What is Hayfever?
Hayfever is an allergic reaction to the pollen grains and spores produced by certain trees, grasses, moulds and weeds. There are many types of pollen which are released from Spring to Autumn. In Ireland up to 90% of people with hayfever are allergic to grass pollen which peaks from early June to mid July. When a person comes into contact with pollen, the body reacts by producing increased amounts of an antibody called immunoglobulin. This increase in turn causes certain cells throughout the body to release chemicals such as histamine which causes the symptoms of hayfever.
Common Symptoms of Hayfever
The most common symptoms of hayfever are; Runny or blocked nose, Sneezing, Itchy watery eyes, Itchy throat and inner ears, Tickly cough, Sweats, Headaches and Loss of smell
If you have hayfever you are more likely to suffer from the allergy related conditions eczema and asthma. Hayfever can make you feel miserable; sleeping can be difficult, and you may feel as though your head is full of cotton wool, making it hard to concentrate. You are more likely to suffer from hayfever if someone in your family has the condition.
How to treat hayfever
The best way to treat hayfever is to be prepared; in certain cases anyone who already knows they are susceptible to hayfever should begin taking a suitable medication in advance of the season as it can take a few days in order for them to become effective. The choice of treatments is vast and can often be confusing for people as to which works best. Successful treatment will depend on which symptom troubles you most, so it is important to speak to your Boots pharmacist and work out the best approach for you.
Non Drowsy antihistamines such as Zirtek and Clarityn, prevent the body from releasing histamine. These take effect quickly and are convenient as they can be taken when symptoms are noticeable rather than on a daily basis. These particular products provide fast-acting non-drowsy relief, and only require one dose per day.
Another treatment which works to specifically combat and prevent the symptoms of an irritated, blocked nose and sneezing is a steroid nasal spray. These are most effective when taken in advance of ‘allergy season’ and used regularly regardless of whether symptoms are evident for a full therapeutic benefit. The recommended dosage depends on the spray; Beconase is to be used twice a day and flixonase is used once daily.
Dry, itchy or watery eyes can be treated easily with eye drops which can be used as soon as symptoms appear. They can be used throughout the hayfever season. If you wear contact lenses speak to our Boots pharmacist for advice on what is best for you.
As well as medication there are also simple everyday practices sufferers can adopt to help reduce their risk. Keep track of the pollen count by following the reports on the evening weather report. Refrain from hanging clothes out to dry, as pollen will stick to them and get someone else to cut the lawn for you. Vacuum the house regularly and change bed clothes once a week. Another preventative approach is wearing sunglasses, particularly wrap around styles as these provide greater protection from pollen. If you have spent time outside, change your clothes and have a shower to wash the pollen off your hair and skin.
Minimum of 20 - 30 minutes exercise 3 – 5 days a week needed to promote and maintain weight and health.
“A minimum of 20 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity three days a week or 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity aerobic exercise for five days a week will help to maintain your weight and health. However if you wish to improve your physical fitness and improve your health, you will need to combine the different intensities of activity and increase your activity levels to 60 minutes a day” says the Nutrition and Health Foundation, based on research by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association.
The recommendations for the average adult to maintain weight and health are:
30 minutes x 5 days moderate intensity aerobic activity or
20 minutes x 3 days vigorous intensity aerobic activity or
30 minutes x 2 days moderate and 20 minutes x 2 days vigorous intensity aerobic activity
Moderate intensity aerobic activity results in an increase in heart rate and feeling warm. Such exercises would include a brisk walk, yoga, recreational swimming, carrying toddlers and climbing stairs fast. Whereas vigorous intensity activity results in a big increase in heart rate, rapid breathing and sweating and would include walking fast, swimming laps, cycling fast or running up stairs.
“The good news is that the recommended 30 minutes a day can be made up of bouts of 10 minutes or more – therefore you can work towards the 30 minutes even during your working day and lunch break” says Dr. Muireann Cullen, manager of the Nutrition and Health Foundation. Every step counts!
Research by the NHF has shown that the main reasons why people don’t get enough exercise are lack of time and motivation with 47% recognising that they should be doing more exercise. Whilst acknowledging that the main causes of ill health in Ireland are diet and exercise related, only 5% of people identified not getting enough exercise as a major health concern.
As well as the many health benefits – such as reducing the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, brittle bones and some cancers – exercise makes us look and feel better. It helps reduce stress levels, encourages us to socialise by getting out and about, and builds up our confidence, especially if we master a new sport”.
