to fight it with specialised antibodies. If we encounter the real disease, our bodies will quickly recognise and destroy it, resulting in a mild version of the sickness or no infection at all.

It’s easy to feel like certain vaccines are unnecessary because we are used to living in a country that has spent decades attempting to eradicate serious diseases. However, just because there are fewer visible cases in the community doesn’t mean the disease has gone.

Are all Vaccines Really Necessary?

Some people avoid certain vaccines, believing them to be unnecessary. Measles is a good example of a sickness that people underestimate, and might avoid being immunised against. While for most people measles is a relatively mild (although unpleasant) illness, around 1 in 5,000 who get the virus will die. Other complications are hepatitis, meningitis, loss of vision, and complications for unborn children if a pregnant mother gets the disease.

In 2014, the WHO announced that measles was eliminated in Australia. Surely now we can stop vaccinating against it? Unfortunately not. As the recent measles outbreaks in various parts of Australia show, just because the disease has been eliminated in the Australian population does not mean it can’t be brought in from outside the country. When it is, a vaccinated population will make it much harder for an epidemic to spread.

Could Improved Hygiene Explain Disease Reduction?

Some people believe that reduction in serious diseases is not a result of vaccinating, but rather just because we as a society have become cleaner and more aware of diseases. Chicken pox is the best example of why this is not the case.

The vaccine for varicella (which causes chicken pox) has only been available since the mid-1990s. In the early 1990s, before the vaccine became available, the U.S. had about four million cases of chicken pox per year. By 2004, cases of chicken pox had dropped by 85%. Hygiene practices had not changed significantly in that time – only immunisation could explain such a drastic improvement.

What You Can Do

The most important job is to make sure that you and your family are up-to-date on their vaccinations. The Australian Childhood Immunisation Register has information on what your child has already had, and what they might need. If you have fallen behind, you can talk to your doctor about a catch-up schedule.

Getting vaccinated is absolutely vital for the health of your family and the wider community. If you have questions, your GP can answer them and point you in the right direction for accurate, trustworthy information. Vaccines work, and it’s up to each individual to keep ourselves and vulnerable people around us protected.

 

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

Stay Safer This Flu Season

By | Children's Health, General Wellbeing, Immunisation

 Stay Safer This Flu Season

Flu season is coming! The influenza virus is always around, but the colder months of the year make us all huddle in together and makes it easier for the virus to spread. From April to October, the number of cases of influenza rise dramatically in Australia. Sometimes when people get a cold they call it “the flu”, but influenza is more than just a nasty cold – last year alone it was responsible for the deaths of 1,000 Australians.

There are a few safeguards we can put into place to help reduce the chances of getting the flu this flu season.

Basic Hygiene

Let’s start with the basics – one of the best ways of protecting yourself is the things we already know. Without becoming a “germaphobe”, it’s important to be aware of how we can pick up and transfer germs from one place to another – and how to break the cycle.

  • You’ve been washing your hands since you were little, but it might be time to revisit your technique. Make sure you’re washing each part of your hands (backs, palms, in between your fingers) with plenty of soap and hot water for at least the length of time it takes to sing “happy birthday” under your breath.
  • Use disposable tissues wherever possible and bin them straight away, and cover your whole mouth and nose whenever you cough or sneeze.
  • Try to keep your hands away from your face as much as possible – including rubbing your nose, eyes and mouth.
  • Clean surfaces regularly, especially when they’re high use such as door knobs, telephones and keyboards.
  • Lastly, flu season is not the time to share – make sure you wash cups, plates and cutlery thoroughly before using them.Stay

Get Vaccinated.

There is a whole lot of misinformation that circulates about the flu vaccine – with some people saying it can give you the flu, or that it doesn’t work. The truth is, while it’s not perfect, the flu vaccine is one of the best defences we have to protect ourselves against the flu.

The flu vaccine is less effective than other vaccines because of the nature of influenza. The virus mutates and changes regularly, and there are a number of viruses responsible. In your flu vaccine is protection against the 3 or 4 most likely strains to be around based on evidence from past seasons and from other countries. It’s not perfect, but it’s much better than nothing.

Not only does your flu vaccine help protect you from getting infected with an influenza virus, if you do get the virus your symptoms are likely to be less severe and go away quicker, with less risk of extra complications. That’s well worth the small investment in getting the vaccine.

Many people confuse a bad cold with the flu, but influenza can be much more serious, causing hospitalisation and even death in sometimes otherwise healthy people. If you come down with an illness, it’s important to do everything you can to avoid spreading it and to see a doctor if your symptoms don’t improve over a few days. Through this flu season, keep yourself safe and do your part to protect others from this nasty strain of viruses.

 

Click here to book an appointment with a GP to discuss the flu ->

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 –>

 

Eliminating Hepatitis – It’s Everybody’s Problem

By | General Wellbeing, Immunisation

Eliminating Hepatitis – It’s everybody’s problem

Hepatitis has a reputation as a disease that only affects people who live an unhealthy lifestyle. While factors like sharing needles can greatly increase the chances of contracting a form of viral hepatitis, it is quite possible for almost anybody to come into contact with the disease. Being informed about hepatitis is everybody’s responsibility.

