Swine flu epidemic 2011

As the nation prepares itself for a full scale epidemic due to swine flu there seems to be many conflicting reports circulating in regards to this. So far this year 39 people have died from swine flu with at least one of the deceased being confirmed as having the flu vaccine this year. The figures for those who have died for seasonal flu is just above the numbers for swine flu and both of them are just as lethal.

Autumn/Winter 2010 saw the government cut the funding for winter flu vaccine awareness, last year there were campaigns, posters and advertisements telling the nation how important it was to be vaccinated but this year it was cut and no campaign was launched. Since then the government have decided that they need to launch a full scale campaign as soon as possible in early 2011 but is it too late?

As many of us watch the news, listen to the radio or read the newspaper it has been widely publicised how many people have died from swine flu this year but as the media urges the nation to get the flu vaccination to stop the spread of swine flu it has been reported that surgeries have now ran out of the vaccine and have no idea when they will have more in stock. As over 65’s and pregnant women have been told they are more at risk there have been an influx of calls being made to local GP surgeries so they can have it administered but as they have run out there is no indication of when more will be back in stock.

If your surgery runs out of the flu vaccine then a prescription will be given to collect it from your nearest pharmacy but even they are running low on supplies. The government recently announced that under 5’s should also be vaccinated as they were also at risk but there has been no further indication that the vaccine will be available free of charge, instead worried parents are having to get it administered privately at a cost of £15 per vaccine.

Swine flu was said to be more dangerous for people who have underlying health conditions such as asthma and other respiratory problems but many healthy people have died so it looks like 2011 may have a new strain of swine flu.


Health and fitness shoes

With so many people in the UK suffering from medical ailments it’s hard for GP’s not to over prescribe unnecessary medicines to treat these illnesses. The most common medical complaints in the UK are back ache, knee and joint problems and bunions. Simple advice such as correcting posture when sitting and walking is given but after a lifetime of bad habits these mistakes are hard to correct. Over the past few years there have been many shoes that have promised to help treat or even banish medical problems, some shoes have even promised better fitness workouts.

Health and fitness shoes

Shoes for bunions – these have been around for a while but they look very odd and old fashioned. Celebrities such as Kirsten Dunst and Maggie Gyllenhaal have been seen wearing these as they are wider than standard shoes and more comfortable to wear. Medical research has found that these are suitable only for people who have small bunions those whose bunions are more pronounced like Victoria Beckham will have more problems by continuous wear.

Sketchers shape ups – they are hideous looking shoes that take you back to the days of the Spice Girls but they are said to correct joint pains, correct posture and firm up thigh, bum and stomach muscles by correcting posture as you walk. The soft liner inside the shoe absorbs any impact so you don’t feel it. People who have worn these on a daily basis have found it help them tone up.

Sandals for heel and lower back pain – there are sandals that can be worn at home or on holiday that will soothe aching heels and prevent back strain. The sandal has a raised arc on the inner part that corrects the natural arc in the foot, by treating this you will have less tired feet and a healthy back.

Diabetic shoes – there is a popular version made by Crocs that are slightly bigger and more cushioned on the inside. The front is also enclosed so you can avoid any injuries to feet, as diabetics have very thin skin on the feet it’s easier to be injured that’s why these shoes are ideal. The only problem is if you wear them without socks you may be at risk of falling over or losing your footing as they can be quite roomy barefoot.

There are many more shoes on the market that are said to treat or banish any medical problems but before spending money on these cures speak to your doctor first as some may not be suitable for your illness.


Foods to avoid during pregnancy

We all know that it is important to eat healthy foods during pregnancy but there are also some food that can be potentially harmful to an unborn baby that is still developing in the womb. So here is a list of foods that should be avoided during pregnancy and the reasons why:

Vitamin A – this includes liver and liver products. You will need some vitamin A during pregnancy but too much can cause serious problems for a developing baby especially in the first few months of having a baby.

Raw or undercooked eggs – this can cause food poisoning and potentially cause miscarriages and early labour.

