Mental Health During Isolation

The emergence of the new coronavirus has changed our lives immensely. Differences in our daily routine, the constant buzz of negative media reports, fears about losing our jobs and the economy in general can play havoc with our peace of mind. And to make matters worse, we can’t even meet up with friends for a chat and a comforting hug.

Fortunately, social distancing or isolation does not reach as far as our digital devices and we can catch up with friends and colleagues on our phones, tablets and laptops, if only to share a smiling emoji. Being alone can have a few benefits when we know it won’t last forever. We could, for example, learn a new language, read a book or two in the time we’d normally spend commuting, or take up a new hobby. And if we feel fear amid these activities—or during working hours if we’re working from home­—a few deep breaths or short meditation will help alleviate anxiety.

Practicing meditation at home is a great way to calm and relax the mind.

If you are a parent of little ones, you will naturally have concerns about their wellbeing, and find it challenging if you are also working from home. If elderly parents, or loved ones with compromised immune systems live with you, you may be wondering how best to protect them from the virus when you yourself have been out of the house on a food run, for example.

Perhaps it brings some solace to remember that everyone is in the same place; that all over the world, in universities and private labs, the best scientific minds of our time are working on developing vaccines that will help restore some normalcy to our lives.

Until then, we must try to relax, to seek out reliable online resources that can help us, and share our fears and questions in online groups and forums for those with similar concerns.

Reaching out to friends and family through video calls can help provide comfort during this time.

For children, teens and adults, it is important to maintain as normal a routine as possible, getting up at the same time as usual, eating regular meals, exercising (think stretches, yoga, dancing and getting in your 10,000 steps by walking around the house). Make sure you are getting to bed reasonably early and don’t make it your second job to watch the news on TV. Instead, get caught up once a day then find something positive to focus on. (If you are seriously troubled by what you are hearing, ask a partner or friend to fill you in on anything that is important for you to know.)

Talk openly to those in your care, making sure your language is age-appropriate. Find out their concerns and open them up for discussion. There is truth to the adage A trouble shared is a trouble halved. Above all, however frightening the spread of this virus may seem, remember to breathe and stay calm.

Managing Seasonal Allergies

No one enjoys the prospect of allergy symptoms returning as soon as the warm weather arrives, but for children, the itching, runny nose and inability to play with their friends is doubly upsetting. Parents too suffer from seeing their little ones unable to fully enjoy themselves when experiencing the great outdoors.

Although catching colds and other viruses is a child’s rite of passage, allergies can often be confused with colds, leading to poor management. In general, if your child has no fever, and the sniffles and sneezing hang around for weeks, an allergy is likely the cause. Although unlikely your child’s symptoms are related to COVID-19, you may want to run the symptoms through the COVID-19 self-assessment tool at
ca.thrive.health/covid19

Sneezing that continues indefinitely, with a stuffy or runny nose and itchy, watery eyes, may signal the presence of allergic rhinitis, or hayfever.

An allergic reaction is the body’s response to a specific substance, or allergen. The immune system responds to the allergen by releasing histamine and other chemical responders that trigger symptoms. If you yourself have allergies, the risk factor for your son or daughter increases by 50 per cent, and if both parents have allergies, this increases to 75 per cent.

Learning how to best manage your little one’s allergies means minimum disturbance to his or her enjoyment of life.

Managing Childhood Hayfever

Childhood allergies can best be managed by controlling environmental triggers and providing appropriate medication. Non-prescription allergy medications for children work by blocking histamine, which reduces or puts a halt to the unpleasant symptoms. Ways to minimize potential allergens include the following:

  • Know what your child is allergic to. Hayfever is most commonly caused by grasses, but tree and weed pollens can also trigger symptoms.
  • Be aware of pollen counts in your area (these may be found in your local newpaper, or online). Arrange your child’s play and activities to minimize exposure on days when the count is high.
  • Since pollen is released mainly in the mornings, levels are highest then, and again in the evenings, as pollen settles. Make sure your child is indoors at these times.
  • If your child has been playing outside for some time, be sure to give a shower, or wash exposed areas of skin and hair. Place clothes worn outside in the wash.
  • Keep your child inside as much as possible on windy days, and keep the windows closed. Use A/C in the car if you have it, rather than leave the windows open.

