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Common Health Myths

By | Body Systems, Featured, General Wellbeing, Lifestyle | 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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The Importance of Universal Health Care

By | General Wellbeing

The Importance of Universal Health Care

 

Person getting their blood pressure checked by a doctor

World Health Day has been running since 1950, with a different emphasis each year on an issue of global importance. This year, the World Health Organisation is focusing on universal health coverage. So, what are the statistics on accessing health services around the world? And how does Australia stack up?

Paying for Health

Imagine watching a family member get sick, knowing that you do not have the money to pay for medical services – or if taking your child to a doctor was a major financial decision. At least half the people in the world do not have access to essential health services, and the services available can push people into extreme poverty to pay for the things they need.

The “health for all” objective extends beyond helping people access health care that won’t plunge them into poverty, as the WHO says it has even more significant effects. According to the WHO, offering universal health care “protects countries from epidemics, reduces poverty and the risk of hunger, creates jobs, drives economic growth and enhances gender equality”.

Universal Health Care in Australia

Australians have access to universal health care, through Medicare. Australians and permanent residents have access to subsidised health care for a range of permitted procedures. Australia also offers the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (or PBS) which subsidises a range of essential medications that could otherwise be prohibitively expensive. Australia also offers a “safety net threshold”, which offers even further subsidisation to households who exceed a set amount of expenditure on health care within a year.

Room for Improvement

In a 2017 study, the ABS survey showed that 4% of Australians had delayed or avoided seeing a GP because of the cost, and 7% had avoided filling a prescription because they couldn’t afford the medication. Around 12% had not received specialist medical care due to costs.

While Australia has a world class universal health care system, one major discrepancy is in the life expectancy of Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people – around 10 years less than someone who is not of Indigenous heritage. There are more deaths in each age group and for all major causes when compared to the non-Indigenous population. Lower utilisation of health services is a commonly cited factor in the increased death rates, and it’s an area that Australia needs to work on to ensure equal health services for all.

Health for All is a simple statement, but it has far reaching consequences for people who do not have access to affordable health care. April 7 is a good day to mindful of people whose finances determine their health, and to be thankful for the services we have access to in Australia.

 

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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.

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