Food containing Listeria – these include cheese that are soft and blue veined such as Brie, Stilton and Camembert, Pate, readymade salads such as coleslaw and potato salad and also ready meals or preheated food that isn’t piping hot when served. The reason behind this is because Listeria is said to cause stillbirth, miscarriage or severe illness in newborn babies.

Fish – two fish meals are the maximum recommended intake for pregnant women. This is because some fish like tuna contain a high level of mercury which can damage a developing baby’s nervous system. Oily fish that are encouraged to eat are fresh tuna, sardines, mackerel and trout. Marlin, shark and swordfish contain high levels of mercury and should be avoided.

Meat – make sure all meat is cooked properly. When cut it shouldn’t be pink or bleed. Cured meat such as Parma Ham and salami should be avoided.

Raw shell fish – some contain bacteria and can cause food poisoning so refrain from eating if possible.

Unpasteurised products – such as milk from goats, cows and sheep. This can cause infections usually found in animals.

Caffeine – not just from coffee but some foods such as chocolate also contain caffeine as do some over the counter medicines. Caffeine has been linked to low birth weights and miscarriage. Limit to 300mg a day that is equivalent to 4 cups of coffee.

If you take all these things into consideration when pregnant, you should have a healthy baby with no problems at all and if you have found all this out later in pregnancy don’t worry too much.  Just take precautions and avoid anything that can potentially harm your unborn baby.

Remember when preparing food to use different utensils, chopping boards and knives for meat and vegetables. Clean all surfaces while cooking to prevent bacteria spreading from uncooked meat touching kitchen worktops.

Keeping your skin moisturised to prevent dryness

Dry skin is usually caused by lack of water or fluids together with an unbalanced and unhealthy diet. Continuous exposure to sunlight and harsh weather can also be associated with dry itchy skin. If none of these apply, then dry flaky skin can also be because of stress.

Treatment for dry skin

Hands – find a really good hand cream that you can also carry with you in your handbag. Using it daily will help reduce dry skin patches. If this does not work, try buying moisturising gloves and use daily. Try not to over wash hands as this can also dry out skin.

Feet – Soak feet regularly. I soak my feet in olive oil diluted with water and it leaves my feet silky and smooth. So there’s no need to buy expensive foot soak solutions. If this does not appeal to you, then try moisturizing socks – this works well in winter where the temperature drops so you can wear socks at night.

Body – there are many creams available from the chemist or health shop. Prescription medicines to treat dry skin are also available over the counter. Speak to a pharmacist for more information.

The best treatment for dry skin I found is baby oil. It’s cheap, ideal for sensitive skin and widely available. It’s most effective if used after a shower when skin is still wet.

If you have tried various treatments and still suffer from very dry skin, then visit your GP as you may be suffering from eczema and require intensive treatment not available from the chemist.

Healthy foot make the perfect feet

With all the pressures of modern life being thrown at us, we are neglecting ourselves by not following the beauty regimes our parents and grandparent followed. Not many people take the time to moisturise their bodies after taking a shower let alone remembering to look after their feet. I take a look at the most common foot related problems today.