4 Natural Ways to Improve Sleep

Sleep is divided into three primary stages: Light sleep, in which we spend most of our sleep time; deep sleep, when we are least likely to awaken, and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, when memories appear to be consolidated. Dreams mostly take place during the REM sleep phase. The average person completes five to seven sleep cycles a night.

Researchers have known for some time that deep sleep is of vital importance to the body, as it is mainly during this stage that the secretion of growth hormone helps repair and rebuild body tissues such as muscle and bone. A 2013 mouse study also showed that the brain’s glial* cells form spaces during sleep, allowing the glymphatic system to literally wash out the toxins believed to be associated with neurodegenerative diseases. (The glymphatic system is the name given to the series of channels that run alongside the brain’s blood vessels, and drains away waste.)

While winding down before bedtime certainly plays an important role in helping you fall—and stay— asleep, research has shown that daytime activities can also help you sleep more soundly as well as boost your immune response.

Let There Be Light

Although melatonin secretion is an important cue that nighttime has arrived and it’s time for bed, you don’t want melatonin levels to be high after waking in the morning. Daylight is the time for cortisol levels to rise—especially in the first hour after waking—if you want to sleep sounder at night.

Daylight contains blue light, which suppresses melatonin. Studies indicate that higher cortisol levels in the morning make it easier to fall asleep at night. Increasing your cortisol can be as simple as getting outdoors for a brisk walk, or sitting on your balcony for your cup of coffee. Outdoor light, even when cloudy, is brighter than indoor lighting.

Conversely, in the evening, you will want to reduce your exposure to blue light, to ensure melatonin is released. Many apps that block blue light are available for mobile phones and computer screens, or you can order blue light-blocking glasses from online sources.

Get Physical

Physical activity during the day is also important for sounder sleep. A study* involving 2,600 participants showed that people sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week. (This averages out to roughly 21 minutes a day.) The study was conducted at the University of Oregon, and reported in the December 2011 edition of the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity. Walking 100 steps a minutes is considered “moderate” activity.

Make a Date with Nature

The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”) involves walking through forests and connecting with nature through the five senses—sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Studies show that regularly practising shinrin-yoku produces health benefits including heightened immune response and improved sleep.

The takeaway is, whenever possible, exercise outdoors. This advice is particularly relevant in light of today’s need for social distancing due to COVID-19, when gyms, rec centres, and other indoor exercise studios are closed. (However, if health authorities advise to stay home, walk inside and make a date with nature as soon as you are able.)

Practice Winding Down

Are you guilty of fast-paced living right up until bedtime? Our ancestors knew that when dusk arrived, it was time to wind down in preparation for rest. If after work is your time for working out, make sure you get your run in early, or switch to morning and perform gentle, relaxing stretches in the evening.

Switch off TV and say goodnight to tablets and mobile phones at least an hour before retiring. Do your best to develop a special wind-down routine that signals to your brain that it will soon be time to sleep.

If you drink caffeinated beverages throughout the day, be sure to switch to something decaffeinated after noon. Remember that decaffeinated is not the same as caffeine-free, and make sure that evening beverages are completely free of caffeine.

* Paul D. Loprinzi, Bradley J. Cardinal. Association between objectively-measured physical activity and sleep, NHANES 2005–2006. Mental Health and Physical Activity, 2011; 4 (2): 65
[accessed March, 2020.]

 

March 21, 2020 update from Chris Chiew, London Drugs General Manager of Pharmacy, regarding COVID-19

March 21, 2020 update 

Dear valued London Drugs patients and customers,

We are now a couple of weeks in, having made major adjustments to our lives. It is hard to believe how much has changed in such a short time and I hope you are all getting the support you need from family, friends and co-workers, to stay as healthy as possible.  

In my first communication on March 16, I made sure you were aware of the rigorous cleaning and sanitation practices happening at all of our stores and that we were working endlessly to replenish inventory of essential items, as fast as possible. This is still happening, and our top priority continues to be to help our patients and customers remain healthy and safe to the very best of our ability. This includes putting a limit of 2 essential items per customer, to ensure quantities are fair for everyone.

