Spring has arrived, and unfortunately for many of us, so has Hay Fever!
Hay Fever is the common term used to describe the symptoms of sneezing, nasal congestion, red itchy watery eyes and headache related to exposure to the grass & tree pollens that are in the air in Spring.
Hay Fever Management
So what can you do to best manage these symptoms?
Check the daily pollen forecast. A very useful app is available providing pollen counts and also forecasts of thunderstorm asthma. You can download the Melbourne Pollen Count mobile app here. On high pollen count days you may need to say indoors
Take anti-histamine tablets as needed – these are available over the counter from your pharmacy
Consider daily use of a corticosteroid nasal spray – this needs to be taken continuously throughout the Hay Fever season to prevent symptoms
Anti-histamine eye drops can be helpful for itchy red eyes
If symptoms are severe and recurring each year, talk to your doctor about allergy testing and desensitization immunotherapy
Asthma & Hayfever
Remember that people with Hay Fever may also be at risk of getting Thunderstorm Asthma. This can happen when a high or extreme pollen count day combines with a particular type of thunderstorm, turbocharging the spread of pollens. Consult your doctor about whether you may also benefit from having an asthma reliever inhaler such as Ventolin or Symbicort on standby.
There is more to anxiety than just the feeling of stress or worry. It is perfectly normal to feel anxious during stressful situations. When we feel pressured, feelings of stress and anxiety are common responses that usually disappear when the stressful situation passes. However, if your feelings of stress occur regularly or don’t go away, this might mean that you are experiencing an anxiety condition.
In Australia, anxiety is the most common mental health condition, with around one in four Australians (one in three women and one in five men) experiencing it during their lifetime. Every year, over two million Australians experience anxiety.
The sooner people get support, the more likely they are to recover and there are many ways to help manage it.
Signs and symptoms
The symptoms are complex and evolve over time, and since we all experience anxious feelings during periods of stress, it can be hard to know if our feelings are normal or not.
Normal feelings that people experience are limited in time and tend to be connected to a stressful situation or event, such as a group presentation or a job interview. In contrast, anxious feelings experienced are more regular, not always connected to stressful situations, and can impact on day-to-day quality of life. While each person can experience different types, there are some common symptoms including:
Hot and cold flushes
Accelerated heart rate
Avoidance of certain situations
There are more symptoms that you may experience, and you will need to see a doctor to properly be diagnosed with anxiety condition. However, these can be used as a guide for yourself and others.
Treatments for anxiety
Effective treatment for anxiety involves helping you learn how to control your anxiety so it doesn’t control you. What treatment is recommended for you will depend on what type of anxiety you experience.
If your symptoms are mild, your doctor might suggest changes to you daily routine, such as regular physical exercise. In this time of isolation, you might also like to try online or telehealth therapies, many of which are free, anonymous and easily accessible for anyone with internet access. For instance, if you are a university student, your university should offer free and anonymous counselling a phone call away.
If you experience moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety, psychology and/or medical treatments are likely to be required. Psychology treatment can involve Cognitive Behavior therapy and Behavior therapy, which will be designed by a mental health care professional for your needs. You may also be prescribed a form of antidepressant medication or antianxiety medication (also known as Benzodiazephines).
If you experience an anxiety condition, there are a range of strategies you can try to help manage your mental health. Here is a short list of a few strategies that may help:
Slow breathing. When you’re experiencing anxiety, your breathing becomes faster and you may hyperventilate. Try deliberately slowing your breathing.
Stay in the moment. Anxiety can make your thoughts live in a fearsome future that hasn’t happened yet. Try to bring yourself to where you are presently.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle. By keeping active, eating well, spending time with family and friends, you will reduce your stress and anxiety levels, improving your overall wellbeing.
Take small acts of bravery. Avoiding what makes you anxious can bring some relief but can make you more anxious in the long run. If you try approaching something that makes you anxious, even in a small way, you can go a long way to overcoming your anxiety.
Be kind to yourself. Remember that you are not defined by your anxiety, and that your anxiety does not make you weak or inferior in anyway.