Foot health

  • The most researched foot related problem is skin. Whether suffering from dry skin, rough or hard skin or flaky skin these are what most people complain about to their doctors and chemists. The answer is simple, if you take the time to moisturise your feet at least once a day and use a foot spa once a week you should soon find that all foot skin problems will disappear. I have also recently bought foot socks; all you need to do is apply your favourite foot cream and wear the socks which will keep your feet moisturised and soft.
  • Most people think that the solution to fungal toenails is to wear socks and pretend it will go away. This is not the case and by leaving fungal toenails you may make the problem worse rather than better. Most people won’t go to see their doctor because of embarrassment; you can get treatment for fungal toenails from your local chemist. This can come in the form of a cream or nail application that will slowly whiten the nail.
  • Ingrown toenails are also a common complaint. This condition can also be inherited but the probabilities of ingrown toenails are higher if toenails are not cut properly or by wearing shoes that are too tight. If you leave an ingrown toenail, the toe (usually the big toe) will swell up causing pain and difficulties in walking. Developing an infection is also higher and can result in pus oozing out of the swelling. If you suspect you have an ingrown toenail, then seek medical help – you will be advised to see a Podiatrist who will treat you.
  • Most women complain their partners have smelly feet but don’t actually do anything about it. I understand that this is a very embarrassing foot problem but seeking help is better than doing nothing. There are many over the counter products for people who have smelly feet. Speak to the pharmacist before buying any products as they will be able to also advise you on the best one for your circumstances. There are a few things you can do to prevent smelly feet but I do understand that these solutions are not practical for everyone. Smelly feet occur usually because you’re a shoe wearer so by wearing socks all day the sweat gets absorbed by the shoe causing odours. When you go home and take off your shoes try to let them air out between wears. Change socks regularly and soak feet once a week.
  • Veruccas are related to the HPV virus – they come in the form of a wart or a cluster of warts. The best thing to do when you have a verucca is to keep feet dry as this is how verucca’s are caught and spread. Try not to share socks or shoes and don’t pick it. They say not to do anything as they will go away eventually but this can take up to two years. The most effective way of removing veruccass are freezing them. You used to have to go to your GP to get referred to a hospital or health centre for treatment but now you can get treatment for veruccas from the chemist.
  • There are a small minority of people who are born with flat feet; this means they have no arch on sole of the feet.  To correct this problem insoles with a built in arch are usually custom made for the patient. Usually a referral from your GP is needed for an orthopaedic doctor to make custom made insoles for you but nowadays you can purchase them from shoe shops and sports shops. Although not custom made they do the same job as going to see an orthopaedic doctor but without the yearly checkups.

If you have any of the above foot related problems, then seek medical advice from your doctor who may be able to help you. It might also be cheaper to speak to your local pharmacy first if you have to pay for prescriptions as it currently costs £7.20. So buying medicines over the counter may be cheaper than going to the GP.

Beware of health scams circulating around!

Health scams have been around for many years but as time has gone by, there have been new ways to find vulnerable people. First we had magazine adverts then radio and TV but now it has moved through the Internet with the 21st Century. Health scams are usually for diseases that have no cure and are aimed at the most vulnerable groups – the elderly and the sick who hope to find a cure for the illness they have.

The different health scams

I take a look at the health scams that I have come across during my day to day life:

  • Weight Loss Cure – recently while checking my emails I have found my reading pane has decreased in size to allow adverts promising dramatic weight loss results. There was a picture of a woman (before and after) who was extremely overweight. Sometimes the face of the person is not shown. It can be really hard to find out if the person in the pictures is genuine. Most of the people you see in before and after pictures looking fat have been digitally enhanced or ‘blown up’ as some might call it. As you probably know, there is no weight loss cure. You have to do it the hard way – healthy eating with exercise or if you have the money liposuction.
  • Cancer Cure – this is a horrible one to come across and while doing research for cancer I came across websites on the internet promising to reveal the cure for cancers. There isn’t one as far as I understand but there are things you can do to prevent yourself from getting cancer. However as far as curing cancer itself, it’s not yet possible. There are treatments that are undertaken to stop the spread of cancer. Some of the stories I’ve read are just unheard of – just don’t believe all these cancer cure remedies as they do not exist.
  • Anti-aging remedies – I come across these in women’s magazines all the time. Isn’t it time women (and men) learn to grow old gracefully. There are things you can do to prevent signs of aging such as not smoking – this causes premature wrinkles. When moisturising the face, don’t forget to moisturise the neck as well. When you get older, hands and the neck are the first signs of aging – prevent this by looking after your body from head to toe.

By purchasing products that promise to help or cure diseases, you are putting your health at a much greater risk. You are also preventing yourself the proper medical care and advice from a medical professional and this can have drastic results. There was a case recently in the news of a father who believed so much on alternative medicine that he did not allow his 12 year old daughter to seek medical help – she later died of pneumonia but if her father had seen a doctor she would still be alive today.

