Preventing Colds & Flu

As soon as children return to school, colds and other ‘back to school’ ills begin in earnest, quickly spreading to parents and older siblings, through workplaces and other communities.

The tendency to gather indoors during the colder months hastens the spread of viruses, culminating in the dreaded ‘flu season’ at the end of the year…

Although it’s hard to think of cold prevention during those warm September days that mark the end of summer, this is the time of year we need to get started on our prevention strategy for winter ills.

“Every year like clockwork, two weeks after kids go back to class, the cough and cold season starts with a bang,” says Dr. Alan Kaplan, Chairperson of the Family Physician Airways Group of Canada (FPAGC) and executive member of of the International Primary Care Respiratory Group (IPCRG).

“It’s no surprise that respiratory infections spike when people suddenly change their routines, diets and sleeping patterns – which makes them more susceptible to infection – and then gather together in small rooms for hours on end,” Dr. Kaplan explains. He references a research project on hygiene in schools, led by Dr. Charles Gerba, a professor of environmental microbiology, which found that 50% of the classroom surfaces examined were hosting some sort of virus.

“With those kinds of opportunities for transmission, it’s no wonder that, on average, 200,000 schooldays are missed because of illness in Canada every month,” says Dr. Kaplan.

How Viruses Spread
Of course, it’s not just young children who become sick shortly after school starts (although the closeness of little ones, and sharing behaviors – especially with food and drink – tend to get the viral ball rolling). Students of all ages bring home germs they’ve picked up in school, to share with their families. Family members then go on to share them with friends, coworkers and other members of their various communities.

“People infected with rhinovirus or influenza are contagious starting about 12 hours before they even start to feel any symptoms, making it very difficult to prevent spreading those viruses around,” says Dr. Kaplan.

The Best Prevention
The very best way to prevent colds and flu is to wash your hands often and teach your children to do the same. You should wash your hands before and after shopping trips (most supermarkets and drug stores now provide gel dispensers or wipes for this purpose), and always before eating/preparing food and after blowing your nose, or wiping your child’s. You can purchase hand santizers at London Drugs. Here are a few more pointers:

  • Remember to wash your hands after touching elevator buttons, keypads, public phones, doorknobs and stair rails.
  • Avoid handshakes whenever possible, and go wash your hands afterwards if you do greet someone this way. (Meet-and-greet events, cocktail parties and similar gatherings where food is offered are prime environments for viruses to spread.)
  • If someone coughs or sneezes near you, move quickly away and/or cover your nose and mouth. If you have a cough or cold, be sure to use a tissue or sneeze into the crook of your arm.
  • For adults and children over 12 years of age, consider taking an immune-supporting supplement like non-drowsy COLD-FX® or COLD-FX® Extra Capsules.COLD-FX® may be taken preventatively as well as to reduce the duration of a cold.
  • Be sure to attend to the basics of good health and a strong immune system: get a minimum seven hours of sleep nightly, be physically active every day, and eat lots of healthy fruits and vegetables, low-fat protein and whole grains.

Although there are no guaranteed ways to prevent catching a cold, with a strong prevention strategy, you increase your chances of staying healthy throughout the winter months.

Asthma – London Drugs bettercare

As easy as breathing. It sounds like such a simple thing, but if you have asthma, breathing is not simple at all. Asthma is a chronic lung condition in which the airways are extra sensitive, which causes them to react by narrowing, making breathing difficult.

Asthma

Asthma can occur in people of any age, but it usually strikes for the first time during childhood. At least 12% of Canadian children and 8.4% of the population age 12 and over have been diagnosed with the condition. Asthma is the leading cause of absenteeism from school and the third leading cause of work loss.

The first signs are often a cough or slight shortness of breath, especially after exercise. Other common signs are wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness. One in three children has at least one episode of wheezing by the third birthday and close to half will have an episode by the sixth birthday. About half of preschool children with wheezing will outgrow the problem. The symptoms can be similar to the symptoms of allergic reactions, bronchitis, or postnasal drip, so your doctor may want to perform some tests to rule out other breathing problems and to make sure that your problem is asthma before beginning treatment.

