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World Malaria Day 2016

Also known as WMD, World Malaria Day is commemorated every year on the 25th April in a bid to promote global efforts to understand and control malaria. WMD is one of eight official global public health campaigns upheld by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Each is aimed at raising awareness for a specific illness or health problem. In terms of malaria, the statistics are shocking - across the world, more than 3 billion people in 106 countries are currently at risk of malaria. In 2012 alone, malaria caused approximately 627,000 deaths.

What is malaria?

Malaria is a parasitic infectious disease carried by mosquitoes. When a mosquito carrying malaria bites a human, the disease is spread from the insect’s saliva to the person’s blood. If malaria isn’t diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible after becoming infected, it can be fatal. The main signs and symptoms of malaria include:

  • A severe headache
  • A high temperature
  • Fever-like symptoms, including sweats and chills
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Aching muscles
  • Fatigue
  • A dry cough

Although these are the most common symptoms of malaria, not all of the above may appear. Sometimes, people only experience two or three of the most common symptoms, such as a headache, fever and vomiting. Malaria is mainly found in tropical regions such as large areas of Africa and Asia, Central and South America, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the Middle East and some Pacific Islands.

How is malaria treated?

If you have been diagnosed with malaria it is vital that you begin taking your medicine immediately. Depending on where in the world you contracted malaria and the exact type that you have will determine the treatment you receive. If you were taking antimalarial medicine prior to contracting the disease, you will need to take a different form of medication after diagnosis. You will need to stay in hospital to be monitored – it is likely that medication will be distributed intravenously to begin with, followed by a course of tablets.

Every year on 25th April, World Malaria Day focuses on a specific theme. 2016’s theme is “End malaria for good”. For more information, visit the World Malaria Day website to find out how you can help to raise awareness. 

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How to Handle Hay Fever

 

Hay fever is a common allergic reaction to pollen released by plants as part of their reproductive cycle. Due to plants’ different reproductive cycles happening at different points during the year, hay fever symptoms can occur at any time during spring, summer and autumn. Hay fever is so common that it affects one in five people at some point during their life. Symptoms include sneezing, itchy eyes and a runny nose – all of which are a result of an allergy to pollen.

During spring, trees release their pollen and the first signs of hay fever can occur in sufferers as early as February. Following this, allergies to grass pollen begin around March or April, and weed pollen is released any time between March and August.

If you are prone to suffering from hay fever or happen to experience symptoms for the first time this year, try some of the tips below to help ease suffering:

  • Take antihistamine tablets; they are available at supermarkets and pharmacies. You could also ask the pharmacist if they have any other medication to help with your specific symptoms.
  • Avoid alcohol. Many people do not know this, but alcohol contains histamine which is the chemical that sets off allergy symptoms in the body.
  • If the pollen count is high, try to stay indoors. Don’t keep fresh flowers inside your house and if possible, don’t dry your clothes outside. Pollen can attach itself to damp clothes and make your symptoms much worse if you wear clothes covered in something you’re allergic to!
  • Avoid areas that are particularly grassy, and don’t cut the grass in your garden – the pollen released from grass is highly likely to affect hay fever sufferers.
  • Keep all windows closed. If it is hot in your house with the windows closed, try closing the curtains to reduce the temperature. Keep the windows in your car closed too – you can also buy a pollen filter for your air vents.
  • If you have been outdoors and your symptoms are particularly bad, when you get home make sure you have a shower and change your clothes. Removing as much pollen from your body as possible is vital in order to reduce symptoms.
  • If your main symptom is a blocked nose and your hay fever isn’t responding to antihistamines, ask your doctor about corticosteroid nasal sprays. They can reduce the inflammation inside your nose and help you to breathe easier.
  • If your eyes are particularly itchy, swollen or watery, try using eye drops specifically for those with hay fever. Eye drops which include the ingredient sodium cromoglicate have been shown to be the safest and most successful in treating symptoms of hay fever.

If you continue to suffer from hay fever symptoms and nothing helps to ease your suffering, speak to your GP. There may be some stronger medications that can be prescribed, or factors to bear in mind that are specific to your particular symptoms. It’s never too early to start preparing for hay fever, so look out for warning signs over the next couple of months. 

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Tips for a Healthy Heart

 

There are numerous lifestyle factors which may be having a negative effect on your heart. When you fall into bad habits, whether it is smoking, drinking too much alcohol or regularly eating unhealthy foods, this can have a detrimental effect on your heart. Other factors such as managing your stress levels and getting enough sleep will help to keep your heart healthy. Below are a few more simple tips on how to improve your heart’s health.