So, what is hepatitis?

The term “hepatitis” refers to inflammation of the liver. There can be many causes and degrees of severity. Normally when people talk about hepatitis, they are talking about one of the viral forms.

  • Hepatitis A (HAV) is a virus that is often transmitted by coming into contact with food or water that has been contaminated by faeces of an infected person.
  • Hepatitis B (HBV) is a virus that is spread via bodily fluids – blood, semen or similar.
  • Hepatitis C (HCV) is a virus that is also spread by contact with bodily fluid.
  • Hepatitis D (HDV) is a virus that is spread through direct blood contact, but can’t infect someone unless they also have Hepatitis B. It is uncommon in developed countries.
  • Hepatitis E (HEV) is a virus that is spread through contaminated water. It is very uncommon in developed countries.
  • You can also get non-viral hepatitis from an auto-immune disease, or as a complication from drugs, alcohol, medications or toxins.

How is hepatitis diagnosed?

Most symptoms of hepatitis aren’t obvious until there is a lot of damage to the liver. First, your doctor will talk to you to try and find any risk factors. You might get a physical exam where the doctor will gently press on your stomach to feel for any abnormal swelling, or if you have pain.

There are blood tests to see how well the liver is working. Abnormal results might be the first sign something is wrong, especially in the early stages. Other blood tests might be necessary to check for a number of factors that might indicate hepatitis.

Ultrasound can be used as a diagnostic tool to check that your liver looks normal. If there are still concerns, your doctor might order a liver biopsy, which is a small sample of tissue that is taken from your liver – normally with a needle instead of surgery. These samples show what’s really going on with your liver.

Treatment

Some types of hepatitis can be cured; some types can be vaccinated against, and some need to be managed. If you are found to have a form of hepatitis, you will need to work closely with your doctor to discuss treatment options.

Avoiding hepatitis

The best ways to avoid hepatitis are:

  • Good hygiene practices, including eating at restaurants with high safety standards
  • Avoiding blood, including spilled blood, shared drug needles and razors.
  • Practising safe sex
  • Be extra alert when traveling to developing countries; avoid local water, ice, raw fresh produce and seafood.
  • Stay up-to-date with vaccinations.

 

If you are concerned about any symptoms you might be experiencing, such as lethargy, unexplained weight loss, pale stools, abdominal pain, or if you would like a routine blood test – be sure to see your GP. Up to 90% of people who have hepatitis B are unaware that of their status, and the symptoms are often not obvious in the long-term forms of the disease. Your GP is the best person to help you find peace of mind and good health.

Click here to book to see a GP –>

 

Travel Vaccines – what’s the ‘point’?

By | Immunisation, Lifestyle, Travel

Travel vaccines – what’s the ‘point’?

By: Chantelle | Categories: Travel, vaccination, holiday

 

Who doesn’t love that time of year when you can jet off and escape somewhere with the family? I know I do. However, I was shocked to find that people often spend time planning their hotel, flights, sightseeing and even making meal reservations, but forget the most important thing – to protect themselves against preventable disease.

Why get travel vaccinations?

We are very fortunate to be living in Australia, where the spread of many infectious diseases has been controlled. Unfortunately this isn’t the case worldwide. When we travel we risk exposure to these diseases as well as diseases that don’t occur in Australia. Even in safe destinations, disease outbreaks do occur.

Additionally, some countries may require you to be vaccinated against particular diseases, and may deny you entry at the border if you haven’t done so.

While everyone should look into vaccination before travelling, particular groups are at higher risk of travel related diseases – such as pregnant women, babies and young children, the elderly and those with a weakened immune system.

 

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines work by exposing our bodies to small, safe, inactive doses of bacteria or virus that can cause disease. In response, our white blood cells activate and begin to make antibodies. These antibodies remain in our immune system, and are able to respond immediately if exposed to the active disease in the future. In other words, the vaccine tricks our body into thinking it is under assault, and the immune system responds by making a weapon which is on standby for future infection. The reason why there isn’t a ‘one vaccine fix all’ solution, is that the antibodies created by the body are specific to each particular disease. Further, some diseases, such as influenza (the flu), change enough to make existing antibodies ineffective. This is why we need flu shots every year.

 

Which vaccination will I need?

There isn’t one straight forward answer to this. It depends on your destination, previous vaccinations, the time since your last vaccinations, your age and health.

For travel to areas with high risk of specific infections, immunisation may be required for diseases including:

  • Cholera
  • Hepatitis A
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • Meningococcal C
  • Rabies
  • Tick-borne encephalitis
  • Typhoid fever
  • Tuberculosis
  • Yellow fever

 

When should I start the process?