Once your doctor is sure that your problem is asthma, you can plan to control the symptoms. The first step is to develop an action plan, a series of instructions that your doctor will customize for you. Your action plan should be in writing, and you should make sure you understand it completely. It will include instructions on when you should contact the doctor, under what circumstances you should adjust your medication, when you should go to the hospital, and what you should do on the way.

Asthma Medicines

Medication will play a large part in helping you manage your asthma. There are two main types of medication you will become familiar with: anti-inflammatory drugs (also known as preventers) and bronchodilators (also known as relievers or rescue drugs).

Anti-inflammatory medications help to prevent attacks by reducing inflammation, swelling, and mucus in the airways. This prevents symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and breathlessness. In order for these medications to work, you must take them on a regular basis. Preventer medicines act slowly and will not stop an asthma attack.

Bronchodilators relieve the spasms in the muscles surrounding the airways that bring on sudden symptoms. They are taken once an asthma attack has started, and they work by relaxing the tight muscles that narrow the breathing passages. With the muscles more relaxed, air can move more easily through the airways. Because the regular, frequent use of bronchodilator therapy may actually worsen asthma, one of the goals of treatment is to prevent symptoms, reducing the need for these drugs.

It is crucial that you use your inhaler properly, or you won’t get the maximum benefit from it. If you have any questions about using your inhaler, your London Drugs pharmacist can help.

Your Asthma Diary

Taking your medication is important, but it is not the whole story. The medicines help you control your asthma symptoms, but they cannot cure the condition. Fortunately, there are a number of other steps you can take to help manage your asthma so you can lead a full, active life. One important component of an asthma management program is to keep an asthma diary. This is really very easy to do, and it will help you pinpoint the factors that trigger your asthma attacks as well as help you chart the progress of your treatment.

To maintain an asthma diary, you will need to measure your breathing with a peak flow meter. Record this measurement in your asthma diary along with the date and time of the reading. It can also be helpful to record how you feel at the time of the test (for example, “no difficulty breathing” or “chest feels tight”) and to record what you ate and what activities you participated in around the time of the reading (for example, “rode bicycle for half an hour then ate a chocolate bar”). Keeping track of your symptoms and what you ate and what you were doing when they occurred will help you identify those things that trigger your body to have an asthma attack.
It will also help you keep track of how well your medication is working so you and your doctor can decide whether your treatment plan needs to be modified.

Identifying Your Triggers

Many things can trigger an asthma attack, and they vary from person to person. Asthma triggers fall into two main categories: allergic triggers and non-allergic triggers. Allergic triggers include pollen, mould, animal dander, dust mites, and some foods. Non-allergic triggers include smoke, fumes, perfumes, weather conditions, intense emotions, infections, exercise, and some medications. If you aren’t sure whether any of the medicines you take could trigger asthma symptoms, talk with your London Drugs pharmacist.

It would be wonderful if you could identify all of your triggers and avoid them, but that isn’t usually possible. It would be difficult to avoid all pollen or smoke, and it would be next to impossible to avoid all emotional situations or weather conditions. However, if you know what your triggers are, you can do a lot to reduce your exposure to them. For example, if grass pollen triggers your asthma, you can stay indoors when the grass is being cut; if perfume is one of your triggers, you can look for unscented products and avoid perfumes and colognes; if cold air causes you problems, you can try skating in an indoor rink.

Another important factor in controlling asthma is to remain physically fit, because exercise helps to improve the respiratory system. However, people with asthma have to be careful to prepare properly before beginning an activity. This may mean adjusting the medication, so it is important to discuss your plans with your doctor before beginning an exercise program or participating in a sport.

Sometimes You Need a Change

As long as you can maintain good control of your asthma symptoms, you and your doctor will probably continue with the action plan you developed at the start of your treatment program. However, sometimes the plan needs to be adjusted as the treatment progresses. There are signs you should watch for that will indicate that a treatment change might be necessary.

Be alert to the following and tell your doctor if:

  • your symptoms begin to interfere with your daily activities
  • your reliever medicine doesn’t provide complete relief or if you have to increase the amount you use to get relief
  • your peak flow readings drop
  • you begin to have difficulty exercising
  • you experience shortness of breath when you haven’t been exercising
  • you have persistent tightness in your chest or morning wheezing
  • you awaken more than two nights in a row coughing or wheezing.

