Don’t let your health slip this winter…

 As winter quickly approaches and the first flakes of snow begin to settle, the plummeting temperatures, ice, fog make us all more prone to a range of minor maladies which can be easily avoided and dealt with.

Slips and falls are much more common in the wintertime as that pesky black ice begins to form, with sprained ankles and wrists top of the accident agenda. If you think you have suffered a sprain, think RICE.

Rest the injury – you don’t want to make it worse.

Ice – you may have slipped on the stuff, but reduce the swelling with a cold compress for no more than 20 minutes. But do not apply the ice directly on the skin.

Compress – keep it wrapped up with a crepe bandage or a tubigrip to reduce swelling.

Elevate – prop up the injured limb to increase blood flow to the area.

Anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen and Aspirin will help reduce pain. But try applying the herbs arnica and comfrey in ointment form to the affected area to reduce inflammation and bruising. Calcium and Magnesium supplements may also help build up the injured tissues.

If you think the injury is much worse than a sprain, please visit your local A&E as you may need an X-Ray to look further into the problem.

Another common winter complaint is chilblains – red, painful itchy lumps caused by the narrowing of blood vessels. Normally appearing on the fingers, toes and ears, they can be prevented by keeping these areas covered and warm. Obvious advice is to remember the gloves or mittens and try and wear a hat or ear muffs when going out for a long time. But you can help prevent this further by trying the Gingko Biloba herb which improves circulation. You may also wish to try Vitamin E to thin the blood and Magnesium to relax the blood vessels. Certain blood pressure medication can make chilblains worse so speak to your doctor or pharmacist if this persists.

A more embarrassing and noticeable problem very common in the colder seasons are cold sores. Most of you reading this will have experienced the annoying itch that quickly turns into an unsightly scab somewhere on your face. Caused by the Herpes Simplex virus, the infection can be brought on by a bought of cold or flu. This viral infection is transmitted by close contact with an infected person, so you may have to refrain from a goodnight kiss for a while. Once you have caught the virus, it remains in your body, continuing to attack you when you’re most vulnerable.

Acyclovir cream can be bought from your pharmacy to help your recovery, but try l-lysine at the first sign of trouble to prevent or minimise the duration of infection. Tea Tree Oil and Geranium Oil may also help.

It shouldn’t happen to a pharmacist…

Being a pharmacist is the best job in the world, but sometimes our duty to care leaves us in compromising situations.

As all prescriptions are delivered with a personal touch by me or one of the team, we often just knock and let ourselves in.

On one such occasion, I found a lady stuck on her commode, drawers round her ankles and in considerable distress – she had been there for about three hours.

But what to do? Do the correct health and safety thing and phone an ambulance/district nurse? Or do the right thing and sort the lady out? I swallowed my pride (and hers) and sorted her out.

Another time, I knocked on an elderly patient’s front window who told me the door was broken and I needed to come round the back. After battling through the nettles, rubbish and abandoned shopping trolleys, the final hurdle was a snarling, barking German Shepherd guarding the back door. I grabbed the dog by the collar, locked it in the kitchen and proceeded to speak with the lady. But then a man from the council arrived to fix the front door. For a burly man, he was adamant I wasn’t leaving him alone with the dog. I learnt a few tricks of the trade whilst waiting though.