Everything You Need to Know About Eczema!

Eczema is a recurring, non-infectious inflammatory skin condition that affects 1 in every 3 Australians. Although eczema can be effectively treated and managed, sadly no cure has yet been discovered.Eczema can occur at any time during someone’s life, however it seems to most commonly affect infants, where 1 in 5 children under the age of 2 will have symptoms such as dry skin, red and scaly areas of skin, itchiness and watery fluid weeping from affected skin.
  • Infantile Eczema usually starts in the first 6 months of life, and can cause an itchy red rash and dry skin. Infantile eczema usually improves significantly in the ages of 2-5 years.
  • Childhood Eczema may follow, or can start for the first time between 2-4 years. The rash and dryness are usually concentrated around the creases of the elbows, behind the knees, across the ankles, and may also affect the face, ears and neck. Luckily childhood eczema usually improves with age. While some children may completely outgrow their eczema, for many they will continue to suffer skin dryness and sensitivity into adulthood.
  • Adult Eczema is similar to that in older children, with areas of very itchy, dry, reddened skin at the elbow creases, wrists, neck, ankles and behind the knees. At times, weeping of the skin can occur. Eczema usually improves during the middle years of life, and is rarely seen in the elderly, but it can still occur.

What Causes Eczema?

It is not well understood why some people have or develop eczema. It is very common for people with other allergies and sensitivities to also suffer with eczema, and it is also known that inherited genetic factors can cause eczema.People who suffer from eczema have less water retaining properties in their skin, compared to non- sufferers, meaning that moisture is easily lost from the skin, causing it to dry out more easily.Eczema is often called atopic eczema (meaning a type of allergy where a hypersensitive reaction occurs), or allergic eczema, due to those suffering with eczema also suffering many allergic conditions. Those with moderate to severe eczema may also suffer from immediate food allergies. This does not necessarily mean that removing the food allergen is the cause of the eczema, therefore removing it from the diet will cure the eczema, it just means that removing it will reduce the incidence of immediate reactions from occurring. Removing some food(s) may result in better eczema control, but this should always first be discussed with your doctor, and done under medical supervision.Having eczema means that the skin barrier is damaged, allowing moisture to evaporate, and making the skin more susceptible to allergens and irritants. The irritation of the skin causes it to release particular chemicals that make the skin itchy. The more you scratch and disturb the skin surface, the more these chemicals are produced, leading to the distressing ‘scratch and itch’ cycle.

What are Eczema’s Symptoms?

Eczema affects the skin by causing itching, oozing, redness, and over time rough, hard, thickened skin. It is a disease that can get better or worse in a matter of days, weeks and months. When a sufferers skin worsens, this is usually referred to as an eczema flare. Being aware of the triggers that cause a flare in eczema, and having a good treatment plan and regime can ensure these triggers don’t affect the sufferers overall quality of life.Known Eczema Triggers:
  • Dry skin
  • Scratching
  • Viral or bacterial infections
  • Swimming in chlorinated swimming pools
  • Playing in sand and sandpits
  • Sitting directly on carpets or grass
  • Inhalant allergens – worsening of the skin in spring and summer may be due to increased pollen activity
  • Food intolerances
  • Irritants such as perfumes, soaps, detergents, fabrics
  • Temperature changes (such as increased heat)
  • Stress

Eczema Treatment

The most important treatment for Eczema prone skin is to keep skin well hydrated with regular moisturising, even when Eczema symptoms are relatively well controlled.
  • Use a non-soap based wash or oil
  • Moisturise the skin as frequently as possible (2-3 times daily) and always after bathing or showering
  • Treat flare ups quickly, and have a flare-up treatment plan
  • Control the itch – cold compresses and wet wraps usually work best
  • Control and prevent infection
  • Avoid triggers and irritants
There are many non-prescription products that can help you manage and treat your skin condition. From probiotics that can assist with lessening itching, and sleeplessness, to gentle body washes, cleansers and moisturisers. Come in and chat with our pharmacists about a good skin care and management regime.

Spring has Sprung!

The days are getting longer, the sun is getting warmer. While some of us are rejoicing in the welcome change from the winter chill; 1 in every 5 are suffering from itchy/stuffy noses, watery, red and itchy eyes – commonly known as hay fever.

