Self Care

self care

I sat down with a cup of tea to decide what to write about tonight.  My head is throbbing and my eyes are stinging.  I know it’s because I’m tired.  I know it’s because I go to bed between midnight and 1am most nights and my alarm goes off at 6:30am.  Working during the day and in to the night is just what we seem to do.

We’re all pretty tired at this time of year.  Work is busy.  The kids have a lot of end of year things on and so do we (though my kids usually have a better social life than me).  We worry about paying for Christmas presents and the expenses of starting a child at high school next year.  The weather is getting warmer and it’d be so nice to be able to get outside more and enjoy it.  Even the temperature as I hang washing out at midnight is nice.

It seems we don’t ever do just one thing at a time anymore.  If I’m sitting down to type reports it’s while listening to a podcast.  I can’t remember the last time I watched something on tv unless I was also ironing, folding clothes or washing dishes.  Even speaking on the phone involves headphones so I can walk around and do other things at the same time.

There was a time, well most of my life actually, where I would simply not allow myself to have a rest.  There was always something to be done.  Resting would be lazy and how could I go to bed with dirty dishes on the sink?  Someone I really admire who taught me a lot once told me that I am not a human doing I am a human being and sometimes just being is what I need to be!

Tonight I am not going to write about any other health topic.  I am going to bed!  It’s earlier than 10pm and there is work I was going to do tonight and I haven’t washed the frying pan (but it really does need to soak).  The work will be there tomorrow night and the pan really will be easier to wash tomorrow.

Oh and I could spend all day Saturday catching up on reports and housework but I am spending some of my day at the beach just being!

Antibiotic resistance

antibiotic resistance

This is something that I have touched on before but it is such an important issue that I wanted to devote a whole post to it.

 

What is antibiotic resistance?

If antibiotics are taken frequently or not used correctly, for example if the whole course is not taken, then bacteria have a greater chance to change and become resistant to the antibiotic.  What this means is that the bacteria changes itself physically (mutates) so that it is better able to protect itself from being killed by antibiotics.  It is kind of like changing its armour to give itself better protection.  These mutated bacteria can lead to the formation of more mutated bacteria and thus there are new strains of bacteria that are resistant to certain antibiotics and infections become much harder to treat.

“Superbugs” is a term that has been coined and refers to infections that can not be killed by the antibiotics we currently have available.  The existence of superbugs means that more people will die from bacterial infections that can not be treated.

 

What can I do to avoid antibiotic resistance?

  • Do not take antibiotics for a cold/flu. Antibiotics only kill bacteria not viruses which are the cause of colds and flu.  Some people think that antibiotics help when they take them for a couple of days for a virus but the truth is that the person would have started to feel better in a couple of days anyway regardless of antibiotic use.

 

Green/yellow snot does not mean you have a bacterial infection!  This can actually be a sign that your immune system is fighting the infection.

 

  • Take the whole course of an antibiotic even if you start to feel better. This reduces the potential for the bacteria to become resistant.

 

  • Never take antibiotics prescribed for a past infection or for another person. Different antibiotics are used for different purposes and so will likely be ineffective and can lead to resistance.

 

  • Don’t ask your Doctor for antibiotics or expect to get them for an illness. Your Doctor will decide if you need antibiotics or not.

 

 

The future of antibiotics

In the last 50 years there has only been one antibiotic discovered that works in a different way to antibiotics that are already around.

When a potential medicine is discovered it takes many years of testing before it can become available for use.

Bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics at a faster rate so there is the very real risk that there will become a time when we have infections that just can not be treated with antibiotics.  This will mean longer illnesses with more complications and deaths due to bacterial infections.

Constipation

constipation

What can I do for constipation?

Constipation is something that all of us have suffered with at some point.  Bowel habits vary between people.  Going a couple of times per day down to only going a couple of times per week can be normal for different people.

Bowel motions are made up of water, undigested fibre, waste solids, fats and bacteria.  Changes to the normal amounts of these things can cause hard stools that are difficult to pass.

This can result in

  • abdominal pain
  • abdominal bloating
  • straining to pass the motion
  • sensation that the bowel hasn’t been completely emptied
  • not feeling the need to go as often

Causes of constipation

Change in normal dietary routine – we need soluble and insoluble fibre in our diet.  Soluble fibre makes our stool soft.  Fruits and vegetables are good sources of soluble fibre.  Insoluble fibre adds bulk to the stool that makes it easier to go through the digestive tract.  Wholegrains are good sources of insoluble fibre.

Insufficient water intake – water is needed to mix with the fibre so that it can move through the digestive tract.  If there is not enough water and too much fibre the fibre can set like cement in the digestive tract

Change in physical routine – if we don’t move our bodies enough it is difficult for the muscles of our large intestine to also move in a wave like motion to pass the stool through.  This includes lack of exercise as well as illness resulting in reduced activity.

Medications – opioid analgesics such as codeine commonly cause constipation.  Most iron supplements can as well.  Prescription medications such as calcium channel blockers and antidepressants can also cause constipation.

Pregnancy – the pressure of the growing baby against the intestines as well as hormones makes constipation common.

Other medical conditions –  there are other causes.  Speaking with your Pharmacist or Doctor can help to determine what the cause may be for you and what action to take.

Treatment of constipation

A stool softener medication or a laxative may be needed short term.

Stool softeners, such as docusate, make the stool softer (obviously) and easier to pass.

Stimulant laxatives stimulate the bowel to make it contract.  Examples include bisacodyl and senna.