If you feel that you may experience an anxiety condition, be sure to seek support from not just your doctor, but also from your family and friends.
If you require support, don’t hesitate to call for help
The past few months have been incredibly strange, scary, and unnerving. Understandably, many of us are feeling more stressed than usual, with everyday demands shifting from what we are all used to. Although easier said than done, it is important that we take care of ourselves and try to manage our stress as well as possible.
Here are our suggested tips for lowering stress and keeping mentally healthy:
Asking for Support | Managing Stress during COVID-19
As we’ve all been in isolation, in quarantine, working from home, looking after kids and family in confined spaces, it’s not surprising that we’re all feeling somewhat disconnected from each other. Luckily with technology today we are able to reach loved ones quickly. Make a time to call a friend/family member. Even if the call is only for 5 minutes – check up on them, and don’t hesitate to ask for their support, too.
Limit News Time | Managing Stress during COVID-19
News of COVID-19 is everywhere at the moment. However – for some, it can be too confronting to read and watch the news every day. If you feel like the constant news coverage is doing more harm than good, limit time spent reading the news. Choose one way of receiving COVID-related updates, and avoid all others.
Good Sleep Hygiene | Managing Stress during COVID-19
One benefit of working from home is being able to sleep in a little longer! Take advantage of the extra hour or two you have at home (instead of the normal commute). Try and practice good sleep habits – going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Limiting screen time and caffeine before bed. You might not have another opportunity to reset your sleep/wake cycle.
Speaking to a professional
Sometimes you need a little extra help dealing with stress. Talk to your GP/psychologist/mental health practitioner. They’re here to help you and they are feeling the effects of the pandemic too. Take advantage of telehealth appointments, and make sure you take the necessary time to look after yourself as well as everybody else around you.
What is most important is to remember that this time has been a unique experience for us all. There is no correct way to react to a pandemic. Be kind to yourself and reflect on the magnitude of the situation.
Sleep difficulties are a feature of nearly every mental health difficulty, including depression, anxiety, trauma, substance use issues, bipolar disorder and psychosis or schizophrenia. Take depression for example. Up to 90% of individuals with depression have sleep difficulties, and two out of every three have significant enough sleep problems to also have a diagnosis of chronic insomnia.
Worse still, insomnia does not tend to go away on its own without appropriate treatment. This is because once people start to sleep poorly, they tend to develop ways of thinking and behaving around sleep that make their problems worse over the long run.
Fortunately, there is a treatment out there that can improve your sleep. It’s called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I). It directly targets these unhelpful thoughts and behaviours around sleep, and is the most recommended treatment for insomnia by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
CBT-I is an effective treatment for insomnia. Research findings show it to be similar to sleeping pills at improving sleep in the short-term, and much more effective than sleeping pills at improving sleep in the long-term.
Sleeping pills are not recommended for use beyond 2-4 weeks at a time, because they stop working as well after a while and people may need to take bigger doses over time to get the same effects. Sometimes doctors prescribe them more because they think they will work faster for patients, but even one session of CBT-I has been shown to make a significant difference to one’s sleep at night.
Research shows that CBT-I consistently reduces the time taken to get to sleep, decreases the amount of time spent awake during the night, and improves sleep quality and efficiency, with improvements persisting after treatment finishes. CBT-I can also improve your mood, anxiety, stress and fatigue, so if you are struggling with your mental health, improving your sleep can make a difference to your overall level of functioning and wellbeing.
If you would like to receive a referral for CBT-I treatment, please talk to your GP today.
Dr Damon Ashworth Clinical Psychologist
Improving Your Sleep Can Improve Your Mental Health
Mental Health is just as important as physical health, especially during an unprecedented time of lockdowns and isolation. In Australia, mental illnesses are very common, with about 20% of Australians aged 16-85 experiencing a mental illness in any year. Almost half of Australians will experience a mental illness during their lifetime. The most common mental illnesses are depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders, and can often occur in combination.