Stop smoking

It’s not a secret that smoking is bad for you – nothing about cigarettes or tobacco are good for a person’s health. However, many people may not know the specifics about the negative effects smoking can have on your health. In terms of your heart, smoking increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases – you are far more likely to have a stroke or develop coronary heart disease if you smoke. Furthermore, smoking damages the lining of your arteries, which can lead to angina and heart attacks. The first step towards a healthier heart is giving up smoking.

Put down the salt

Quite simply, the more salt you eat, the worse your blood pressure will be. The reason behind this is that salt makes your body retain water, therefore if you eat too much salt, the excess water stored in your body will raise your blood pressure. High blood pressure puts a strain on your heart and can lead to heart attacks, CHD and strokes; it can also affect other organs and lead to dementia and kidney disease. CHD (coronary heart disease) is the UK’s biggest killer, with one in four men and one in six women dying from the disease. Cutting down on salt is a big step towards a healthier heart.

Get moving

When we do cardiovascular exercise such as running, cycling or swimming, our blood flow concentrates on areas that are doing more work such as the muscles in our legs and torso. This surge in blood flow increases the volume of blood going towards our heart. With regular cardio, our hearts become used to bigger bursts of blood, and as a result fewer beats are needed, even when we are resting. This takes work off your heart and is why cardio is highly recommended for maintaining a healthy heart. Running, cycling or swimming a few times a week is a great way to maintain your fitness as well as keeping your heart healthy.

Be conscious of your diet

Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is also a key ingredient in maintaining a healthy heart. If you minimise your alcohol intake, avoid foods that are high in salt and saturated fat and ensure you eat a minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, this will have a positive impact on your heart. There are numerous benefits to eating healthily; for example, avoiding serious problems such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by stopping smoking, improving your diet and increasing the exercise you do has countless benefits for your heart and other organs. There is no harm in the occasional treat, whether it is a piece of cake or a glass of wine, but be aware of what you put into your body – over time this could have a huge effect on your heart and overall health.

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Dealing With Cold & Flu This Winter

Sometimes, no matter how many layers we pile on during winter or how many people with illnesses we avoid, we are still susceptible to colds and influenza – they are highly contagious. We are all aware that there are no medications, remedies or antibiotics that can specifically cure the common cold. Firstly, if you haven’t had a flu jab, have one. If you are currently suffering from a cold or flu, there are multiple suggestions to help ease your symptoms, soothe your aches and pains and assist with speeding up your recovery.

Stay at home and rest.

It sounds obvious, but you would be surprised about how many people feel that they should power through the symptoms and go to work when they have a cold or flu. The best way to ease your symptoms and speed up recovery is to stay at home, keep warm and get plenty of sleep. Plus, this also means you can refrain from passing on your germs to colleagues!

Drink a lot of water.

Not only will this keep you hydrated, but more specifically, it will keep your respiratory system hydrated. Every time you cough, sneeze or sweat, your body loses fluids. Keeping your respiratory system hydrated will help to liquidise any phlegm or mucus and stop you from getting an infection. Steaming your face will also help clear out your sinuses.

Soothe your throat.

No matter whether you have a sore throat, a chesty cough or aching pains in your neck, keeping your throat lubricated and soothed is essential to ease your symptoms. Try throat lozenges and chloraseptic throat spray if your throat is particularly painful through coughing. Many people describe their sore throats as feeling like “razor blades”- if this is the case try drinking hot water, honey and lemon mixed together to help relax painful symptoms.

Blow your nose.

Many people who get the “sniffles” do just that – sniffle the mucus back into the sinuses, which isn’t going to improve symptoms at all. Blow your nose regularly, but gently; blowing too hard can cause ear ache, and the last thing you need is even more aches and pains.

See your GP.

If your symptoms last more than two weeks without improving, or your symptoms start to worsen and you think you may have an infection, visit your GP. They will be able to prescribe the necessary antibiotics to fight any infections you have, as well as painkillers to improve your sore throat and muscles.

Cold and flu are more common in the winter, so ensure you take care of yourself. If you are out and about wrap up warm and carry hand sanitiser with you at all times – use this after washing your hands, or in between washes. Don’t forget to get at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day – a regular intake of vitamins will boost your immune system and help to prevent catching a cold.

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5 Tips to Stay Healthy This Christmas

 

Christmas is renowned as the time of year when everyone enjoys overindulging in festive treats and alcohol with their family and friends. Whilst this may seem like tradition, the tradition also runs strong in January when you will be asking yourself why you ate and drank so much in such a short space of time! This year, follow our 5 simple tips to stay healthy this Christmas, whilst still enjoying yourself.