Osmotic laxatives cause water to enter the bowel and the stool so it can be passed more easily.  Examples include lactulose, macrogol and glycerol.

Laxatives are very helpful for short and long term constipation.

There is no evidence to say that using laxatives long term makes the bowel lazy.  Therefore these can be used safely after consulting with your Doctor or Pharmacist.

Other ways to treat constipation

As well as using these medications the following should be done.

Increasing fibre – Fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals and legumes are good sources of fibre.  Dairy products, white flour and white rice can make constipation worse.

Fibre supplements – these can be used if fibre can not be obtained through diet.  Care must be taken to ensure fluid intake is increased so that the fibre does not cause constipation by setting in the instestines.

Increasing fluids – The stool needs fluid so that it does not get too hard and difficult to more.  Avoid too much tea, coffee and alcohol as these can dehydrate and make the symptoms worse.  Water is best.

Increase exercise – Our bodies need to move so that the muscles in our intestines can contract  to move the stool through.  Go for a brisk walk or jump up and down or use a skipping rope to get things moving.

 

If in doubt about what is normal and what to do please ask your health care professional.  We are used to talking about this stuff so don’t be embarrassed!

 

Can I crush up my medicine to take it?

can I crush my medicine

Crushing up medicines

 There are times when you may be tempted to break up, crush or chew a tablet or other medicine to make it easier to swallow.  It is very important that you find out first if this is ok.  This should not be done with certain medicines.

 

Slow release medicines (eg medicines with XR, SR after the name)

Some medicines are designed to not be released in to the blood stream all at once but rather for small amounts of the medicine to be released over the course of 12 or 24 hours.  Slow release of medicines is very useful in medicines that need to be taken every day in order to get 24 hour use of the medicine.

It is very dangerous to alter this type of medicine by crushing or chewing it (some may be broken) as this means a very high amount of the medicine could be released in to the blood stream all at once rather than small amounts over a longer time.  This can result in death due to very high medicine levels.

Under the tongue (sublingual) tablets (eg medicines that come in a wafer)

Some medicines are designed to be placed under the tongue so that the medicine can be absorbed in to the blood stream from the mouth.  The advantage of this type of medicine is that they work pretty quickly as the medicine does not have to wait to get to the gastrointestinal tract in order to work.  If a sublingual medicine is swallowed (following crushing, breaking or chewing) it probably won’t work at all.

Enteric coated medicines (eg medicines with EC after the name)

Some medicines have an enteric coating which is designed to dissolve in the small intestine and not in the stomach.  These coatings have two uses.  They can protect the stomach from medicines that may irritate and they can protect the medicine itself if it can be damaged by the stomach acid.

Check before you alter your medicine

Always check with a Pharmacist if it is ok to crush, break or chew your medicine.  If this is not possible it is likely there will be an alternative to the medicine you need that is available in a liquid or sublingual medicine.  Some medicines that come in tablet form can be dispersed in water and the solution then swallowed.  Some medicines that come in capsules can be opened up and the medicine inside can be put on/in food or in water.

There are medications that are suitable for crushing.  Some of the medicine is always lost when it is crushed and some of it remains on the device used for crushing.  After a medicine is crushed it can be place directly in the mouth, placed in water to drink or mixed with yoghurt, jam or apple puree.

Reference   Australian Don’t Rush to Crush Handbook 2017

Sunburn

sunburn

Summer is coming.  Avoid sunburn.

If you have fair skin like mine you know that sunburn can occur in less than 15 minutes or in the time it takes to hang out the washing!  We looked at how to protect our skin from the sun earlier in the week.  Now let’s look at what sunburn is and what to do if sunburn occurs.

What is sunburn?                                                                                          

Sunburn is a radiation burn to our skin.  Sunburn can occur on cloudy days and even if we are not directly exposed to the sun such as when we are near reflective surfaces such as snow, concrete or sand.  UVA and UVB radiation both reach the earth though our skin responds differently to each.  Our skin does not have to burn to have sun damage.  Tanning is also a sign that UV damage has occurred.  Having a tan does not prevent against getting sunburned either!

UVA radiation penetrates deeper in to our skin layers and causes damage to new skin cells that are forming.  This can lead to dry, rough and wrinkled skin and also sunburn and skin cancer.

UVB radiation affects the surface layer of our skin and causes skin cancers as well as sunburn.  It also causes tanning, burning and aging.

Sunburn usually appear within minutes to hours of the burn occurring.  The skin can continue to change colour for up to three days.  As well as redness and heat, itching, swelling and sometimes blistering can occur.

Other ways to avoid sunburn

The old slip, slop, slap has gotten more fancy adding a seek and slide.  To refresh your memories that’s slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek shade and slide on some sunglasses.

Staying out of the sun during the hottest part of the day is the best idea.  These times vary depending on where you are in the world.

Sunburn treatment

It is important to drink water as sun exposure can make you dehydrated.

Cool compresses and cool showers/baths can help (do not use soap as this may irritate).

Spray on pure aloe vera is great for soothing sunburned skin (especially if you keep it in the fridge to make it cold) and it helps with healing.

If there are blisters avoid popping them.  Hydrocolloid dressings available from the Pharmacy are great for healing burns.

Keep sunburned skin out of the sun until it has healed and then for a time after.

Nothing will stop skin from peeling if it is going to peel.  Apply moisturiser to the skin if this happens to help with itching.  Don’t rip peeling skin off but let it come off on its own.

If severe sunburn has occurred or if a baby or child is involved seek medical advice.

 

Exposure to UV radiation causes permanent skin damage and may cause skin cancer which can be deadly.