Cataract surgery – symptoms and treatment

What are cataracts?

Cataracts are clouding in the lens of your eye; they do not cause any pain but you will experience blurred or frosty vision.

Symptoms of cataracts?

Cataracts affect mostly people over the age of 60; the symptoms of cataracts are:

  • Blurred and misty vision
  • You may experience some sensitivity to light such as sunlight and headlights of a car – a halo may appear around lights
  • You may also experience faded or washed out vision
  • Poor night vision
  • Double vision

What causes cataracts?

Cataracts can occur at any time in life but most commonly after the age of 60, research is still taking place in establishing cataracts causes but as of yet scientists still do not know why they occur. Limited research has led some to believe that smoking, alcohol, poor diet and excessive exposure to sunlight may cause cataracts.

Types of cataracts?

The most common type of cataract is age-related cataracts but they can also occur in young people as well due to diabetes, medication and longstanding eye problems. Cataracts can also be present in birth – this is called congenital cataracts.

Removing cataracts

As you may have guessed, the only option of cataracts removal is a cataract operation. The cloudy lens is removed and replaced with a new artificial lens. Cataracts are only removed when they start to interfere with everyday life. There is no rush in going for surgery and delaying it will not damage eyes or make the operation difficult. If you have cataracts in both eyes they will usually be treated one at a time between four to eight weeks apart.

Surgery is usually painless and most choose to stay awake but an anesthetic can be administered if need be. Cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective as 90% of patients who have had surgery have better vision after the operation. After surgery, your doctor may give you eye drops to help healing and reduce risk of infection.

Like all surgery there are risk. These should be taken into consideration before making a decision. The risks associated with cataract surgery are:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Inflammation or swelling
  • Loss of vision or double vision

If any of the above occur then seek medical attention promptly.

How to quit smoking easily?

With obesity overshadowing all health problems we seem to be forgetting the biggest health problem we face, smoking. We all know smoking is bad for us but we still do it. I know it’s a choice and everyone is entitled to their own opinion but is there enough publicity highlighting the dangers of smoking?

Why is smoking so bad?

Although many younger people will disagree smoking does make you unfit and slower, you get out of breath quicker and the smallest of tasks like taking your dog for a walk will make you tired.

Smoking is said to suppress your appetite, there are many models that live on cigarettes for this reason. This is bad for you because you need to learn how to follow a healthy diet with exercise to maintain a healthy weight. When people smoke for this reason it’s harder when they decide to stop smoking because that’s how they put on weight. This can then cause depression and eating disorders.

During an economic crisis when people cannot afford the basics like food and bills isn’t it selfish to continue smoking. I know many people will say ‘well actually it helps the economy because we are keeping a business thriving and people in employment’. It doesn’t actually help the economy because when smokers get ill due to smoking the NHS foots the bill, this money comes from taxpayers and prevents people who do not smoke but get cancer not being able to get life saving treatments because the NHS can’t afford it.

You will find smokers age dramatically, I have met people who look older than my Nan (who is 74 years old) but are actually in their 50’s. Smoking causes premature wrinkles, I know everyone hates wrinkles that’s why they invented Botox! Smoking will also cause lips to discolour turning them black/blue, fingernails turn orange and the most disgusting is horrible teeth. Could you really kiss someone with all the above?

Having a friend who smokes is disgusting too, when you visit their house it will be yellow and smell really bad like an ashtray. When you leave to go home sitting in the car you will notice you smell like a smoker, your hair will stink, your clothes will stink and you’ll be able to taste the cigarettes at the back of your throat.

Stop smoking help

The NHS spend millions of pounds on help to give up smoking each year, endless smoking campaign and smoking advice is widely available. Research has found that smokers are most likely to quit with help and support, stop smoking aids are available free but I don’t think many people actually realise this. If you would like help to stop smoking going to your GP or health centre is the first step as you can get help to stop smoking, many people who do not go to their GP for help are only spending their money unnecessarily when stop smoking aids are free, although to qualify you may need to attend regular smoking cessation and this may disrupt your lifestyle.