Are you suffering?

Hay fever (or correctly called seasonal allergic rhinitis) is an allergic reaction to pollen (fine grains produced by trees, grasses, flowers and plants), dust mite, animal fur and moulds. If these allergens get into the sinuses, nose, eyes or throat, it can cause an inflammatory response leading to:

  • a runny or blocked nose,
  • sore and itchy eyes
  • itchy throat, mouth, ears and nose
  • a cough or an exacerbation of asthma (Around 8 in 10 people with asthma have allergic rhinitis, making asthma more difficult to control).
  • Blocked sinuses can also lead to headaches, earache, fatigue, poor quality sleep, a sore face and if severe enough an infection.

Tips for Reducing Pollen Exposure

  1. Stay indoors until after midday (if possible to reduce your exposure to pollen, particularly during the pollen season and on windy days.
  2. Try to avoid going out on windy days or after thunderstorms.
  3. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
  4. Do not mow the grass and stay inside when it is being mown. If mowing is unavoidable, wear a mask or consider taking a non-drowsy antihistamine if your doctor has suggested this.
  5. Consider planting a low allergen garden around the home.
  6. Keep windows closed both at home and particularly when in your car (and where possible use recirculating air conditioning in your car).
  7. Do not picnic in parks or outdoors during the pollen season.
  8. Try to plan your holidays out of the pollen season or holiday at the seaside.
  9. If you are sensitive to particular weeds or trees that are outside your bedroom window, have them removed.
  10. If landscaping at home, research plants less likely to trigger allergic rhinitis or asthma.
  11. Shower when you arrive home and rinse your eyes frequently with water.
  12. Reduce your exposure to dust and dust mites, animals and animal hair or fur (dander).
  13. Carry a supply of tissues.

Effective Treatments Are Available

Seek advice from your pharmacist or doctor about medications or treatments that will relieve your symptoms. Although medications do not cure allergies, they are much more effective with fewer side effects than medications available 20 years ago. You just need to know the best way to use them, and to avoid medicines that can cause more problems than they solve, like frequent decongestant (unblocking) nose sprays or tablets.

  • Antihistamine tablets or syrups (non-sedating) help to reduce symptoms (sneezing, itchy and irritating eyes), but they are not as effective in controlling severe nasal blockage and dribble. The advantage of antihistamines is their flexibility; you can take them when you have problems, and avoid them when you are well. Antihistamine eye drops can also be helpful in controlling watery eyes due to allergies.
  • Intranasal corticosteroid nasal sprays (INCS) have a potent action on inflammation when used regularly (like asthma preventer medications). These need to be used regularly and with careful attention to the way in which they are used. Different brands of INCS vary in strength and effectiveness, so it is important to read the labels and check details with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Combination medications containing an antihistamine and intranasal corticosteroid nasal spray are available and offer the combined advantages of both medications.
  • Decongestant sprays unblock and dry the nose, but should not be used for more than a few days as they can cause long-term problems in the nose.
  • Decongestant tablets unblock and dry the nose, but should be used with caution as they can have ‘stimulant’ side effects like tremors, trouble sleeping, anxiety or an increase in blood pressure. People with high blood pressure should not take this medication.
  • Combination medications containing an antihistamine and decongestant are also available, but these need to be used with caution as the decongestants can cause many side effects.
  • Natural products such as salt water nasal sprays or sinus irrigation/nasal toilets can be effective in relieving symptoms.
  • Appropriate management of ‘pollen asthma’ includes commencing anti-inflammatory asthma medication either preventatively or with the first ‘wheeze’ of Spring. Some patients undergoing allergen immunotherapy for their allergic rhinitis find that their seasonal asthma improves as well.

There is no known cure for hay fever. Although it can disappear as you get older – equally, people who have never had hay fever before can also develop it later in life.

Talking with your pharmacist, and understanding how treatments work, and how to best avoid pollens, can help give you a better quality of life and keep your allergic rhinitis well controlled. Sometimes, however, symptoms may worsen, and follow up with your GP would be recommended.

Coughs, Colds and Sore Throats

Many of us overestimate the power of antibiotics, and unfortunately the overuse of these medicines over time has lead to more harm than good. Studies have shown that antibiotics have little to no effect on coughs or colds, and can cause side-effects.