*Consult you GP when taking up a new activity if you have a medical condition or are at risk of one
Five top tips for keeping up your exercise regime are:
- choose activities of interest to you and that suit your lifestyle
- remember that some activity is better than none*
- start off slowly if you have not been active previously, building up to 30 minutes
- bring a friend or family member along for company and some fun
- drink water before, during and after your activity to prevent dehydration
Eat Smart - Eat Slowly
Eat Smart – Eat Slowly! is the advice of the Nutrition and Health Foundation (NHF). “Many of us tend to overestimate the amount of food (or portion size) that we need. The lack of portion control is one of the reasons why over 50% of Irish people are either overweight or obese,” stated Dr. Muireann Cullen, NHF Manager.
Studies by the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance show that obesity is not linked to the type of food consumed, but rather the over all calorie intake and exercise levels. “It all comes back to the balance between energy in and energy out”. “Eat Smart Week is a fantastic opportunity to highlight the fact that it’s not only what you put on your plate that matters, but also how much in relation to your exercise levels” Dr. Cullen continued.
In this time deficient era, we tend to rush though our meals, forgetting to taste the flavours and feel textures of foods. We should look to reconnect with the joy of eating. It takes a few minutes for your brain to tell your body that it has had enough food, so eating slowly can help you to recognise when you feel full. Eating just enough to satisfy your hunger will help you remain alert, relaxed and feeling your best, rather than eating yourself into a “food coma” according to Dr. Cullen.
Top chef Derry Clarke, from Dublin’s Michelin-starred l’Ecrivain restaurant, is once again supporting the campaign which focuses on the key issues of controlling your portion sizes, eating more slowly and remembering your 5-a-day of fruit and vegetables and has developed fantastic tasty and healthy recipes.
Dr Cullen said, “it is important to understand the difference between a ‘serving’ and a ‘portion’. A ‘serving’ is the amount of food recommended in dietary guidance, whereas ‘a portion’ is the amount of food on your plate. For example, did you know that the Department of Health and Children recommend that single serving for meat is 2oz (46g - about deck of cards size), for cheese is 1oz (28g - about matchbox size) and 8oz for cooked pasta (224g - about a tennis ball size)? Whilst this might shock you, by being more aware you can start to make simple changes which may have significant long term health benefits,” maintained Dr. Cullen. “The Food Pyramid can be used as a guide to the number of servings you need each day to ensure you have a healthy balanced diet.”
Why not try these easy steps:
- Eat food more slowly - eating slowly gives the body time to receive the signal from the brain that you are full and do not need to eat anymore
- Be conscious of portion sizes – learn what constitutes one portion, use smaller plates and bowls and serve less food in a meal. If you are still hungry after 20 minutes you can always go back for more
- Remember 5-a-day of fruit and vegetables – soups, smoothies and salads are all great additional ways to help you towards your recommended intake of 400g of fruit/vegetables per day
Tips for Quitting Smoking
1) Prepare to quit smoking
Write down your reasons for stopping and keep them close at hand. Weigh up the pro’s and con’s.
2) Make a date to stop smoking.
Some smokers cut down gradually with a plan for a quit date. However, most people who successfully quit smoking do so by stopping altogether and not by gradually cutting down. Pick your day to stop smoking and stick to it
3) Seek Support
Seek the support of family or friends. Sometimes its helpful if a friend, family member or colleague quits with you.
4) Change your routine & plan ahead
Smoking is often linked to certain times and situations such as the first smoke in the morning, drinking coffee or alcohol. These are called your ’triggers’. Replace these triggers with new activities that you don’t link with smoking. For example:
- If you always had a cigarette with cups of coffee switch to tea or fruit juice instead.
- Take up a new pastime to keep occupied
5) Increase Physical Activity
Regular exercise contributes to good health; helps to manage weight and can also improve the body’s ability to meet the demands and stresses of daily living.
6) Think positive
You may find you experience withdrawal symptoms once you stop smoking.
These are very positive signs that your body is recovering from the effects of tobacco. Some common symptoms are:
- Sleep disturbance
- Don’t worry, they are all perfectly normal and should disappear within a few weeks.
7) Learn to deal with cravings
Cravings can occur frequently during the first few days after stopping smoking. A craving increases in intensity over a period of 3-5 minutes and then begins to subside.
Tips for cravings- The 4 Ds
- Delay at least 3 minutes and the urge will pass.
- Drink a glass of water or fruit juice (sip slowly)
- Distract yourself. Move away from the situation.