Australian youth are at the most risk of mental illness, with the onset of mental illness typically occurring during mid-to-late adolescence (18-24 years old). Further, 54% of people with mental illness do not seek any treatment, which worsens their mental health as access to treatment is essential. Over 75% of people with mental illness who seek treatment see their mental outlook improve immensely. This is especially important as mental health illnesses cause distress, impact on day-to-day activities and can sometimes cause poor physical health and suicide.
On the other side, maintaining positive mental health has shown increased learning, creativity and productivity. In some cases, physical health and life expectancy improves substantially. However, mental health is complex, and someone not experiencing a mental illness may not necessarily have positive mental health. Similarly, it’s possible to experience a mental illness while feeling positively well in many other aspects of life. Ultimately, maintaining positive mental health is not just about the absence of mental illness, but also about being emotionally and socially healthy.
Treating Mental Illness | Mental Health During Covid-19
If you feel that you may be affected by depression, anxiety, substance abuse or any other mental illness, remember that these illnesses are treatable by widely available measures. The earlier you seek support, the better. At SGMC, we offer the services of two experienced psychologists (Dr Phoebe Lau & Dr Damon Ashworth). Further, our GP’s are more than willing to talk and help refer you to a Mental Health Care Plan if you require it.
Just talking to your friends and family about your mental health can help a lot as well, and there are trained counselors available online just a call away.
Maintaining Positive Well Being
Keeping your mind healthy is an important part in maintain positive overall health and wellbeing. Here are a few tips to help maintain your positive mental health
Spend time with friends and loved ones
Talk about your feelings regularly, it’s important to not bottle up your emotions
Reduce alcohol consumption
Avoid illicit drugs
Keep active and maintain a positive diet
Develop new skills and hobbies
Set realistic goals
Maintain a regular sleep schedule
Doing all or most of these tips will help improve your mental outlooks immensely, and help prevent you from experiencing mental illness.
If you require support, don’t hesitate to call for help
Allergies are the fastest growing chronic disease in Australia, with over 4.1 million Australians having at least one allergy during their lifetime. Allergies are most common in children and adolescents, and include allergies to food, insects, drugs, and pets. It is predicted that the number of Australians with allergies will increase to over 7 million by 2050. Therefore, it is important to recognise the symptoms of allergic reactions and how to prevent them.
What is an allergy? | Top 7 Most Common Allergies
An allergy is when our immune system overreacts to something that interacts with our body that is typically harmless to the majority of people. Allergic reactions are triggered by allergens, and allergens can be found everywhere (in the air, our food, drinks and in the general environment). Common examples are pollen, insects, certain food, latex and pets. Typically, most people do not react to allergens. However, in some cases allergic reactions can result in a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from mild headaches and sinus problems to life-threatening Anaphylaxis reactions.
Food allergies are one of the most common allergies experienced by people all over the globe. The latest research suggests that a whopping 3.7 million Australians are affected by food allergies; food allergy symptoms are most common in children under 5 years of age. The good news is that most of these children “outgrow” or become “tolerant” to their allergy with the passage of time.
While any food item can theoretically trigger an allergic reaction, there are eight types of food items that are notoriously famous for causing allergies. These are Milk, Fish, Eggs, Peanuts, Shellfish, Soy and Tree nuts.
In addition to this, some people are also allergic to certain seeds such as mustard and sesame seeds.
Food allergies can affect the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory tract, the skin, and the cardiovascular system. Some of the most common symptoms of food allergies are repetitive coughing, vomiting, wheezing, stomach cramps, tongue swelling, hives, weak pulse, shortness of breath and Anaphylaxis.
Sadly, there is currently no cure for food allergies, which means the best way to prevent food allergies is to strictly avoid the food items that trigger them in the first place. To minimize your exposure to food allergens, always read and understand food labels and be careful of potential cross-contamination when preparing food. Tell the wait staff about your food allergies when you’re ordering food at a restaurant. Know the symptoms of your food allergies and always carry an emergency medical kit just in case.