Confusion about the benefit of antibiotics can lead to inappropriate use, which in turn contributes to the global problem of antibiotic resistance.

Being sick can make us all feel incredibly miserable, and can leave parents and carers of children feeling very worried and concerned. Coughs, colds, sore throats and earaches can leave anyone feeling terrible. But there are things you can do to help.

Colds are very common and are caused by viruses that are easily passed from person to person. Symptoms may include: sneezing, blocked or runny nose, sore throat, cough, low grade fever (38° C to 38.5° C), headache, and tiredness. A healthy child can sometimes have 8 or more colds in a year.

Some people and doctors have long believed that the colour of snot or phlegm indicated the type or seriousness of an infection. Research suggests that this is not the case, and even a cold with green snot or phlegm does not need to be treated with antibiotics.

It can be normal for cold symptoms to last on average 5-15 days.

What can we do to feel better?

It’s important for everyone to understand that colds and most coughs, earaches, sore throats and other common symptoms caused by respiratory tract infections will improve without antibiotics. We can then ensure the power of these medications remains for when they are genuinely required and appropriate.

There is no cure for the cold, but there are plenty of things you can do to help relieve your symptoms.

  • Rest and keep well hydrated – It’s one of the first pieces of advice you get when you’re sick, but we can never stress it enough: give your body time to fight off the virus, and don’t waste that energy elsewhere. Very little hard research has been done on the link between fluid intake and alleviating cold symptoms, but it’s long been one of the first pieces of advice given to cold sufferers. Drinking lots of fluids during a cold can help to break up your congestion, keep you hydrated and keep your throat moist.
  • Gargle with warm salty water – This can help prevent upper respiratory infections. It may also decrease the severity of cold symptoms. For example, it may ease sore throat pain and nasal congestion. Gargling with salt water reduces and loosens mucus, which contains bacteria and allergens. To try this remedy at home, dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in a full glass of water. Swish it around your mouth and throat, then spit it out.
  • Take some probiotics – Probiotics are “friendly” bacteria and yeast that are found in your body, some foods, and supplements. They can help keep your gut and immune system healthy, and research suggests that probiotics may reduce your chance of getting sick with an upper respiratory infection. There is a specialised form of probiotic called BLIS K12, which is like a roving immune squad, firing away at the “bad” bacteria that cause many types of ear-nose-throat infections as well as oral health ailments such as bad breath, gum disease and plaque formation.
  • Zinc, echinacea and vitamin C – These are three natural substances often marketed as alternative medicine methods to treat the common cold. Echinacea is an herb, zinc a trace mineral and vitamin C is a type of water soluble vitamin. While you need zinc and vitamin C from your diet each day for several functions, echinacea is not an essential part of your diet. These substances have been shown to help reduce the severity of symptoms and reduce the impact of a cold on your daily life. They can help relieve A cough, sore throat, runny nose and sneezing.
  • Vapour rub – You might not like the smell, but some old-fashioned topical ointments, such as vapor rub, appear to reduce cold symptoms in children older than 2 years. Just one or two applications before bed can help open air passages to combat congestion, reduce coughing, and improve sleep.
  • Humidity – Influenza thrives and spreads more easily in dry environments. Creating more humidity in your home may reduce your exposure to this flu-causing virus. Increased humidity may also reduce nasal inflammation, making it easier to breathe when you’re sick.

If you want to increase the odds of avoiding a cold altogether this year you should proactively boost your immune system – to function well it requires balance and harmony. The best thing you can do is to lead a healthy lifestyle by not smoking, eating fresh fruit and vegetables, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, controlling your blood pressure, limiting alcohol and ensuring adequate rest.

Are Your Bones Ageing Faster than You Are?

  • Strong bones are important at any age
  • Osteoporosis can be prevented
  • Assess your risk early

Osteoporosis is often referred to as a silent disease. It occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone or both.