Sometimes your asthma may require immediate medical attention. Call your doctor or visit the emergency room immediately if:

  • you have a severe asthma attack
  • you get chest pains
  • you begin to cough and cannot stop
  • your oral temperature rises above 38º C (100º F) during an asthma attack.

Your Pharmacist

There are many ways your London Drugs pharmacist can help you manage your
asthma, such as:

  • explaining how and when to take your medication
  • demonstrating how to use inhaler devices and peak flow meters
  • clarifying your doctor’s instructions
  • advising on over-the-counter medicines that are appropriate for people with asthma.

If you have any questions about your condition or the medicines you take, remember that your pharmacists are here to help you.

Above all, there is one thing to remember about asthma: You can control it. If you follow your treatment plan, take your medicine properly, identify your triggers and minimize your exposure to them, and stay physically fit, you can lead a full and active life.

London Drugs bettercare – First Aid & Medication Safety

Being in charge of your family’s health is a full-time job. There are always scrapes, stings, minor burns, and other emergencies that need to be addressed. The best way to tackle these problems is to prepare for them before they occur by investing the time to learn about first aid techniques and medication safety to make your home a safe haven.

Dangerous situations can happen anytime and virtually anywhere. In Canada, in most areas emergency assistance can by reached by dialling 911 on any telephone, including pay phones and cellular phones. Everyone in your household, even young children, should be instructed to call 911 in case of emergency. If 911 service is not available in your area, find out the number to call in emergencies and post it—along with other emergency information, such as doctor’s name and phone number—near your telephone for easy reference. Also keep your London Drugs pharmacy number by the phone. Our pharmacists are medication experts who can answer your questions whenever you have them—not just in emergencies.

Consider taking a first aid course from an organization such as St. John’s Ambulance or the Red Cross. This will give you the opportunity to practice your first aid skills in a calm environment so that you’ll be better prepared if an emergency does occur. You may also want to stop by your local bookstore and pick up a good first aid manual for your home and car.

Most first aid situations around the home aren’t emergencies and don’t require a 911 call. They are usually the minor cuts, bruises, and burns that are part of everyday life. Here are some tips for dealing with some of the more common situations.

Burns
Minor, or first-degree, burns usually turn the skin red and can sometimes cause swelling and pain. In the event of a minor burn, take the following steps:

  • Cool the burn. Hold the burned area under lukewarm running water for 15 to 30 minutes. Cooling the burn reduces swelling by taking the heat away from the skin. Don’t put ice on the burn, as this may cause frostbite, further damaging the skin.
  • Apply lotion. Once a burn is completely cooled, apply an aloe vera lotion, an antibiotic ointment, or a moisturizer to prevent dryness and make the injury feel more comfortable. However, do not coat the burn with butter or a thick ointment such as petroleum jelly, because this traps the heat in the skin.
  • Cover the burn. Wrap a sterile gauze bandage loosely around the burned area. Bandaging keeps air off the area, reduces pain, and protects blistered skin.

Minor burns usually heal in about one to two weeks. Watch for signs of infection such as increased pain, redness, fever, swelling, or oozing. If infection develops, seek medical help immediately.

Cuts and Scrapes
Most small cuts and scrapes don’t require a trip to the emergency room, but it is important to care for them properly to avoid infection and other complications. The following guidelines can help you treat simple wounds:

  • Stop the bleeding. Use gentle pressure applied over a clean cloth or bandage.
  • Clean the wound. Rinse the wound with clear water; soap may irritate the injury.
  • Apply an antibiotic. After you clean the wound, apply a thin layer of antibiotic
    cream to help keep the surface moist and kill bacteria that could cause infection.
  • Cover the wound. Bandages help the wound stay clean, keeping harmful
    bacteria out.
  • Change the dressing. Change the bandage at least once daily to keep it clean
    and prevent infection.
  • Get medical treatment for deep wounds. A wound that cuts deeply through the skin may require stitches. If in doubt, see your doctor immediately.
  • Watch for signs of infection. Visit your doctor if the wound doesn’t heal properly or if you notice any redness, warmth, or swelling.
  • Get a tetanus shot. Doctors recommend getting one every ten years.

Poisoning
Keeping dangerous substances locked away is the best way to prevent poisoning. However, if you suspect someone has been poisoned, look for the following signs:

  • Burns or redness around the mouth and lips.
  • Breath that smells like chemicals such as gasoline or paint thinner.
  • Burns, stains, and odours on or around the person.
  • Vomiting, difficulty breathing, sleepiness, confusion, or other unexpected signs.