Skin Allergies | Top 7 Most Common Allergies
Skin allergies effect hundreds of thousands of Australians each year, which can have a significant impact on their work and family life. Anything from pollen and cigarette smoke to dyes and fragrances can trigger an allergic reaction if it comes in contact with the skin. Skin allergies can also be triggered by certain food items and medications or illnesses. Some common triggers of skin allergies are pollen, laundry detergent, sunlight, soap and certain chemicals.
Some of the common symptoms of skin allergies include redness, scaling, rash, cracked skin and swelling. Unfortunately there is no cure for skin allergies which means the best way to prevent skin allergies is to strictly avoid anything that triggers them in the first place.
Skin allergic reactions have sometimes been shown to cause long term skin disorders. Eczema (atopic dermatitis), Hives (urticarial) and Contact dermatitis have all been shown to be a result of skin allergic reactions.
Dust Allergies | Top 7 Most Common Allergies
Dust is everywhere in the environment and unfortunately it can cause an allergic reaction for some people. Increased quantities of dust in the air can cause some people to experience symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, runny nose, dry throat and itchy eyes.
These reactions are a result of allergens in dust. Some common allergens include mites, mold spores, sand, animal dander and hair. Hay fever, a type of dust allergy, is caused by seasonal allergens such as pollen.
The best way to manage a dust allergy is to minimise your exposure to dust or similar triggers. It is impossible to live in a completely dust-free environment, but you can minimise the amount of dust in your home. Other than regular cleaning of your home, you can avoid using carpets, keep pets outside and use HEPA air cleaners.
There are millions of Australians who live with pets, but for the unfortunate few, pets (particularly cats and dogs) can cause an allergic reaction to people who come in contact with a pet. Proteins found in pet urine, hair dander, fur, saliva and skin can trigger an allergic reactions in some people. Additionally, pet fur and hair can also collect airborne allergens such as pollen and spores which can aggravate asthma symptoms in some people. Some common pet allergy symptoms are rashes, hives, sneezing, coughing, wheezing and itchy eyes.
If you are allergic to pets, the most effective way to manage or prevent pet allergic reactions is to avoid being around cats and dogs or other pets. Additionally you can keep pets out of living areas and off of furniture. You can also avoid using carpets, clean your home regularly and use HEPA air cleaners.
Molds aka fungal spores are found everywhere, indoors and outdoors. We all breathe these tiny fungal spores whenever we inhale, but for some people, inhaling to many mold spores can cause an allergic reaction.
When inhaled in substantial quantities, these mold spores get deposited on the inside lining of the nose and can trigger asthma symptoms. Some common symptoms of mold allergies are nasal congestion, sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes and hives.
Like any other type of allergies, the best treatment for mold allergy is to avoid or minimise mold exposure. There are many practical steps you can take at your end to reduce or eliminate mold spores from your living environment. You can use dehumidifiers and air conditioners to control the amount of moisture in the air in order to prevent mold growth. You can also use HEPA air cleaners, clean regularly and keep bathroom surfaces dry, or just get them repaired by AC Repair Santa Barbra
Typically, drugs result in a reaction that is typically a side effect of taking the drug. However, in some cases, the drug may cause a person to experience an allergic reaction which is not a side effect. Some common symptoms of drug allergies are irregular heartbeats, rash, hives, swelling, wheezing and fainting.
While not all drugs cause allergic reactions, some common causes of drug allergies are aspirin, chemotherapy drugs, penicillin, anticonvulsants and anti-inflammatory drugs.
If you are allergic to certain medications, ask your doctor about alternative drugs and consider wearing a bracelet or carry a card that identifies your allergy to drugs in case of a medical emergency.
Latex is a natural substance (sap) that comes from the rubber trees and used for making many commonly used products such as rubber bands, rubber gloves, condoms, toys, balloons, toys, bandages, and rubber balls. Contact with the products that are made with rubber can cause allergic reactions in some people. Some common symptoms of latex allergies are rashes, swelling, hives, wheezing, coughing, diarrhea and vomiting.
The best way to avoid allergic reactions to latex is to avoid or minimise your usage of products containing latex. You should try to use non latex alternatives for products such as gloves or condoms.
