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Here at The Health Improvement Team, we aim to focus on different health issues each month and discuss

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Take Care of Your Body It Is The Only Place You Have To Live!

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Take Care of Your Body It Is The Only Place You Have To Live

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Malaria Info for Winter Sun Seekers

In the lead-up to Christmas, frosty weather can seem romantic; but come mid-January most of us are fed up with the cold. For any readers planning to escape the winter chill by jetting off to sunnier climes, there are a few travel health issues to take into consideration.

Certain destinations – particularly in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America – will require specific travel vaccinations. Some travel vaccines must be administered as a course over several weeks, which means you should try to book an appointment at least six weeks before you travel.

With some destinations, you may also need to practise mosquito bite prevention and take antimalarials. Many travellers who are at risk of malaria aren’t completely aware of the dangers of this disease, and don’t take the correct steps to stay safe.

To ensure you stay protected during your winter getaway, read on.

How is malaria spread?

Malaria is nearly always spread through the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. This type of mosquito usually feeds between dusk and dawn, which means you are most at risk of getting bitten at night.

Mosquitoes spread malaria by feeding on the blood of an infected person; the malaria parasites enter the mosquito’s body and travel to its salivary glands. The next time this mosquito bites someone, the parasites enter the person’s bloodstream where they travel to the liver and multiply. Symptoms begin when the parasites re-enter the bloodstream from the liver.

How dangerous is malaria?

Malaria can be very dangerous – in fact, in 2016 it killed 445,000 people around the world. The key deciding factor in the severity of a malaria case is the type of parasite by which it has been caused.

There are five types of malaria parasite that cause malaria in humans. The most dangerous is Plasmodium falciparum, which is particularly widespread in sub-Saharan Africa. This type causes a quick onset of symptoms and can lead to severe illness within a short space of time.

Other types of malaria are also dangerous, but considered slightly less of a health risk, either because they do not cause symptoms as quickly, or because they are less widespread.

How can I avoid malaria?

The best way to avoid malaria is to educate yourself on your risk, seek guidance from a health professional, and to be very careful about taking the recommended precautions. Malaria zones change fairly regularly, so to stay up to date, make sure you speak to a travel health professional, and/or check out the risks associated with a particular destination by using a site like Travel Health Pro.

You also need to be aware that different malaria risk zones require different antimalarials – if you have some malaria tablets left over from a previous trip, you need to check that they can provide protection in the destination you are visiting.

When you enter a malaria zone you will need to start practising mosquito bite prevention, as this is the best way to avoid contracting the disease. You should:

  • Wear long-sleeved tops and long, loose trousers
  • Cover exposed areas of skin with mosquito repellent
  • Sleep in accommodation with air conditioning and insect screens on the windows and doors
  • In more basic accommodation, use a mosquito net impregnated with insecticide and plug-in insecticides
  • Be particularly cautious at night

If the area you are visiting also requires antimalarials, you should take them exactly as recommended by your doctor or pharmacist. All courses of malaria tablets must be commenced before entering a malaria zone and continued after you have left. Even if you are taking antimalarials, you must still practise bite avoidance, as malaria tablets cannot always provide 100% protection against the disease.

If you do contract malaria you will likely experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Muscle pain

If you are in a malaria zone, or have just left one, and you begin experiencing these symptoms, you should visit a doctor immediately.

You can easily obtain malaria tablets and get advice on how to take them correctly, from The Online Clinic. Click here to find out more.

Categories: Travel Health

What Young People Need to Know about STIs

What Young People Need to Know about STIs

Sexually transmitted infections can be very serious, and yet many young people are often ignorant about the subject despite being sexually active. Sexually transmitted infections are infections that are passed between people during the course of sexual activity such as anal sex, oral sex and vaginal sex. There are a number of different kinds of sexually transmitted infections.

STI symptoms

Some people do not suffer from any noticeable symptoms when they contract a sexually transmitted infection, including the great majority of women who are infected with chlamydia. Likewise, 10 percent of men and 50 percent of women often suffer no symptoms from contracting gonorrhoea. However, symptoms of sexually transmitted infections that can be experienced by both sexes include the likes of:

• Pain during urination

• Blisters, spots, lumps or sores near the anus or genitals

• Tiny white dots or black powder in underwear, which can be the eggs or droppings of pubic lice

• Burning, tingling or itching around genitalia

Women can also suffer specific symptoms such as:

• a green or yellow discharge from the vagina

• bleeding after sex or between periods

• pain in the lower abdomen

• smelly discharge

• pain when having sex

Men can also suffer symptoms such as:

• urethra irritation

• penis discharge

Although these symptoms do not always indicate the presence of a sexually transmitted infection, it is a good idea to seek medical help from a doctor or The STI Clinic in order to discover the cause of the symptoms, and to be able to receive treatment.

