This infographic outlines just how crucial a blood donation can be, as well as explaining how easy it is to give blood. Learn about the different blood groups and the compatibility of types so that you can establish whose life you might be able to save by donating a small sample of your blood to them.
This infographic outlines the two types of diabetes, a condition that affects one out of every 20 people in the world. It also dispels several unfounded myths about diabetes, plus recommending dietary and exercise habits that will hopefully ease the problem for those affected.
This infographic explores the possible effects of hair loss, which can have a debilitating impact on our self-confidence. It also recommends a series of actions and treatments that you can take to combat hair loss.
This infographic outlines why it is hugely important to be vaccinated in order to reduce the likelihood of flu infection. It also distinguishes between seasonal flu and the common cold, as well as pinpointing who has the most pressing need to receive the flu vaccine
This infographic contains information about irritable bowel syndrome, including causes and symptoms. There are tips for how sufferers can improve their diet, as well as general advice on how to deal with it.
This infographic looks at the growing epidemic of obesity, with some important information about calories and dietary advice. It also recommends ways in which people suffering from obesity can keep active.
This infographic contains some vital information about sexually transmitted infections, including how they can be caught and transmitted, the biggest risk factors, who should get tested and the treatments that are available.
As the weather improves and the days are getting longer, we are all looking forward to the summer - right? Well, maybe not! For one in five people, this time of year marks the start of runny and itchy eyes, a blocked nose, headaches and much more. Hay fever season is here, and in general practice we are seeing patients everyday who are out of sorts due to the condition. Symptoms make concentration difficult, and can disturb sleep and cause us to be irritable, leading to sick days at work, poor exam performance and looking on as our friends and colleagues enjoy the fine weather.
Hay fever is caused by an allergy to pollen. Common hay fever symptoms are a runny, itchy and/or blocked nose, sneezing and itchy eyes. Other symptoms sometimes include loss of smell, face pain, sweats and headache. People who have hay fever are more likely to also suffer from other conditions associated with allergy, like asthma and eczema. Patients with hay fever who experience breathlessness should visit a doctor immediately.
Hay fever usually occurs in spring and summer, when there is more pollen in the air. Trees, plants and grass release pollen as part of their reproductive process. People with hay fever can experience their symptoms at different times of the year, depending on which pollen or spores they are allergic to. A pollen count over 50 is considered high, and while you cannot avoid pollen completely you can decrease how much pollen you breathe in.
Five top tips to reduce the symptoms of hay fever:
Hay fever cannot be cured completely, but there are a number of treatments available to relieve the symptoms. These include antihistamine tablets, nasal sprays and eye drops. There are also various steroid nasal sprays and drops available. Sometimes, saline nose rinses can be helpful. Rarely, in severe cases, your GP may prescribe steroid tablets. In the past, steroid injections were used during hay fever season, however, due to the side effects of these injections, they are no longer recommended. Some of these treatments are available over-the-counter in pharmacies, and your pharmacist is probably the first place to seek advice if you have hay fever symptoms.
In severe cases, referral to an immunologist may be necessary where a treatment called desensitisationmay reduce symptoms. Although hay fever can cause some of us to be miserable during the summer, the good news is that for most people, as the years pass, it is a condition that tends to improve naturally.
Quitting smoking is one of the toughest challenges a person can face in their life. As a working GP, patients commonly attend to seek advice with regard to tips to help them quit smoking. GPs are trained to help people quit smoking, and can advise you on the most suitable methods to use. You’re up to four times more likely to give up smoking with help from a healthcare professional than going it alone.
Despite the fact that smoking is well known to cause harm to many parts of our body, it remains a very difficult habit to break. Even social smokers who may only smoke one or two evenings a week should not consider themselves safe; the social smoker is vulnerable to the same harmful health effects as a regular smoker. There is no safe lower intake of cigarettes.
So what top tips can we give to help patients quit?
1. The most important factor is to pick the correct time to quit. Quitting is a challenge and can be stressful in itself; therefore, to give yourself the best chance, pick a time when life is calm and you are not dealing with a lot of stress anyway. So, if you’ve just received bad news or you’re moving house, wait until things have settled down.
Where are you in the cycle of change?
Pre-contemplation: You think smoking is not a problem
Contemplation: You identify smoking as a problem
Preparation: You seek out information, support and alternatives to smoking
Action: You are quitting
2. Don’t put it off forever! Pick a date (e.g. your birthday, LENT, a holiday, World No Tobacco Day –May 31st) and work towards that date as the day you smoke your last cigarette.