We all know to visit a doctor when we are sick or facing a medical emergency, but how about when we are perfectly well? Regular medical checkups, even when we are in perfect shape, can help in improving our overall health immensely by keeping us proactive and informed about ourselves. After all, prevention is better than a cure!
A medical checkup (also known as a medical examination, clinical examination or physical examination) will include a physical examination of your body to check if you are free of any disease and are healthy. During the checkup, the doctor or practitioner will take your medical history, and then conduct several tests depending on your history. There are many different types of tests that may be conducted as well, and these can vary based on age and health of a person. The test results and medical history will then be saved in your medical record.
Regular medical checkups are typically performed on patient who complain about minor illnesses such as flu or high blood pressure, and people who undergo regular medical checkups on a regular basis are found to be more likely to suffer from anxiety and hypertension. Apart from having regular checkups, maintaining your good health can also depend on your relationship with your doctor.
Types of Medical Checkups | Southgate Melbourne
There are many different types of medical checkups, each depending on your circumstances.
The first type is a General Medical Checkup. This is a routine checkup conducted by your doctor on patients who display no symptoms of disease. A general checkup would determine if you have any unrecognized illness and ensure that you remain healthy. Some of the tests that might be conducted include Mammography, Ultrasounds or Physical Examinations. If any illness or abnormality is found, we would notify you promptly and advise you on your next steps.
The second type is a Comprehensive Physical Checkup. Similar to a general checkup, a comprehensive physical checkup would include more tests for a more detailed examination. Possible tests include laboratory tests, X-rays, electrocardiography, heart stress tests, pulmonary tests or CT scans.
Another type is the Pre-employment Checkup. This type of checkup is performed to provide a medical report to your employer as it is a requirement for recruitment in some companies. This checkup would include basic tests to ensure that you are capable of working in certain environments.
The final type is an Insurance Checkup. This checkup is conducted to provide a medical report to your insurance company.
We understand that you want to feel safe visiting our medical centre and not be exposed to Covid 19 virus.
To achieve this, we have established the following covid 19 safety routines to ensure that when you enter the medical centre, you are entering a “clean” area similar to operating theatre suites in hospital:
All our staff on entry to the medical centre will change into surgical scrubs (to exclude entry of contaminants outside the centre), put on surgical face masks and sanitise hands.
All patients will be provided with a face mask to wear in the clinic and requested to sanitise/wash hands on entry into the clinic. Instructions will also be given regarding avoidance of touching any surfaces, including seating.
Any patients with respiratory symptoms will be provided with a surgical face mask and required to wait in an isolation room, separate from the waiting area.
All patients on entering the doctor or nurse consulting room will be asked to wash/sanitise their hands. The doctor or nurse will use gloves for any required examination.
Social distancing will be enforced in waiting area and consulting rooms.
Telehealth refers to the facility to have video consultations instead of face to face consultations. This means that you can have an appointment with your doctor from the convenience of your home or office, saving travelling time and time spent waiting in the clinic. This service also enables those isolating at home due to the Covid 19 crisis to still be able to access medical services.
Is Telehealth suitable for all medical problems?
Perhaps 70% of all problems can be managed just by listening and providing advice, and therefore are suitable for Telehealth consultations. These consultations are also very useful for providing prescriptions, referrals and certificates.
However there are still many situations where we still also need to perform an examination e.g placing the stethoscope on your chest to listen to the heart or lungs, pressing a hand on the abdomen or looking in the ears with the otoscope.
If during the telehealth consultation we find that an examination is still required, we will make arrangements for you to come in to the clinic for further assessment. We will ensure that your subsequent face to face visit in the clinic is bulk billed so that you’re not out of pocket for that extra attendance.
What equipment do I need to have a Telehealth consultation?
Video consultations will require a webcam and microphone on your computer.
Alternatively, you can also use an iPad, tablet or smartphone after downloading the appropriate app.
We use a secure platform called Coviu which provides the highest level of security and privacy for the consultation.
In instances where a video call is not possible or drops out, an audio call using your phone can be used.
What is the cost?