If you believe someone in your family has been poisoned, follow these steps:

  • Call your local poison control centre and follow their instructions. Directions on the product label telling you what to do may be inaccurate or out of date.
  • If the victim is unconscious or has swallowed a substance that is acidic, caustic, or has a petroleum base (such as gasoline or household cleaners), get the victim to the hospital immediately. Do not induce vomiting.
  • If the victim has not passed out and if the substance is something that is normally swallowed (such as medicine), the poison control centre may tell you to induce vomiting.
  • Get medical attention immediately. If you have identified the poison, bring the container with you. If you don’t know what the poison is but the person has vomited, bring a sample of the vomit with you for analysis.

Medication Safety

Chances are your family has a cabinet full of medications—from over-the-counter products to prescription drugs. Lurking in the back corner of your medicine cabinet may be some expired medications, and perhaps some prescription drugs you no longer use.

An important step in the proper use of medications is to educate yourself about the specific drugs you and your family are taking. All of your family’s medications need to be carefully organized to avoid dangerous mistakes. Here are a few tips to help keep you and your family safe:

  • Storage: Ask your doctor or pharmacist for directions on how to store your medications. Certain medications need to be refrigerated and others should be kept in a cool, dry place. Make sure that all medications are in child-proof containers and are stored well out of your children’s reach.
  • Drug interactions: If you’re taking more than one medication, ask your pharmacist to check for any possible drug interactions.
  • Side effects: If you develop what you think is a side effect, contact your doctor or pharmacist immediately. There may be another medication with fewer side effects that can be substituted.
  • Allergic reactions: Allergic reactions from medications may include difficulty breathing, skin rashes, itching, swelling, racing heartbeat, nausea, severe diarrhea, and feeling faint. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you experience any of these symptoms after taking a new medicine. If the reaction involves difficulty breathing, call for emergency assistance immediately.
  • Expiry dates: Unused and expired medications can be dangerous. Do a yearly inventory of your medicine cabinet and dispose of outdated or unused medications.
  • Never share: The medications prescribed by your doctor were meant to treat your particular medical problem. Never share your medication with anyone else.
  • Follow directions: Read the labels carefully and follow the directions to the letter. Be sure to finish the full course of your medication. Stopping a medication too early can cause the illness to return or make it more difficult to treat.

London Drugs bettercare – Back Care


If you suffer from back pain, you’re not alone. Over 80% of adults experience at least one bout of back pain at some time in their lives, and back pain is a leading cause of work-related disability. And the most common site of back pain is the lower back, because it bears most of the stress and weight.

READ MORE

London Drugs bettercare – Foot Care


If you have trouble with your feet, you are not alone. It is estimated that over 85% of the population suffers from some sort of foot problems. About one-quarter of all the bones in the human body are located in the feet, and in a lifetime the average person will have walked enough miles to have travelled around the world nearly five times! Given all that wear and tear, it’s not surprising that so many things can go wrong.
READ MORE

London Drugs betterCare – Stress Management

Stress. This one little word carries the weight of the world. And it’s responsible for many health complaints in doctors’ offices across Canada. But what exactly does this word mean? Stress is the “wear and tear” your body experiences as you adjust to the continually changing environment. It has physical and emotional effects and can cause a variety of feelings.

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London Drugs betterCare – Osteoporosis

If you have ever wondered why so many elderly people seem to be stooped over and unable to stand up straight, the answer is osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become fragile and break easily. A series of small fractures and compressions in the bones of the spine causes the spine to curve into an “S” shape that makes the person bend forward.

It’s normal to lose some bone material. In fact, throughout our lives our bodies go through a continuing process of losing old bone and making new bone material to replace it. When we are young, the amount of bone material the body makes is greater than the amount it loses, and bone mass (the total amount of bone material in our bodies) increases. In early adulthood the process tends to reach a balance, and our bodies only replace what we actually lose, stabilizing our bone mass. Later, we begin to lose bone faster than we replace it. Over time, this can lead to weaker bones, a condition known as osteoporosis.