In some counties people are offered incentives to stop smoking like money off coupons for food shopping and rewards.

Public smoking

As of July 1st 2007 smoking in nearly all enclosed public places and workplaces have been banned these include, pubs, clubs, restaurants and trains, fines of £2,500 introduced for those who choose to break the law.

What is Swine Flu and how can I protect myself?

Swine flu is a respiratory disease that was originally found in pigs, this has now affected humans who have had contact with infected pigs in Mexico. People infected with swine flu can also pass the illness from person to person. Many schools in the UK have had to close as a result of an infected pupil. The Government has said not to panic as there are enough antivirals for everyone if the situation becomes worse.

How can you catch it?

Swine flu is caught by flu germs; to prevent catching or even spreading swine flu, catch your sneeze in a tissue and bin immediately, then wash your hands with antibacterial soap. If you do not have a tissue at hand remember to cover your mouth when sneezing to help prevent spreading of germs on surfaces. There are antibacterial hand rubs that can be bought from the high street – these are proven to kill germs and bacteria without the need for water.

Can swine flu be treated?

Yes, if caught early the prognosis is good. If you do not feel well and have flu like symptoms, do not attempt to go to work or go to your local GP. Stay home and contact them by phone and you will be given advice and in some cases a doctor may visit you in your own home.

How can I protect myself?

Cover mouth when sneezing and coughing, germs can live on surfaces for hours, dispose of tissues when finished and wash hands regularly. Use antibacterial hand gels to prevent spread of germs.

Is swine flu fatal?

Yes, if left untreated swine flu can result in fatality, but antivirals such as Tamiflu and Relenza have treated and prevented hospitalisation in those that have been already affected. If you have respiratory problems there is a chance that swine flu will be harder to treat. Seek help as soon as possible. Swine flu has killed hundreds of people mainly in the US and so far only 31 fatalities has been recorded in England and is increasing rapidly.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms are similar to the normal seasonal flu, symptoms that may occur are: coughing, sore throat, lack of appetite, fatigue and although not common in swine flu, some people have reported suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea.

The threat level was raised from 4 to 5 on the scale of up to 6, 6 is the highest meaning a pandemic is imminent. The World Health Organisation may raise the threat level to 6 as the number of infected people has risen drastically over the last month worldwide.


How to avoid feeling constipated?

As surprising as it might sound, there are many people who suffer from constipation and while for some people opening bowels everyday is normal, for others it may be every few days or even once a week. Constipation affects more women than men and 40% of women will be affected by it during pregnancy.

People who are constipated often find that they have to force themselves to go and this can cause damage to the anus and bleeding is likely to occur. There are over the counter creams you can now buy for treating piles (which are sometimes a result of trying to force yourself to open your bowels) and by applying these creams, you can soothe the area and shrink the piles so you don’t pass blood when you go to the toilet.

What can you do to go toilet regularly?

The first and most obvious advice is to exercise more and eat more healthily – foods that are high in fibre are said to aid constipation.

Doctors advise eating fruits like bananas and figs, wholemeal products like brown bread, vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds.

Try and stay away from fatty foods such as burgers as this will cause you to bloat and feel stodgy and drink plenty of water as this can sometimes help soften stools.

How can constipation be treated?

Doctors can prescribe laxatives but this is usually done if constipation is chronic. There are simple ways to help yourself and you should go to the doctor as a last resort. Fig syrup is said to aid constipation by making stools softer. There are even over the counter tablets at pharmacies and health stores. There is a tablet you can take each evening before going to bed and it works during the night by softening stools and then first thing in the morning you will open your bowels. A few people who have only taken these tablets for a few days have opened their bowels everyday since without stopping.

These constipation tablets and medicines are made with natural ingredients and are not harmful to use but always seek advice from your doctor before using unprescribed medicines.