December Edition

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Featured article from December 2019 edition

A KidsSafe summer

Summer holidays are a fun time for children but can be a bit stressful for parents. While it’s easier to get children off screens when the weather is fine, the “home before dark” policy of the past are long gone. Striking a balance between helicopter parenting and free-range parenting requires some consideration to keep your children entertained but safe at the same time.

Children are at risk of dehydration so make sure they are drinking plenty of water, especially when outdoors. While slip, slop, slap should go without saying, it is important to remember that sun screen may only last a few hours and needs to be reapplied.

Playgrounds today are far safer than in the past but falls can and do still occur. Age appropriate supervision and choice of equipment can minimise this. Psychologists point out that allowing some risk taking enables the child to build resilience and also learn their limitations.

Knowing how to swim is important in Australia as is knowing basic water safety. Swimming is a great, healthy and fun activity for children. Make sure your child swims between the flags at the beach and watch them at all times around water. Fences and gates do not replace vigilance.

Use insect repellant especially at dusk. Insect bites and stings are usually annoying rather than serious but if you have any concerns, see your GP.

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October  Edition, click HERE

Memory loss

Featured article from October 2019 edition

The prospect of memory loss is one of the major concerns of people who are getting older. The ‘good news’ is that while the total number of people with dementia is increasing, the percentage of the population with dementia is declining.

Work over the past three decades shows that as each cohort gets older, a smaller number of people are being diagnose with dementia.

There are a number of causes.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common. Risk factors include a family history, past trauma to the head (especially repeated concussions), smoking and alcohol consumption.

The condition generally comes on slowly. It is worth noting that occasionally forgetting where you put your keys is not the first sign. Diagnosis is largely on assessing mental state through questionnaire.

A CT or MRI scan may be done to assess the brain. Certain changes are typically seen in people with Alzheimer’s.

Blood tests are done to rule out treatable conditions that can impact memory (e.g. underactive thyroid, certain infections, kidney or liver diseases). Any underlying secondary cause can be treated accordingly.

There is no treatment, as such, for Alzheimer’s. Available medications only slow progression and not always even that. The key is practical support for the individual and carers.

Talk to your GP about available support services.

The World Health Organisation recommends physical exercise, adequate sleep, sensible diet to keep the brain active.

Avoiding smoking and consuming only moderate alcohol, controlling blood pressure and blood sugar all help.

August Edition, click HERE

Featured article from the August edition:

Sinusitis on the Nose

The body has a number of air-filled sinuses which sit below, above and behind the eyes, and are in communication with the nasal passages. Their role is to warm and filter air and produce mucous to trap inhaled dust and other irritants. Too much mucous production, swelling of the linings or blockage can lead to sinusitis.

Risk factors include smoking, regular use of decongestant sprays, dental infection, and nasal polyps. Common predisposing factors are a viral illness such as a cold or allergy issues such as hay fever. Sinusitis can also be of itself.

Typical symptoms are a blocked nose, headache or facial pain, post nasal drip, cough, yellow or green nasal mucous and a feeling of pressure in the sinuses. There may be a fever.

Treatment depends on cause. If allergy related then antihistamines and steam inhalation, with or without eucalyptus, can help. Avoid decongestant sprays. Over the counter steroid sprays may help but best talk to your doctor before self-medicating. Simple analgesics such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can ease symptoms.

Where a bacterial infection is suspected antibiotics will be prescribed and some people need two courses. Some people develop chronic or recurrent sinusitis. This can, in turn, impact hearing by blocking the eustachian tube, which drains from the middle ear. If the sinuses become permanently congested and do not respond to treatment, they may need drainage or clearing which is a hospital procedure.

June Edition, click HERE

Featured article from the June edition:

Whooping cough

Whilst rare these days due to vaccination, there are still over 1000 cases of the infection “whooping cough” in Australia each year. It is caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis spread from person to person. The infection causes irritation of the lining of the airways and increased mucous.

Although any age group can be infected, the elderly and those under age one, are at particular risk of secondary pneumonia. Symptoms start about a week after exposure and may be non-specific with runny nose, low grade fever and cough. The paroxysmal stage starts seven to 14 days later with the hallmark cough on spasms ending with the “whoop”. Later vomiting may also occur.

Diagnosis is not always straight forward. In the early stages there are no specific features. Swabs from the nose or throat can be diagnostic. Blood tests are not always reliable and can take some weeks to turn positive.

Treatment is directed to easing the cough and other symptoms. Steam inhalation helps. A course of antibiotics may be needed. Young children may need to be hospitalised. Those with infection need to stay away from school or work. Exclusion times vary according to circumstances.