As we lose bone mass, all of our bones become fragile, not just the bones in our spine, and they fracture more easily. In fact, in someone with severe osteoporosis, something as simple as a strong hug can break a bone.

A Special Problem for Women

Even though anyone can develop osteoporosis, it occurs far more often in women. There are a number of reasons for this. To begin with, a woman’s bones are generally smaller and lighter than a man’s, so there is less bone mass to lose. Also, men reach their level of peak bone mass later than women, so they have more bone material when they enter the stage when their bone mass stabilizes. And when women go through menopause, their bodies stop making the hormone estrogen, and estrogen plays an important role in preventing bone loss.

In addition to being a woman, there are other factors that increase a person’s risk of osteoporosis. You are more likely to develop it if you are Asian or Caucasian (especially if you are fair-skinned); if you have a small, thin build; or if you have a family history of osteoporosis. Beginning menopause before the age of 45 (either naturally or as the result of having your ovaries removed surgically) also increases risk.

Some lifestyle factors also increase your chances of getting osteoporosis. These include: not getting enough exercise, smoking, consuming too much alcohol or caffeine, and not getting enough calcium. In addition, having certain medical conditions may make you more susceptible to osteoporosis, including diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and anorexia. Taking certain medicines—such as the steroids used to treat asthma and arthritis, certain anticonvulsants, some diuretics, and medicines that contain aluminum—also increases your chances of developing the condition. Taking too high a dose of a prescribed thyroid hormone is another contributing factor. If you aren’t sure if the medicines you take increase your risk, ask your London Drugs pharmacist.

The Telltale Signs

It is unfortunate, but osteoporosis does not announce its appearance with early warning signs. By the time you experience symptoms, your bones will already have become fragile. Once osteoporosis has become advanced, you may notice that you seem to be getting shorter or that your stomach seems to be sticking out. Eventually you may notice that you are developing a stooped posture and a hump may appear on the back just below the neck.

There are some tests that can detect osteoporosis in its early stages. A quick, painless bone density test can detect bone loss long before it would show up on a regular x-ray. And when this test is repeated over time, your doctor can track your rate of bone loss. A woman should have a bone density test performed if she is at least 65 years of age, had a fragility fracture after age 40, has a family history of osteoporosis, or has been on long-term steroid therapy. Future tests can be compared with this reading to help detect bone loss when it occurs.

There are some simple things you can do to reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis or to slow its progress if you catch it in the early stages. These include:

  • Making sure you get enough calcium by eating a healthy, balanced diet. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, nuts, some seafood, and some green vegetables.
  • Being physically active. Exercises such as walking and low-impact aerobics can help bones stay healthy. Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
  • Not smoking.
  • Limiting the amount of alcohol and caffeine you consume.

Living with Osteoporosis

The treatment for osteoporosis involves a combination of healthy lifestyle changes that emphasize diet, exercise, and calcium supplementation. There are medicines available that can help slow down your rate of bone loss and even help replace lost bone. For women who have gone through menopause, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be helpful; however, this treatment is not right for every woman. In fact, there are some women who definitely should not be on HRT. You fall into this category if you have ever had breast cancer or cancer involving your reproductive organs, or if you have a blood clotting disorder. Other medications are available as well, and the choice of treatment is an individual one each woman must make
in consultation with her doctor.

If you have osteoporosis, it is important to do everything you can to prevent falls, because falling will lead to broken bones and immobility. Here are some tips that may help:

  • Use a shower stall instead of a bathtub when you have a choice—or equip your bathtub with handrails and be very careful when stepping into or out of the tub.
  • Use handrails whenever they are available in public places such as on stairs or along hallways.
  • Make sure your home is well lit and your walkways are uncluttered.
  • Use elevators instead of stairs or escalators when you have a choice.
  • Wear comfortable shoes that are easy to walk in and stay securely on your feet.
  • Don’t climb on chairs or ladders. If you need help in reaching something, ask someone for assistance.
  • Squat down to pick things up from the floor rather than stooping or bending over, and never try to lift heavy things.
  • When possible, avoid medicines that affect your balance. Your London Drugs pharmacist can tell you whether the medicines you take may have this side effect. If so, there may be another medicine your doctor can prescribe instead.

If you have any questions about osteoporosis or treatments for the condition, please come by the pharmacy and ask your London Drugs pharmacist.

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