For instance, thrush can be transmitted without sexual activity, but can result in many symptoms normally connected to sexually transmitted infections such as discharge, itching and soreness. If you do not have symptoms but you believe you may be at risk, and have participated in unprotected sex, it is important to get a check-up. The likes of gonorrhoea and chlamydia can go otherwise undetected, but can result in serious health problems later on, even including infertility in women.

Testing

If you are concerned about the state of your sexual health there are a number of options in terms of testing. Many GP surgeries offer STI testing, but there are also sexual health clinics specifically designed for such purposes, as well as community contraceptive clinics and a number of other sexual health services. Chlamydia can be tested for in certain pharmacies and The STI Clinic also offers a range of tests.

Treatment

The treatment that you may be offered will be very much dependent on the precise nature of the infection that you have contracted. For instance, scabies and pubic lice can normally be dealt with by a lotion or cream, while the likes of chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomonas or syphilis can usually be cleared with a short course of antibiotics.

More complex and involved treatments tend to be required for the likes of genital herpes, HIV and hepatitis B and C. You will receive expert advice on your options for treatment, and will have plenty of time in which to ask any questions you may have, about both the condition and the treatment. If you are given antibiotics it is crucial to finish the complete course of tablets in order to fully clear the infection. In the event that you suffer side-effects from the medication, consult your medical practitioner, but do not just cease taking your medication. You may be asked to return to your health provider in order to check that the infection has cleared after completing your course of treatment.

You should refrain from engaging in sexual activity until such time as advised by your health care professional, in order to avoid passing the infection on to any sexual partners. Any recent or current sexual partners should be informed of your diagnosis as they may also require testing and treatment. If you do not wish to do this in person, clinics can often anonymously contact your partners. The great majority of clinics offer a sexual health advisor who will be able to give you more information relating to STIs, ways to avoid being infected in the future, and how to deal with the symptoms – as well as providing free condoms.

 

Categories: Sexual Health

Eczema and sunlight: New study

Concerns about the downside of exposure to the sun’s rays seem to be everywhere these days, and while such worries are certainly not without foundation, and people should always use SPF to protect themselves, it is crucial to keep in mind that sunlight is also good for our health. A recent study has discovered that the symptoms of eczema can be reduced by exposure to sunlight, a finding that could open up a whole new array of methods by which to treat one of the most common skin problems in the United Kingdom.

Eczema – what is it?

Eczema is a skin condition, also referred to as atopic dermatitis, which affects a large proportion of the population and is characterised by patches of skin that become inflamed and itchy. Eczema is particularly common in babies and children, often materialising on infants’ faces, but teenagers and adults can also be afflicted, with eczema striking behind the knees and inside the elbows. Atopic dermatitis affects both sexes equally, and can in some rare instances first occur during puberty or even adulthood.

Types of eczema

Although atopic dermatitis is normally the condition to which people refer when they are talking about eczema, which is both the most chronic and most common form of the condition, there are a number of other types of eczema, including:

• contact dermatitis

• nummular dermatitis

• dyshidrotic dermatitis

• seborrhoeic dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is the result of contact with some sort of irritant which can cause burning, redness and itching. When the irritant is taken away the inflammation will also subside. Nummular dermatitis, which affects men more than women, generally strikes on the legs in the winter months, causing round, dry patches of skin.

Dyshidrotic dermatitis, which affects women more than men, can appear on the soles of the feet and the palm of the hands as well as the fingers, resulting in scaly, itchy skin patches that become red, painful, cracked and flaky. Seborrhoeic dermatitis is responsible for red, scaly, itchy rashes that materialise on the scalp, the eyelids, the eyebrows, and on both sides of the nose.

Causes

It is still not fully understood exactly what causes eczema, but it is believed that the condition is a consequence of an overactive immune system responding to the presence of irritants in a very aggressive manner. An abnormal response to bodily proteins can also cause eczema, with the immune system becoming unable to distinguish between the proteins of an invader, such as viruses or bacteria, or the normal proteins that are a natural part of the body, thus resulting in inflammation. When one or several symptoms of eczema suddenly appear on the body, this is known as an eczema flare-up, and common triggers of this include:

• chemicals that dry the skin which are found in detergent and cleaning products

• synthetic fabrics

• sweating

• a sudden fall in the humidity level

• food allergies

• an upper respiratory infection

• scratchy, rough material such as wool

• an increase in body temperature

• changes in temperature

• stress

• animal dander

The new research

In the new study University of Edinburgh researchers performed tests on healthy volunteers and found that nitric oxide was released into the bloodstream when a small area of skin was exposed to UV light, dampening inflammation and causing a reduction of symptoms in eczema patients such as itchiness. Dr Anne Astier, the lead researcher on the project, says that the new findings imply that there are powerful anti-inflammatory properties to nitric oxide, potentially offering a new avenue of treatment for eczema sufferers.