Prevention is the key so make sure you and your family are fully vaccinated. The whooping cough vaccine is part of the childhood schedule and is also recommended for pregnant women between weeks 28 and 32.


April Edition, click HERE

Featured article from the April edition:

Hepatitis C – Avoiding Damage

Hepatitis C virus was first “discovered” in 1989. Catching the virus was associated with blood transfusions before 1990 but today the main risk factors are sharing intravenous drug needles, tattooing and body piercing (if not sterile). Hepatitis C is no longer officially classed as a sexually transmissible disease but its spread via sexual contact is still possible if there are cuts or open wounds. Needle stick injuries carry a very small risk. The virus is not spread by hugging or through sharing food.

At the end of 2017 it was estimated that 200,000 Australians had Hepatitis C.

There may be no symptoms of infection. Symptoms include tiredness, fatigue, nausea, fever, itchy skin and loss of appetite. Some people only get symptoms many years after contracting the virus.

Long term the virus can damage the liver leading to cirrhosis and /or liver cancer.

Diagnosis is by blood testing. A liver scan may also be advised. Since 2016 there have been new and successful treatments for hepatitis C that can cure the condition in 95% of cases, with few side effects. Treatment before 2016 was less effective and side effects were a major problem for many people.

If you think you are at risk of Hepatitis C talk to your doctor. If diagnosed, treatment can be through your GP or a specialist.


February Edition, click HERE

Featured article from the February edition:

Living with Obesity

Over the last 40 years, there have been an increase in the number pf people overweight or obese, helped by a reduction in body mass index (BMI) classifying overweight from 27.5 to 25 in the late 1980’s. This has significantly inflated the statistics.

Another little known fact is that in over three million people studies have demonstrated no effect on life expectancy up to a BMI of 30.

Many people find reducing weight difficult. Their cause is not helped by the judgmental ways they can be treated. Overweight children may be subject to teasing and bullying in the playground. Many overweight adults are uncomfortable going to the beach or to the gym (notwithstanding that exercise can help). Purchasing clothes and swimwear can be traumatic.

Media or these days, social media (think Instagram), can portray images of “perfect” bodies (often photoshopped) which adds to the pressure.

So, is there a solution? Each person needs to consider their health in total. Overweight is but one aspect. Being overweight is not synonymous with being unhealthy. It is also important to be comfortable with who you are. Each of us is different so there is no single correct shape or size.

It is important not to compare yourself to others especially the media images that are usually unrealistic. If you want to reduce weight talk to your doctor about it and avoid offers of a quick fix.

December Edition, click HERE

Featured article from the December edition:

Plantar Fasciitis – Heel Pain

A common cause of heel pain, ‘plantar fasciitis’ is inflammation of the tissue (plantar fascia) that runs along the sole of the foot connecting the heel to the toes, creating the arch of the foot. Risk factors include age, being overweight, sports which stress the heel (e.g. running) and spending long periods of time on the feet.

The main symptom is pain under the heel. It can be dull or sharp. It is often worse on rising in the morning, after prolonged sitting or after intense activity. Diagnosis is from the story and examination. X rays generally do not show anything. Some changes in the fascia may be seen on ultrasound or MRI.

Treatment is a mix of improving symptoms and preventing further aggravation. Analgesics or anti-inflammatory medications may help in the short term but are not a cure. Avoid activities which aggravate the situation. Wear shoes with good arch support and cushioning. Purpose made insoles may be helpful as can be stretching, as advised by a podiatrist or physiotherapist.

In more severe cases cortisone injections may be recommended. Surgical treatment is viewed as a last resort.

Do not expect immediate results from treatment or get frustrated. Perseverance with treatment is important and most fasciitis improves with time.


October Edition, click HERE

Featured article from the October edition:

Parkinson’s disease

An estimated 40,000 Australians have Parkinson’s disease – a progressive degenerative neurological condition which affects the control of body movements. Typical symptoms are trembling of the hands, arms, legs and face, together with slowing of movement, instability, tiredness and difficulty walking. It comes on gradually and early signs may be very subtle.

The condition comes about from nerve cells ceasing to produce enough dopamine, a chemical which sends message between cells. When those messages are blocked, muscle control is impeded. Why this happens is not clear. Family history is one risk factor as is head trauma and exposure to pesticides.

Diagnosis is based on history and examination. There is no specific blood or imaging test for diagnosis. Brain scans are generally normal. Given the slow onset of symptoms it can take some time for an exact diagnosis can be made.

Treatment is focused on maintaining function. A healthy diet and keeping active are important. Physiotherapy, to establish and guide an exercise program that includes daily stretching, helps. Medications can control the condition but not cure it. As time goes by their effectiveness can lessen and dosages need to be increased. Side effects can also be a problem for some.