The fee for a standard Telehealth consultation is similar to our normal face to face consultation, which is $91.00. The Medicare rebate for the consultation is $38.20
However, we will bulk bill the consultation for certain groups. These include:
Concession card holders
Patients on Jobkeeper supplements during the Covid 19 crisis
Patients over the age of 70
Patients under the age of 16
Parents of infants under the age of 12 months
Patients who are immunocompromised or are being treated for a chronic medical condition e.g diabetes
Patients who identify as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent and are over 50 years of age
Patients who are required to self isolate or remain in quarantine during the Covid 19 crisis
Which Hormones Affect Weight and Obesity, Medical Conditions Associated With Obesity, Medications Which May Help Control Obesity
We all have heard it many times: the obesity epidemic, which affects more than two thirds (67%) of the Australian adults and costs the country hundreds of billions of dollars every year, is a result of increased intake of energy-rich foods and decreased exercise and physical activity. In other words, if people ate fewer Big Macs and jogged more, there wouldn’t be as many obese people in the world.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines obesity as “abnormal or excessive fat- accumulation in the body that might increase the risk to health”. In the medical field, doctors use a handy tool, the BMI or Body Mass Index to assess if a person is obese for their sex, age, and height. BMI is calculated by considering a person’s weight and height. If a person has a high (30.0 – 39.9) body-mass-index (BMI), he/she is considered obese.
Obesity may be linked to poor diet habits and lack of physical activity to some extent, but it is not just about energy balance, i.e. calories in v/s calories out, it is much more complex. Researchers now agree that hormones and genes also play an important role in obesity. Instead of treating it as an energy-balance disorder, researchers now regard it as a “metabolic defect”, and blame some specific hormones. The linkage between obesity and hormones has been studied extensively in the recent years. Researchers are now convinced that certain hormones such as insulin, leptin, growth hormones, and sex hormones play an important role in obesity and an increase in body weight. These hormones play a significant role in metabolism, body fat distribution, appetite, and body fat storage. So, which hormones affect weight and obesityand how do we treat obesity.
Which Hormones Affect Weight and Obesity
Hormones are chemical messengers produced by endocrine glands and secreted directly into the bloodstream. Hormones play an important role in a wide range of essential functions in the body. From the rapid, awkward changes we experience at puberty to regulating metabolism and making us fall asleep, without the hormones we would never grow, reproduce, or digest.
Excess or a deficit of any of the hormones secreted by the endocrine system can harm the body. Researchers have found that obese people have elevated levels of certain hormones in the body that encourage abnormal metabolism and the accumulation of body fat. Obesity, in turn, can also lead to changes in the bodies hormones.
Here is a list of some hormones that play an important role in the metabolism, appetite and body fat distribution, and are linked with obesity:
Growth hormones, and
Medical Conditions Associated with Obesity
Obesity and weight gain is not simply a cosmetic problem; healthcare professionals now regard it as a serious health hazard as it is linked to several serious medical conditions. People who are obese are twice as likely to die prematurely as a normal weight person. Some of the important medical conditions associated with obesity are listed below:
Some cancers (live, kidney, gallbladder, breast, colon, or endometrial)
Mental Illness (depression, anxiety)
Not all obese people experience these medical conditions, but the risk rises for those who are more obese and those with a family history of any of those illnesses. The good news is that losing a fraction of the extra body weight can significantly reduce your chances of facing any serious health issues down the line.
Medications Which May Help Control Obesity
Gaining weight is easy and quick but losing weight is not. Losing weight is a long term commitment and demands a lot of patience. Fortunately, a number of weight loss strategies are available. If you want to lose weight, you need to first make up your mind and be serious about it and then find an appropriate strategy that works for you. It is always a good idea to visit your GP or healthcare provider to seek some professional advice before making any significant changes to your lifestyle or diet plan. Here are some of the ways to treat obesity:
Medications to Control/Treat Obesity and Hormones
Although changes in lifestyle and diet plans is the best and safest course for people who want to lose weight, if these weight loss strategies fail, you may wish to discuss other medical and surgical treatments with your doctor.