The condition affects one in twenty adults and one in five children in the United Kingdom, and scientists believe that new therapies could result from the discovery, with the intention being to mimic the impact of the sun’s rays but without its adverse side-effects. People suffering from severe forms of eczema often make use of tanning lamps as a way to cope with symptoms, but this can result in other, even more serious, issues including accelerated ageing, skin burning and an increase in the risk of cancer. The University of Edinburgh’s senior dermatology lecturer, Professor Richard Weller, says that science is just starting to discover that vitamin D is only the beginning of the sun’s health benefits.

 

Categories: Latest News, Skin

Study Finds Health Risks of Artificial Sweeteners

sweets

Every few years, a new health scare comes along that makes us change our diets, re-join the gym and start reading food packets in the supermarket. The most recent and sustained campaign has related to sugar intake; namely, why we should all aim to reduce it.

A high sugar intake is bad for us for a number of reasons – it can lead to tooth decay, weight gain (which in turn increases your risk of serious conditions such as diabetes) and potentially even depression. In an effort to avoid sugar, many people turn to artificial sweeteners, but if the latest studies are anything to go by, artificial sweeteners may do just as much harm as the real thing.

According to a recent study carried out by the University of Manitoba in Canada, the consumption of sugar alternatives is linked to weight gain and an increased risk of diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. The research project, led by Dr Meghan Azad, reviewed data from 37 separate studies, which looked at more than 400,000 people over a 10-year period.

Part of what is concerning about this news is that most artificially sweetened products are not clinically trialled. It’s not known, in other words, exactly what kind of effect sugar alternatives are having upon our bodies.

How worried should we be about artificial sweeteners?

The main issue with the reporting that surrounds this kind of study is that it is not clear what the correlation is between artificial sweeteners and weight gain. One explanation for the data may be that a large proportion of people who opt to use sugar substitutes already have difficulty sticking to a healthy weight, and may be predisposed to diseases such as diabetes.

Another convincing theory that scientists have suggested is that artificial sweeteners can actually stimulate your appetite, causing you to eat and drink more than you would if you had consumed a product containing sugar. As detailed here, artificial sweeteners do not seem to activate the same “reward” pathways in the brain as natural sweeteners. When we consume something sweet that is “decoupled from caloric content” our reward pathways aren’t activated to the same extent, which leads us to “seek food to satisfy the inherent craving for sweetness”.

After drinking a Diet Coke, in other words, we may be more tempted to reach for a biscuit or a packet of crisps than if we had drunk a full-sugar Coke.

Considered in this light, artificial sweeteners themselves may not be problematic, but their effect upon our brains may lead us to develop particular eating behaviours, which counteract the benefits of consuming low-sugar or zero-sugar products.

For people using artificial sweeteners in their diets, there is not necessarily cause for alarm just yet, but as Dr Azad has said, “caution is warranted until the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners are fully characterised.”

This may be especially important to bear in mind if you are currently trying to lose weight, and you find that you are relying upon low-calorie or zero-calorie products that contain artificial sweeteners. Though sweeteners are recommended by the NHS as a substitute for natural sugars, it’s important to bear in mind that weight loss should incorporate a balanced, healthy diet and exercise. Switching to low or no-sugar versions of your favourite foods alone is unlikely to be effective.

Losing Weight 

If you’re keen to lose some weight and get healthier, the best thing to do is adopt a realistic and manageable diet and exercise plan. One place to start is with your sugar intake; slowly reduce the amount you consume in your diet and start eating more fruit to satisfy sweet cravings.

Eat plenty of vegetables and fibre-rich starchy foods such as jacket potatoes and brown rice, and cut back on red and processed meats. Source healthy protein from pulses, beans, fish, eggs and lean meats like chicken and turkey, and switch to lower fat dairy products.

Exercise is also key – adults should try to do 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week and strength exercises two days a week.

Lastly, if you’re really struggling to lose weight, remember that certain prescription medicines can help. There is an online Weight Loss clinic option which may be suitable for you..

Categories: Latest News, Weight Loss