You should visit your doctor 6-8 weeks before departure. This is for two reasons:

(1) your immune system needs time to respond to a vaccination;

(2) some vaccines require more than one injection

 

If you have any further queries or will be travelling soon and haven’t received personal travel health advice, we highly recommend that you book yourself and your family in for a travel consultation. HealthMint offers travel immunisation and consultations in a beautiful and relaxing architecturally designed clinic, and offers simple online booking.

 

P.S. We also highly recommend that you:

  • check the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade ‘Smarttraveller’ website prior to leaving, for country specific advice regarding safety, security, local laws and health and to register your travel plans in case of emergency;
  • have a read of our post on travelling with children
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Tips for Travelling with Children

By | Children's Health, General Wellbeing, Immunisation, Lifestyle, Travel

Planning a fun family trip these holidays? Travelling with children should be a joy, particularly with some forward planning. These tips will help smooth out some of the bumps and ensure you have a pleasant journey. 

 

Stay hydrated 

The recirculated air in aeroplanes can be particularly dehydrating, so it’s important to take regular sips of water. This can also help with motion sickness.

Feed infants at the same rate or pattern as you would at home

Feeding your child more than you normally would can increase their discomfort in flight. This is because it results in more gasses being ingested. Due to cabin pressure changes gas in our digestive system expands causing bloating and discomfort.

Contact the airline in advance

They can help with arranging children’s meals and a bassinet if you have a young baby.

Pack the baby wipes

You never know when they will come in handy to wipe hands, restaurant tables or even toilet seats!

Don’t forget the first aid kit!

I recommend speaking to your doctor about what you may need to take with you. But obvious ones would be panadol, bandaids and antihistamines.

Give your children a personal travel diary before leaving

I still remember how delighted I was as a child to go out and pick a travel diary before each holiday. I would then spend hours on the plane, in the car, and during my downtime detailing my day, where we went, what we saw, what we ate. I even kept wrappers from little chocolates and lollies, stickers, brochures and cards to stick in my diaries. If your kids are of an age where they can write, I highly recommend this. Even if their writing skills are just developing, encourage them to spend time in the aeroplane ‘planning’ their trip, writing in simple words or with pictures. I used to write down where we were heading, which cities, where we were staying and what I was hoping to see and eat there. You could also give them little drawing tasks like to draw aeroplane, the pilot, what sights they think they will see etc.

Use relaxing music

Music is wonderful for setting a mood, and this is no different when the mood you want to create for your children is one of relaxation. Why not load up a relaxing play list onto some iPods to help your children fall asleep while on the move? I used to lug around my purple diskman, usually with my Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera CDs. But I would also carry a CD of chill out music for whenever I wanted to zone out.

Dealing with anxiety / a fear of flying

Some children and adults have a fear of flying, which is very normal and very treatable. However, it’s not something to leave to the last minute – it is encouraged that you approach it well in advance. Your doctor can give advice on coping mechanisms and arrange specialist treatment if necessary.

Another tool which many find useful for anxiety is a product called Rescue RemedyRescue Remedy is a mix of flower remedies known for their calming effects. It comes in a variety of forms – drops, spray and pastilles. I recommend putting drops of Rescue Remedy in a water bottle to sip on while in transit – that way you are helping yourself/your child stay calm as well as hydrated.

Coping with ear pain

There is nothing worse than being exhausted from travel and then experiencing that excruciating pain in your ears during take off and landing. On one trip when my sister and I were little, we were both crying so much from pain that strangers passed chocolates down the aisle to us. It must have been pretty distressing for other travellers to see us like that.

It’s nothing serious, and certainly nothing to worry about. However, it can be very distressing – particularly for children. It occurs because the eustachian tube that runs between the middle ear and pharynx (part of the throat) gets blocked or swollen. When cabin pressure changes rapidly the blocked eustachian tube isn’t able to adjust properly, causing discomfort. This is particularly a problem for children whose eustachian tubes are shorter and more easily blocked than adults or those who have a cold, allergy or sinus condition.

I have since discovered something which means I no longer suffer when flying – Earplanes.  They work by lessening the pressure difference in your ear, allowing your eustachian tube to function more normally. Importantly, they come in a children’s version. Honestly, I never fly without them.

If, however, you or your child suffers from chronic sinus pain or an ongoing cold or virus, it’s important to see a doctor to get to the bottom of it.

 

My sister and I suffered from terrible ear pain during flights when we were younger. Since discovering Ear Planes, we haven’t had to worry!

Travel vaccines

Children are more vulnerable to picking up viruses than adults. It’s important make sure your child’s immunisations are up to date. There are also diseases specific to certain travel destinations – it is exceptionally important to get vaccinated against these before travel. It may also be a requirement of entry in some countries. Keep an eye out for my upcoming post on travel vaccination, and if you need to see a doctor in the mean time you can book here.

When should you see a doctor?

In most instances seeing a doctor prior to travel with children is a good idea. Your doctor will be able to advise you on whether you need any particular vaccinations and provide more detailed travel advice. They will be able to assess and treat your child if they are suffering from blocked ears or any other conditions. They will also be able to suggest specific medications that you may need to take with you.

you can book here to see a HealthMint doctor

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