1.       Only eat one large meal per day

If you decide to have scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on toast, a piece of Christmas cake and a few glasses of Bucks Fizz for breakfast, try not to follow this up with a large lunch and dinner in the same day. Similarly, if you know you will be having a big roast dinner and a few glasses of wine for dinner, keep your other meals light throughout the day so you aren’t fit to burst by the time you go to bed.

2.       Keep track of snacks

At Christmas time, everywhere you look there will be snacks ready and waiting for you to indulge! From cakes and puddings to mince pies and crisps, the amount of snacks available during the festive period seems to be never-ending. Be mindful of your snacking; for example, choose almonds over salted peanuts, or hummus over cream and chive dip. Making slight changes to your snack choices will make a big difference by the time January comes around.

3.       Stay hydrated

No matter whether you are at home, visiting family or at a festive party, alcohol seems to be on offer wherever you go at Christmastime. Ensure you drink plenty of water; not only to stay hydrated, but also to help aid the digestion of all the food you’ve been eating. Try drinking vodka and soda water instead of vodka and coke, or replace red wine with 50% mulled wine and 50% orange juice. Still the same fulfilment but with half the calories!

4.       Exercise

Don’t give up on your fitness regime just because it’s Christmas – if anything, the over-indulging is even more of a reason to keep it up! Visit the gym a few times a week – it’s usually quite quiet over the Christmas period. If the gym isn’t your thing, get wrapped up and go for a long walk with the family, or set yourself a goal for January. If you have a sponsored run scheduled for the New Year, you have no choice but to go for a few lengthy runs over Christmas to keep your fitness levels up.

5.       Don’t go hungry to parties

One big mistake you can make is going to a party with an empty stomach – you’re bound to accept any food put in front of you! Make sure you eat something beforehand, even if it’s just a light meal. This will help to curb your hunger, and if you do decide to have a bite to eat at the party it will most likely be a small snack or a few canapés.

 

The main trick for staying healthy over Christmas is to consume everything in moderation. From meals and snacks to chocolates and cake, make sure you limit yourself and don’t overdo it. When January comes around, you’ll be able to maintain your weight instead of facing another month of dieting after an over-indulgent festive period! Enjoy yourself, be mindful of what you eat and drink, but most importantly have a very Merry Christmas. 

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month - Get to Know the Facts and the Warning Signs

Wednesday marks the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and throughout October various organisations and individuals will be planning activities and events; not to mention wearing a lot of pink.

But don’t let the pretty packaging of this particular awareness drive fool you. This is a serious issue and a number of dedicated breast cancer charities are working hard to ensure that the UK public knows the facts about the disease; and also understand the warning signs.

One of the biggest challenges that Breast Cancer Care, Breast Cancer Campaign and other bodies face is the amount of false information about breast cancer that is available online. These myths about the causes of the illness, and the telltale signs, prevent women and their loved ones from accessing the facts.

That’s why it’s so important to get the message out and, in turn, save lives.

According to Cancer Research UK, breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK. In 2011, 49,936 women were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, according to Cancer Research UK; and several hundred men were diagnosed too. With so many people affected, directly or otherwise, it is important to understand the truth about safeguarding yourself from the illness and addressing the early warning signs to improve your chances of survival.

Breast cancer is a complex disease which isn’t caused by a single stimulus. It is, in fact, the result of connections between our environment, lifestyle and genetic makeup.

In an article published on the Huffington Post website, Dr Lisa Wilde, Director of research at Breast Cancer Campaign told Huffpost UK that instead of focussing on the innumerable rumours shared online about the causes of breast cancer, it’s more constructive to be mindful of the signs.

The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed the better chances of survival. With that in mind, here are some of the potential warning signs you might encounter, as outlined by Dr Wilde. Note that there far more tell-tale signs than just lumps.

    • Lumps

 

    • Persistent pain

 

    • Changes in size

 

    • Swelling

 

    • Redness

 

    • Rashes

 

    • Changes to the nipple

 

    • Discharge

 

    • Inverted nipples



Not all lumps are immediately malign but the best way to ensure that this is not the case is to consult your doctor at the earliest possible time. To make things even more complex, redness and rashes might not be restricted to the breast area. If you see similar symptoms around the armpit area this could be another sign.

As we head into October, here’s hoping Breast Cancer Awareness Month encourages you to be mindful of this potentially devastating illness. Will you be donating or raising money for a worthwhile cause? Perhaps even more importantly, will you encourage the people around you to look out for the signs?

 

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