As recommendations from the health authorities evolve rapidly, we continue to introduce new and enhanced safety measures in all of our stores. This includes special shopping hours for seniors and people with disabilities (currently Monday to Friday 8 – 9 am and this may extend to weekends). We may also need to shorten hours in some of our pharmacies to make sure we can continue to operate with the highest efficiencies and safety, while keeping up with unprecedented demands.

When in London Drugs and to assist our customers maintain the recommended social distancing, you will soon see decals on the floors designating the appropriate 2 metre length we should be standing from one another. You will also soon see plexiglass barriers that will go up between our customers and staff. These extra cautious measures are necessary right now. 

Something new we have just started, is a program to help seniors who might be isolated or in desperate need of essential items or medications. If you know of a senior who is in great need, we have a dedicated team of staff who are here to support them. Caregivers and family members can email SupportSeniors@LondonDrugs.com.

I would like to take this time to thank all of our employees. While much of the public is being asked to stay home, our stores are deemed an essential service and so our staff are coming to work, stocking shelves, and filling your prescriptions.  

Also, something positive to share with you. As an industry, grocers and pharmacies are keeping the communication lines open. We are sharing best practices with each other daily, in our efforts to help keep our communities safe.

As a 75-year-old trusted Canadian family company, we look at what all of us are going through and we want to do everything we possibly can, to take care of each other. We will get through this and we are in this together.

Stay safe, stay well.

 

Important Prescription Refill and Prescription Delivery Information

Flu Prevention Tips

With an increased and new flu viruses reported this year, pharmacists are advising patients to take preventative measures to avoid getting sick.


All London Drugs pharmacies are still offering this year’s flu vaccine but in addition to getting a flu shot, Pharmacists offer the following advice to help you reduce your chances of getting sick.

Wash your hands:

Frequent handwashing is first and foremost in cold and flu prevention. The viruses that cause winter ills can be picked up everywhere and washing your hands goes a long way. It is especially important before eating or touching your face, after coughing or sneezing, when caring for the sick, before, during & after you prepare food, after toilet use and after handling animals or animal waste. Proper handwashing is more than just running water over your hands in the sink. To ensure they are thoroughly rid of harmful germs:

  • Wash with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds
  • Wash the front of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails
  • Don’t forget your wrists! Remove any jewelry or watches if necessary
  • Use a paper towel to dry your hands as well as to turn off the tap so you don’t re-contaminate your hands
  • If using a public bathroom, use that same paper towel to open the door when exiting
  • If no soap and water readily available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer

Keep your hands away from your face:

Touching your face when your hands have picked up a virus will put that virus in touch with the mucous membranes of your mouth, nose or eyes—a surefire way to become sick fast.

Avoid handshakes:

Although sometimes unavoidable, shaking hands and then rubbing your nose or eyes, handling a glass, or eating finger-food is an effective way to catch something. If etiquette demands you greet someone this way, excuse yourself at the earliest opportunity to wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer.

Avoid sharing common household items:

Items such as cups, utensils, towels, bedding, dishes or other items with other people increase the risk of catching or spreading a cold or virus.

Beware of keypads:

They are everywhere— at the ATM, a restaurant, the elevator, and virtually every retail establishment. Public computers found in schools and libraries are also a hazard during cold and flu outbreaks. Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection that is transmitted by airborne droplets that can survive up to 48 hours outside the body on other surfaces. So, once again, sanitize your hands as frequently as possible and avoid touching your face after using a public keypad.

Use paper towel:

Viruses can remain alive for several hours on fabric so when someone in your home or office is sick, replace hand towels with disposable paper towel. If you don’t like the idea of paper towels, make sure everyone has, and uses, their own cloth towel. When using public washrooms, use a paper towel to cover the door handle when you exit.

Common symptoms of the flu include:

A sudden, high fever (38 to 40 degrees C); headache, extreme fatigue, difficulty breathing, chills and sweating; dry cough; loss of appetite; muscle aches and pains; runny and stuffy nose, sneezing and sore throat.

