Let’s look at…….Ibuprofen



Ibuprofen is the most commonly used over the counter anti-inflammatory medicine.  Nurofen is the most well known brand of ibuprofen.  When it was first released it was available on prescription only.  Now it is not only available in pharmacies it can be bought anywhere from supermarkets to service stations much to my disdain.


When can ibuprofen be taken?

Ibuprofen can be taken to reduce temperature (fever) and to reduce pain and inflammation due to headache, toothache, arthritis, period pain, cold and flu and general muscle pain.  All ibuprofen works the same.  There are no longer Nurofen boxes marked for different types of pain such as back pain, migraine etc as this was misleading for customers when there is no difference in the products.


When should ibuprofen not be taken?

Ibuprofen should not be taken if you are already taking another anti-inflammatory such as diclofenac (eg Voltaren), naproxen (eg Naprogesic) and high dose aspirin.  Be careful not to double up by taking two different brands of ibuprofen or by taking plain ibuprofen as well as a cold and flu medication that also has ibuprofen in it.

Do not take ibuprofen when pregnant.  In most cases it is best to avoid when breastfeeding also.

In most cases it should not be taken in those with kidney problems, heart problems and some stomach problems.  Anyone with these issues or who is over 65 should ask before taking ibuprofen.

There are a lot of medicines that don’t go well with ibuprofen so if you take other medicines (including ones you buy from the supermarket or healthfood store) always check if it is ok to take ibuprofen with them.  Sometimes ibuprofen may make the other medicine not work as well and sometimes combining ibuprofen with other medicines can lead to big problems like kidney failure.


How to take ibuprofen

For adults 1-2 tablets every 4-6 hours (maximum 6 tablets per day) may be taken.

As concentrations of the children’s products vary always check the dose every time you give some to your child.


Side effects of ibuprofen

All medications can have side effects.  Ibuprofen can cause problems with the gastrointestinal tract such as nausea, pain, heartburn and diarrhoea.  It can also cause swollen ankles and rash amongst other things.


What about?

Eating before taking ibuprofen – it has recently been shown that this is not needed any more and food may actually slow down how quickly it works.  However some people do have a sore stomach after taking ibuprofen and so they should still eat first.

Asthmatics – only about 10% of asthmatics have their asthma brought on by ibuprofen so most asthmatics can take ibuprofen.



Colds and Flu

colds and flu

Colds and flu – winter health advice


 A lot of people use the terms cold and flu (influenza) interchangeably.  There is a difference!

Colds are very common and there are many viruses that cause them.  There is no cure for a cold but there are things you can do to relieve the symptoms.  It usually takes about a week to get over a cold.

The Flu is also a viral infection but is much worse.  It can be like a really bad cold but can also be more serious and have other complications.  There is no cure for the flu either but vaccination is available.  The flu usually lasts for one to two or more weeks.

I like to say “If you can walk easily in to the pharmacy and tell me you have the flu, you don’t have the flu, you have a cold”.



                                                                        Cold                                       Flu


Sore throat                                                  common                               sometimes

Runny nose/sneezing                             common                               sometimes

Headache                                                     rare                                        common

Aches/pains                                                mild                                        common,severe

Temperature                                              rare                                        common

(38C or more)

Cough                                                            common, mild                     common,severe

Extreme tiredness                                    no                                           common




How do you catch a cold or flu?

Even though you are more likely to get these in winter you can’t get a cold or flu by being out in the cold weather or not drying your hair.  The viruses that cause these are spread by fluids from coughing and sneezing.  As people are usually in closer contact and inside more in winter they are more likely to spread their germs to others.



How do you keep a cold or flu to yourself?

Prevent the spread of germs! Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow if you need to.  Wrap up the tissue and put it in the bin so no one else comes in contact with it.  Wash hands with warm water and soap and dry well after using tissues.  Stay away from others, particularly in close contact, until coughing and sneezing lessens.


How do you NOT catch a cold or flu?

There is no vaccination for a cold so germ prevention is it.  There is a vaccination that is available each year from about March or April for the flu.  The vaccination contains different strains (four strains from 2017 onwards) based on what will be the most likely ones around each year.  The process for choosing the strains is complex and important.  Not everyone needs to be vaccinated against the flu however the elderly and those with certain medical conditions should be.  Adults who are too busy to be struck down with the flu can also be vaccinated.  Vaccination gives a high level of protection and makes the illness less severe if it is still contracted.


Cold and Flu treatment

Firstly antibiotics do not help as colds and flu are viruses and antibiotics don’t have any effect on viruses.  They are only used if a secondary bacterial infection develops.