No two people will have the exact same experience, so treatment is always individualised. There are state and national support groups to assist.

August Edition, click HERE

Featured article from the August edition:

V is for varicose veins

Widened, often twisted, veins near the skin surface are called varicose veins. They are most common on the lower legs.

Risk factors include advancing age, being female, a positive family history, being overweight, pregnancy and prolonged sitting or standing. They will appear as blue, twisted cords on the legs.

Whilst often painless, they can cause aching and a heavy feeling in the legs. Itching and skin rash (varicose eczema) can also occur. If ruptured there can be significant bleeding. In more severe cases there can be ulceration.

However, they are not associated with deep vein thrombosis.

Treatment depends on severity. There are no specific medications, though Painkillers may ease symptoms but should not be relied on.

Previously formal surgical stripping was performed and this required some days in hospital. Surgical treatments have advanced and most commonly they are now injected to close down the vein. When varicose, the vein is no longer working effectively so it is not a problem to remove or close it. This can be done as an outpatient and recovery is quite rapid.

People seek treatment either for cosmetic reasons or due to symptoms. Talk to your doctor about what might be the best option for you.

To help avoid developing varicose veins, maintain a healthy weight, do regular exercise and change position regularly.

June Edition, click HERE

Featured article from the June edition:

Work on Cold & Flu Prevention

Viruses are present all year round but more people get unwell with them in winter. It could be a case of less sunshine and spending more time indoors but whatever the reason, we can do a lot to reduce the spread. Viruses spread by airborne droplets so covering your mouth when you cough makes a big difference, as does sneezing into a hanky or tissue. AND washing hands is imperative.

Many people try to soldier on with a virus even though staying at home not only helps you get better quicker but also makes it less likely you will pass it on to others. Air-conditioning makes it easy for viruses to spread, so don’t contribute yours to the office pool.

Many workplaces offer flu vaccination for employees and certainly something to consider but it will not prevent a cold. Regular exercise has been shown to strengthen the immune system but it is wise to cease or at least reduce exercise while unwell. Eating a healthy diet with adequate fruits and vegetables and getting enough sleep also helps. Managing stress (e.g. meditation, guided relaxation and herbal teas) has been shown to benefit immunity as does having adequate vitamin D.

It is worth repeating, if you get sick, stay home, the world will keep spinning.

April Edition, click HERE

Featured article from the April edition:

Cooling down heartburn

This is a burning pain in the chest or upper abdomen cause by acid leaking from the stomach into the oesophagus. It is also known as reflux and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD). It is very common and can affect all age groups from infancy. It ranges from mild to severe.

Not everyone with heartburn has GORD but those who do may have a hiatus hernia which is where some of the stomach ‘slips’ above the diaphragm.

In adults, risk factors include being overweight, smoking, alcohol consumption and a family history. Certain foods will trigger heartburn in certain people but there is no one set of foods to avoid. Caffeine, dairy and spicy foods are common culprits but each person needs to find what disagrees with them.

Prevention includes avoiding known triggers and also not eating too much at one time. Treatment depends on severity and frequency. Simple home remedies such as bicarbonate of soda or herbal teas help some people. Simple antacids can also relieve symptoms. At night it can be helpful to sleep on a slight incline from head down to toes.

If simple approaches fail, you need to see your GP. Often the history is sufficient for diagnosis but you may be sent for tests to rule out other causes.

For ongoing problems there are prescription medications that can reduce acid production. Some people need short courses of these, others need it long term. If symptoms are not relieved after some weeks, you may be referred for a gastroscopy to assess the oesophagus and stomach.

February Edition, click HERE

Featured article from the February edition:

Dealing with depression

Depression is a common condition affecting as many as one in five Australians. For some it can be an ongoing condition; for others, there may be only an isolated episode. Depression is more than just feeling sad for a day or two. It is feeling miserable for at least two weeks together with lack of enjoyment of usual activities, withdrawal from friends and often sleep and appetite disturbance.

There are no blood tests or scans. Diagnosis is based on the symptoms described.

Treatment is effective and divides into non-pharmacological and pharmacological. There are a number of medications which can be used if needed. Counselling through a psychologist or counsellor will be of benefit to many. Your GP can refer you.

Lifestyle measures also help. Eating a healthy diet rich in vegetables and less sugar may help. Cut down on alcohol use. Regular exercise is good for mental health. Meditation or guided relaxation can help. Getting enough sleep is also important. Equally do not stress if your sleep pattern takes a while to get back to normal. Switch off screens at least 30 minutes before bed and have a regular night-time routine.

Regular follow up with your GP is important. Changes in treatment may be needed if you are not making improvement. With recovery, medication (if prescribed) can be reduced and then stopped. You should not stop your medication without talking to your doctor.

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