Here is some advice for anyone already experiencing these symptoms:

Talk to your Pharmacist to get the right medication: Pharmacists are available to provide advice about over-the-counter medications to manage symptoms. They can recommend the best medications for each person in the family to suite their individual symptoms. Other medicine cabinet essentials, including zinc lozenges and vitamin C tablets should be on-hand as well. Zinc lozenges will not only soothe the throat but combat viruses like the flu, and vitamin C taken daily will also help to decrease the duration and severity of a cold once it hits. A thermometer should be at home too, to monitor fevers.

Heed sneeze etiquette: To prevent others from becoming infected. If you need to sneeze in a public place, and you don’t have a tissue to sneeze into, turn your head into your elbow. This will ensure virus-laden water droplets won’t spread far and wide.

Avoid contact with others: If you start feeling sick or feverish, it’s best to stay home until you feel well enough to resume your daily routine. This ensures that you don’t get others around you sick, thus preventing the spread of your cold or flu.

Relax and sleep: Stress suppresses the immune system and makes you more likely to catch whatever is going around. So try to relax and take some peaceful time for yourself. Since the immune system repairs itself during sleep, be sure to get extra shut-eye during cold and flu season.

Stay Home. Rest and relaxation help you recover faster. When displaying symptoms of a virus, stay home and rest. This will not only help speed up your recovery, it also will protect those around you from exposure to the virus.

Eat well: Fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain phytonutrients that help you fight viruses by building up your immune response. Proteins too are needed to galvanize the immune system, so make sure you consume low-fat healthy protein with every meal. Drink plenty of fluids and take vitamin C supplements.

The Coronavirus

News headlines are filled with stories relating to the coronavirus. This new virus has started to spread including here to Canada, and many people have questions. While the above does serve as a good guide for general flu like symptoms, if you have recently been to, or have been in contact, with anyone visiting China, you should be extra cautious if displaying the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pneumonia in both lungs

If you exhibit any of the above, please remember the following:

  • Stay home except to get medical care. Call ahead before visiting your doctor
  • Stay in a different room from other people in your home and use a separate bathroom
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue OR cough or sneeze into your sleeve.  Throw away used tissues immediately in a trash bin.  Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

You can find more detailed patient information on the coronavirus at London Drugs pharmacies. Remember the best offence is a good defense. To stay healthy is to eat well, take your vitamins, and get a good night’s sleep, while practicing the hygiene tips above. Check out everything you’ll need for cold and flu prevention here. Together we can greatly reduce the risk of spreading viruses.

 

 

Antibiotic Awareness Week: Many Canadians Admit to Antibiotic Misuse

Reminder about the correct and cautious use of antibiotics ahead of cold and flu season

The escalating threat of antimicrobial resistance is a national public health concern which has jeopardized the effectiveness of some commonly prescribed antibiotics, contributing to the rise of superbugs. While most Canadians say they have a strong understanding of how antibiotics should be used and the importance of taking them correctly as prescribed, a new poll conducted by Insights West on behalf of London Drugs finds that many admit to using them incorrectly.

One in five (21%) say they have stopped using antibiotics before the prescription was finished, as soon as they stopped experiencing symptoms. A further fifteen per cent say they have used leftover antibiotics to treat a new symptom or illness. One in ten (10%) admit to using antibiotics prescribed to someone else or acquiring antibiotics without a prescription from somewhere other than a pharmacy. Despite this, most Canadians (90%) are aware that unnecessary antibiotic use and misuse directly contributes to the rise in resistant bacteria.

“The act of taking antibiotics incorrectly goes beyond your own medicine cabinet. It has widespread impact for entire populations of people and for future generations because it compromises our ability to treat infectious diseases,” says Gianni Del Negro, Pharmacy Manager at London Drugs.

Canadian Antibiotic Awareness Week, which runs November 12 to 18, is a national campaign that aims to put a spotlight on unnecessary antibiotic use that is contributing to a rise in resistant bacteria, making infections much harder, and some impossible to treat. The event coincides with World Antibiotic Awareness Week, led by global champions for the responsible use of antibiotics.