Most people don’t know the condition of their bones, because we can’t see them! Around one in every three women, and one in every five men are at risk of osteoporotic fracture. Fractures most commonly occur in the wrist, spine or hips, but can also affect the arm or pelvis.
We start to lose bone density from the age of 35. This is a normal part of ageing, but for some people it can lead to osteoporosis and an increased risk of fracture.
There are often no warning signs for osteoporosis, until you experience a fracture – usually after a very minor fall. Some people have even known to get a fracture from leaning across a table!
Having a bone density scan can assess your risk, and ensure you take all preventative measures possible to optimise your bone health. Exercise is very important, as is ensuring adequate dietary calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K2 intake.

Tips to reduce osteoporosis risk, so you can live better for longer

Both men and women can use these simple tips from an early age to avoid your bone density degrading to a point where you pass through osteopenia and become a sufferer of osteoporosis.
You can maintain healthy bones by:

  • Enjoying a healthy lifestyle with a nutrient rich diet, including fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Taking a calcium supplements or ensuring good dietary intake of calcium rich foods as well as ensuring adequate vitamin D to ensure proper absorption of the calcium.
  • Quit smoking
  • Consume moderate amounts of alcohol
  • Reduce and limit caffeine
  • Be physically active. Physical activity is great for your bone density and muscle strength. Aim for at least 3 days per week – see a professional trainer if you are unsure how to achieve the best results.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious diet and a wide variety of foods to enrich your body with a good intake of calcium is vital for your bone density. If you have a lack of calcium in your bloodstream, your body steals calcium from your bones to function efficiently. The key to preserving our bone health is ensuring our dietary calcium intake is optimal, to prevent this from happening.
The Australian Nutrition guidelines recommend that people consume at least 1,000mg of calcium every day. If you’re postmenopausal or aged over 70, the Recommended Dietary intake is 1,300mg of calcium daily. Dairy has high levels of calcium, however there are plenty of other sources of calcium which include sardines and almonds, and sometimes the calcium from these sources is better absorbed. If you can’t get the appropriate amount of calcium in your daily diet, it is recommended you talk to a highly knowledgeable nutritionist, who will be able to help you.

Vitamin D and the Prevention of Osteoporosis

Vitamin D is very important for bone density growth and maintenance. It assists your body to absorb calcium from your daily diet. Vitamin D is produced in the body after exposure to the sun, and an average of 15 minutes of safe sun exposure helps your vitamin D production.
You can also get small amounts vitamin D from these other foods:

  • Fatty fish including mackerel, salmon and herring
  • Liver
  • Eggs
  • Foods fortified with Vitamin D

Get moving! The role of exercise in preventing osteoporosis

Movement is very essential to the prevention of osteoporosis. Weight bearing physical activity, strength and resistance training exercise helps bone density and promotes steady balance. Reducing your risk of falls is also a preventative measure for osteoporosis.

Before starting any exercise program, please consult your healthcare professional, especially if you have been leading a sedentary lifestyle for many years, are over 70 years old or have any any pre-existing medical conditions. Osteoporosis prevention can be achieved with strength training to help maintain your bone mineral density. Be guided by a health or fitness trainer who specializes in complete body health.
Consider Improving your balance with exercises that include tai chi, yoga and pilates. Balance is integral to preventing falls.
30-40 minutes of exercise, 3-6 times per week is a great recommendation to maintain bone density and prevent osteoporosis.

Take the Quiz!

Are you at risk of Osteoporosis?
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions you could be at increased risk of fracture (and we suggest you follow up with a bone density scan)

  • Are you a female over 40 years of age?
  • Are you a male over 50 years of age?
  • Do you have an Oestrogen deficiency as a result of menopause, especially early or surgically induced?
  • Do you have a family history of osteoporosis or easily broken bones?
  • Have you had prolonged absence of menstrual periods?
  • Have you had eating disorders e.g. Anorexia nervosa?
  • Have you had low lifetime calcium intake?
  • Have you had prolonged use of cortisone based medications, diuretics, or medications, for epilepsy or thyroid conditions?
  • Are you a male with low testosterone levels?
  • Have you broken a bone as an adult due to minimal trauma?
  • Do you have an inactive lifestyle?
  • Are you or have you been a cigarette smoker?
  • Are you an excessive user of alcohol?

There are many steps that can be taken to prevent and minimise the impact of osteoporosis. Book in for a Bone Density Scan now, and learn what steps you need to take to prevent future debilitating fractures due to osteoporosis.

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