3. Tell your family and friends that you are quitting, and ask them to support you.
4. Join an online forum to help you quit – just because your real friends aren’t quitting, doesn’t mean you can’t get support from others who are quitting.
5. Prior to quitting change your smoking habits, stop smoking your favourite cigarette well in advance of your quit date. Perhaps it’s the first one in the morning, your 11 o’clock break or maybe your after-dinner cigarette – this is the one you’ll miss most when you quit, so stop it before your quit date. Try and change the pattern of your smoking – for a few weeks prior to quitting, smoke somewhere you normally wouldn’t, e.g. the garden shed. This will help break the psychological association you have with smoking in familiar places.
6. Get rid of all smoking reminders. Throw away all your cigarettes, ashtrays, lighters, matches – everything you associate with smoking (except perhaps your husband…)
7. Keep a key motivator close to hand – maybe a picture of your kids (73% of children worry that their mum or dad will die because they smoke). When you get a craving, take out the picture and remember why you are quitting. Maybe a video of your partner or kids encouraging you to quit on your phone will help beat those cravings.
8. As you are quitting, your fitness level will improve. Whether you are walking, running or swimming, monitor your fitness and you’ll notice the improvement.
9. Don’t let a slip-up become a mudslide. A lapse can happen to the most dedicated of quitters and isn’t the end of the quit - it’s merely part of the process, and you need to identify the trigger for the slip-up and start again.
10. Keep in mind all the added benefits to your life: you will save money, you will feel fitter and healthier, you will no longer smell of smoke, you will have whiter teeth and clearer skin, and above all you will be a better role model for your children.
Good luck with your journey to become nicotine free – next month I’ll look at tips to help you beat the craving for a cigarette and what advice your GP may give you relating to nicotine replacement therapy, champix tablets and electronic cigarettes.
Working as a GP patients regularly attend for a “check-up”. It is refreshing when patients take such a proactive attitude to their health rather than waiting to be unwell. Essentially these patients are asking the doctor to help them be as healthy as they can be into the future.
What is a general check up/health screening?
I normally divide this type of request into two. I start with advice regarding healthy diet, smoking, alcohol consumption, lifestyle, exercise and stress management. I then discuss screening tests. Screening tests are tests that look for diseases before you have symptoms. Screening tests can find diseases early, when they're easier to treat. Some screenings can be done in your doctor’s clinic whereas others need special equipment only available in hospitals.
What illnesses can I be tested for?
Some conditions that doctors commonly screen for in GP clinics include:
· High blood pressure,
· Obesity and Body Mass Index,
· High cholesterol,
· Vitamin deficiencies (Vit D, Vit B12, folic acid),
· Cervical cancer in women,
· Prostate cancer in men,
· Colorectal cancer.
Screening for the following conditions requires hospital referral:
· Breast cancer
What factors taken into consideration when deciding which tests to perform?
Which tests you would benefit from depends on your age, your sex, your family history, and whether you have risk factors for certain diseases.
Will I need to give blood?
Yes a simple blood test will form part of your health screen. The doctor or nurse will also do a physical examination measuring your height, weight, body mass index and blood pressure. A cervical cancer screen involves having a smear test. A cervical smear is free between the ages of 25 and 60. A bowel cancer screen checks for blood in the stool and does not require an intimate examination as a stool sample provided by you at home can be sent to a lab for analysis.
How should I prepare for a health screening?
As you can see from this discussion a simple "check-up" can be quite complicated and you should probably have one full appointment with your doctor for this. Alternatively you can attend a clinic which offers dedicated health screening. This will ensure that your screening visit provides you with the most comprehensive service available. You should be fasting for 12 hours when the blood tests are taken.
What screening should a mum typically undergo?
Under the age of 40 women should consider being screened for High Blood Pressure, Body Mass Index, Anaemia, Diabetes, High Cholesterol, Vitamin deficiencies and for cervical cancer. Other screening tests will depend on your family history e.g. if you have a family history for breast or bowel cancer you should consider a screen for these cancers. The HSE runs formal screening programmes for breast and bowel cancer for patients over the age of 50.
Union Quay Medical Centre run screening clinics in Cork city centre and Dundrum shopping centre. For more information regarding health screening or to book an appointment http://www.unionquaymedicalcentre.ie/health-screening-explained.html
Next month I will discuss advice and tips to quit smoking.
Our doctors and nurses will update this blog regularly - check in for details