“Particularly as we head into cold and flu season, it’s timely to remind Canadians that antibiotics aren’t appropriate for all illnesses and that there are both medical risks and public health consequences of taking antibiotics haphazardly,” says Del Negro.

London Drugs pharmacist, Kerry Yan, consults a patient about the use of antibiotics. Education and awareness are key to preventing the misuse and overuse of antibiotics which may be contributing to a rise in resistant bacteria.

London Drugs pharmacist, Kerry Yan, consults a patient about the use of antibiotics. Education and awareness are key to preventing the misuse and overuse of antibiotics which may be contributing to a rise in resistant bacteria.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), overuse and misuse of antibiotics is more common in Canada than in other OECD countries[i]. The poll highlighted some misconceptions that may be contributing to the misuse of the drugs by some individuals in the country including:

  • Three in ten (31%) are not aware that antibiotics are unnecessary for some common bacterial infections.
  • One quarter (24%) are not aware that antibiotics are ineffective for the flu virus.
  • One in five (18%) are not aware that antibiotics are ineffective for the common cold.
  • One in ten (11%) are not aware that different antibiotics are prescribed for different infections or illnesses; they are not a “one size fits all” drug.

Young Canadians appear to be the biggest offenders when it comes to liberal misuse of antibiotics. Those aged 18 to 34 years old (17%) were the most likely to admit to using antibiotics prescribed to someone else or acquired antibiotics without a prescription from somewhere other than a pharmacy. One in three (32%) young Canadians also agreed that they have stopped using antibiotics after they stopped experiencing symptoms, but before the prescription was finished. They were also significantly more likely to say they have used leftover antibiotics to treat a new symptom or illness.

“Our survey suggests a critical reminder is needed – especially to young Canadians – about correct and cautious use of antibiotics,” says Del Negro, who points to the substantial increase in antibiotic resistant gonorrhoea infections, which primarily affect young people, as an example.

Today more than 50 per cent of gonorrhoea infections in Canada are due to bacteria that are resistant to at least one antibiotic.[ii] In 2017, over 80 per cent of the total reported cases of gonorrhea in Canada occurred in young Canadians aged 15–39.[iii]

Del Negro says that all Canadians can help prevent the growth of resistant infections.

“First and foremost, reduce your risk of infection. Protect yourself by washing your hands, practice safe sex, keep your vaccinations up-to-date and maintain a healthy lifestyle,” he advises. “If you do get an infection or if you do get sick, do not be tempted to take leftover antibiotics. Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking any antibiotics and return any unused prescriptions to the pharmacy for safe disposal.”

When it comes to some winter illnesses affecting the nose, throat, ears, throat or lungs, Del Negro says it is important to remember that over-the-counter medicines can often alleviate symptoms without the use of antibiotics.

“Your pharmacist can provide advice on which medications are best suited to manage specific symptoms. They can also advise if they think further medical intervention or a prescription for antibiotics might be necessary,” he says.

To consult with a pharmacist, find your closest London Drugs pharmacy here.

 

[i]   Canadian Institute for Health Information. Infographic: Do you need that antibiotic? 2017
[ii]  Chief Public Health Officer of Canada’s 2019 Spotlight Report
[iii]  Public Health Agency of Canada – Notifiable diseases on-line

Double Check your EpiPen with Health Canada Advisory

 

With the holidays, specifically Halloween, fast approaching, it’s a good bet you and your family will be indulging a bit more on treats and different dishes you wouldn’t normally eat. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared should you or a loved one have an allergic reaction.

Pfizer Canada has advised Health Canada that, in a very small number of cases, some EpiPen (0.3 mg) and EpiPen Jr (0.15 mg) auto-injector devices may not slide out of their carrier tube easily, or at all. Although the chance of this occurring is very rare, failure to administer epinephrine as soon as possible during an anaphylactic response could lead to patient disability or death.

Currently, Pfizer has indicated that this issue – a deformation on the open rim of the plastic carrier tube may be present – may affect any EpiPen auto-injectors currently on the market in Canada expiring prior to and including September 2020.

Consumers should check that their EpiPen devices can be removed from the carrier tubes with ease.

For more information on EpiPen and EpiPen Jr advisory from Health Canada, click HERE

 

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