There is an antiviral medication that can be obtained on prescription from the doctor that may shorten the duration of illness but this needs to be started in the first two days.

Cold and Flu preparations can help you feel better while your immune system overcomes the infection.  These preparations contain decongestants to dry up mucus in the head and they have pain relief.  Night time preparations also contain an antihistamine that helps with congestion while assisting with sleep.  There are also decongestant nasal sprays.

Liquid preparations are available for children over the age of two to help clear up congestion.  Paracetamol (eg Panadol) and ibuprofen (Nurofen) are only of use if there is pain or temperature.  They do not help with runny noses.  An elevated temperature when sick is a sign that out body is fighting the infection.

Vapourisers put moisture in to the air and really help when anyone is trying to sleep with a cold or flu.  I have been using these since my children were babies and have two in case both are sick at the same time.  For adults ,during the day, you can boil water to put in a bowl and inhale this with a tea towel over your head to clear the sinuses.  Often times this results in a need to blow a lot of stuff out of your nose or use a saline spray to help it out!

Resting and drinking water are also important to help our bodies fight the infection and to replace fluid that is lost through sweating with high temperatures.


Things that aren’t true!

X Antibiotics can be used to treat a cold or flu. This is NOT true because antibiotics work against bacteria and colds and flu are caused by viruses.  In fact taking antibiotics inappropriately just increases the risk of antibiotic resistance (a topic for another post) which means antibiotics can become less effective when they are really needed.


X The flu vaccination can cause the flu.  This is NOT true.  There are different types of vaccinations and the flu vaccination does not contain “live” flu virus therefore it is not possible to get the flu from having the vaccination.  It is possible to be exposed to the flu virus days prior to being vaccinated and contract it then.  It is also possible to be exposed to a strain of flu virus that is not in the vaccination and so get the flu from that.  It is a very complex process to choose the strains that go in to the vaccination and these are the ones that are most likely to be around but as this process must occur prior to winter so that the vaccinations can be made there are occasions where a strain will enter an area or country and cause widespread infection because it was not possible to predict eg bird flu, swine flu.

Do you have dry eyes?

dry eyes

Dry eyes


Every time we blink tears wash over our eyes to keep them moist and stop them from drying out.  I know that it seems strange but watery or teary eyes are often a symptom of dry eyes.  This is because our eyes are trying to moisturise themselves but either not enough tears are being made or they are not being made properly and so are evaporating too quickly.  Our tears are not just made up of the salty water we taste when we cry but a lot of other substances as well.  Other common symptoms of dry eyes include burning, stinging, blurred vision, grittiness, tired eyes and a dry feeling while the white of the eye appears red.  Our eyes can be damaged if they stay dry for too long.  There are many causes of dry eyes.

Medical conditions

Diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorders, Sjogren’s syndrome, menopause and more


Antihistamines, beta-blockers and diuretics (cardiovascular medicines), decongestants, some antidepressants, oral contraceptives, HRT, Parkinson’s medicines and more

Other causes of dry eyes

Aging, damage to the tear duct or gland, use of contact lenses, wind, air conditioning, long periods of reading/computer work


How to treat dry eyes


For some people treatment needs to be continued long term as dry eyes can’t be cured but can be easily managed.

Simple measures such as wearing sunglasses when out in the sun or wind, avoiding sitting right in front of an air conditioner and having regular blinking breaks when reading or using a computer all help to manage and prevent dry eyes.

If you take medications or have medical conditions speak with you Pharmacist or Doctor about the effects of these on your eye symptoms.  If you also have a dry mouth this may mean medications or medical conditions are involved.

Despite trying the measures above or determining the cause treatment is often needed.  Many drops, gels, sprays and ointments are available to use.


These are usually used first.  It is a good idea to use drops regularly throughout the day to prevent and treat dry eye symptoms.  If drops are needed more than four times daily it is a good idea to use the single use vials as these don’t contain preservatives.

Gels/gel drops

These are thicker than normal drops.  The thicker the product the longer it lasts in the eye.  The disadvantage of thicker drops is that your vision can be blurred temporarily after you put them in.


These are relatively new to the market for dry eyes.  They are a good option for people who have trouble putting drops in their eyes as you just close your eye and spray over your closed lid.


These are usually used before bed as they are quite thick and so blur vision for a while.  Ointments are great for people who wake up with stuck together, gritty or sore dry eyes as they stay on your eye all night keeping it moisturised.


Conjunctivitis and allergies can cause similar symptoms to dry eye.

If you have symptoms that are severe or you have pain in your eye, loss of vision, headache or prolonged dry eye symptoms see your Pharmacist, Optometrist or Doctor to make sure you are treating the condition appropriately.