- Deep breathe. Breathe slowly and deeply. It will help you to relax.
8) Start saving money
Put away the amount of money you would normally spend on tobacco. Work out how much you spend on cigarettes per week, month and year. Then watch your savings grow.
9) Watch what you eat
If you’re worried about gaining weight, be extra careful with your diet. Avoid snacking on chocolate bars and biscuits; try some fruit or sugar free gum or popcorn instead.
10) Take one day at a time
Remember, every day without a cigarette is good news for your health, your family and your pocket
The Irish Cancer Society's Cancer Information Service offers free confidential advice, support and information on cancer and related issues to anyone worried about any aspect of cancer prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment or follow-on care.
Freefone 1800 200 700
Opening hours Mon - Thurs 9am - 7pm, Friday 9am - 5pm.
Choosing the right nursing home for your loved one!
With over 11,605 people in Louth over 65 years , this article offers us some advice on what we should look for…
In today’s busy world, sooner or later many families have to consider care for their loved ones and often nursing homes are the natural choice. Designed to provide care for those who can no longer, independently, look after themselves, choosing the right home can be one of life’s most difficult decisions. With a significant number of nursing home beds (both public and private) available in Ireland, there are options available to you.
The recent negative publicity about certain nursing homes in Ireland has resulted in a greater spotlight on the sector. This focus has led to debate amongst policy makers and related healthcare professionals of the need for tighter legislative controls to govern the quality of care in all nursing homes in Ireland. Veronica McNamara, former Nurse and CEO of the newly opened, purpose built Marlay Nursing Home in Rathfarnham, Dublin shares some advice on what we should look out for and the questions we should ask when choosing a nursing home for our loved ones.
The location of a nursing home will probably be one of the most important factors you will consider when searching for a nursing home. You should seriously think about choosing a home which is located within close proximity to friends, family and the hobbies enjoyed by the future resident. This will add to the residents well being and comfort as they will not be too far removed from their family or familiar settings. However, visit the nursing home you have in mind before making any decisions. There are number of services that should be observed and evaluated.
Quality patient care should be the focus of all the activities of a nursing home. You should feel comfortable to visit a nursing home spontaneously and see how residents live. Are they up and active? Are they alert and interested? Do they appear happy and healthy? Are there plenty of staff around to meet their needs? Veronica said “Meeting the needs of each individual in a nursing home is so important. We develop unique treatment and activity plans for each individual on arrival at the home. We want to meet and get to know all the residents and immediately learn about their likes and dislikes. An important part of getting to know each individual is to understand what their lifestyle was before they needed this care, so we can help them continue doing the things they enjoy and live as normal and independently as possible in their new environment”.
The special care needs of the resident should also be considered when making your decision. Make sure the home provides the specific service(s) you require. Ask about the different staff employed and their relevant experience. This will help you decide if the staff will be able to meet the needs of your loved one. Having access to an onsite GP, Physiotherapist, Nutritionist and a Chaplain are all factors which will ultimately aid the comfort experienced by residents.
Veronica continued “Assess how easy it is for residents to find a nurse or other staff when they need them. Check out the quality of the nurse call system in the residents bedrooms. For example one thing we find very beneficial and reassuring is having a nurse’s station available on each floor and it is designed to be easily visible when residents are walking around. They know where we are at all times. Never be afraid to ask questions and voice any concerns you may have”.
From the outset, confirm how much the monthly bills will be and the costs and services that are included within that. In particular, clarify how much the additional services are, such as laundry, hairdressing etc, in advance to avoid any surprises.
The provision of clean hygienic facilities throughout the nursing home, from the kitchen and bedrooms to dining room and living room is crucial. View all common rooms of the home and ensure that they are of the highest standard. Check the quality of bedrooms available and if residents are welcome to bring their own belongings with them. Privacy is important also. Ask about the different room options. Do you want a private or shared room? And is there adequate space and light in the room?
Quality food and nutrition as well as flexible dining times are also important elements to be taken into account when choosing the home. Check to see what daily activities are available for residents to participate in. An in-house activity coordinator will help ensure that programmes are developed taking into account everyone’s individual needs. The quality of the service is important. See what special services are provided by the home. Having access to a hair and beauty specialist will add to the resident’s enjoyment. Ask if this is available.
Veronica concluded by saying “These are just some of the key elements which you must assess when making your decision on a nursing home. Above all, always try and find a home in which you know you or your loved one will be treated with the dignity and respect that they are entitled to”.