know your numbers- the truth about high blood pressure

Know your numbers- High blood pressure

High blood Pressure

We all hear a lot about high blood pressure but it can be hard to understand exactly what high blood pressure actually means. When you measure blood pressure you measure the amount of pressure against the walls of your blood vessels. Our bodies pump blood around to these vessels and organs in order to spread oxygen rich blood to where it is needed.

You may not even realise that your blood pressure is higher than normal so it is important to ask your doctor or pharmacist to measure your blood pressure. The Irish Heart foundation estimates that over half of over 45s in Ireland have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a risk factor for a heart attack or a stroke. If you have high blood pressure you are more likely to suffer from poor circulation, kidney failure or heart failure.

So what is a normal blood pressure reading? Normal blood pressure is usually referred to as 120/80. The top number is called the systolic reading and it records the pressure as the heart contracts. The bottom number is called the diastolic reading and it records the pressure as the heart relaxes. High blood pressure is any reading over 140/90 (or for diabetics over 140/80). However sometimes you may experience white coat high blood pressure so it is more accurate to get a few readings or to wear a 24 hour monitor.

People often ask us in the pharmacy “what causes high blood pressure?”. There can be different reasons for high blood pressure such as lifestyle choices but high blood pressure can often run in families. Some people get diagnosed with high blood pressure because they have symptoms such as headaches or issues with their vision but most people will never know they have high blood pressure until they get it measured. We don’t charge anything in our pharmacy to get your blood pressure measured so it is well worth taking a few minutes to get a blood pressure recording done and then we can advise you on the next steps to take.

There are some lifestyle changes that may help reduce your blood pressure:

  1. Lose weight- Being overweight is a risk factor for high blood pressure. Even losing 10% of your body weight can result in a decrease in your blood pressure reading.
  2. Increase your intake of fruit and vegetables and reduce the level of salt and processed food in your diet. It is important to know how much salt is in the foods that you buy. The irish Heart Association have a handy shopping card that helps translate food labels so you can understand the level of salt in the food. This can be accessed from the Irish Heart foundation website.
  3. Restrict your alcohol consumption to below the upper limits. This means less than 17 standard drinks for a man and no more than 11 standard drinks for a woman. You shouldn’t drink your entire weekly allowance on one evening and you should have some days completely alcohol free. Drinking a lot of alcohol can increase your blood pressure and can damage your heart and liver.
  4. Try do 30 minutes exercise at least 5 days per week. If you can increase your exercise time to 60minutes can be even more beneficial.
  5. Finally ask what your blood pressure reading is? The more aware you are the more likely you are to keep your blood pressure under control.

There are other cardiovascular risk factors that you should keep under control if you have high blood pressure. These include; smoking, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Please feel free to call into the pharmacy for advice if you are worried about your cardiovascular risk or that of a loved one. Knowledge is your power so learn your numbers today.


Health spring clean

Improving our health as we go from winter into spring

Health and wellness as we go from winter into spring

Sorting out our diet, exercise and skin

We all tend to hibernate during winter time but now it’s time to shake off the cobwebs. Hopefully you survived the January cold and flu season unscathed. Or if you did end up suffering a dose then I hope you are feeling better. Now that we are in February it is time to start building up our immune system in preparation for spring and summer. It is also a great time of year to look at getting some exercise into our weekly routines and looking after our skin after it has been battered by winter weather extremes.


I’ll start with our immune system which is key to good health. Over winter time we may have switched to bad eating habits and we may be lacking in essential vitamins and minerals. It is great time of year to get the diet back on track. There are so many resources available to us with healthy recipes. A really great resource is Operation Transformations recipe section on their website ( or in Supervalu stores. Just because you didn’t get on the eating healthy buzz in January it isn’t too late to start now. If you were sick over the winter there is a good chance your immune system is still fighting back. There are loads of excellent supplements available today for your specific needs. Some of our best sellers are as follows;

Oxylent– This supplement comes in a powder form that you can make into a delicious drink. As well as the fact it is jam packed with multivitamins it also contains electrolytes.

Multivitamin, health

Seven Seas Perfect 7– This supplement has individually tailored supplements for men and for women. There also is an over 50 version of each supplement available.

Perfect7, health

Centrum Men and Women– This is another great multivitamin that contains a different version for men and for women. It also has an over 50 option available.

Centrum, health

Pharmaton Active Life– This multivitamin contains Ginseng which gives an extra energy boost to those who feel they need it.

pharmaton active life. health

All of these multivitamins have different quantities of the essential vitamins and minerals that we need for a healthy life. However nothing beats up your fruit and vegetable intake. Call into the pharmacy for advice on which one is best for your needs. It is also important to get a sufficient intake of vitamin D as we make Vitamin D from sunlight, which we here in Ireland don’t get enough of, especially during winter.


Secondly let’s look at the whole subject of exercise. Exercise is fundamental to our health. We all find exercising difficult during the dark winter months so this is a great time to start putting exercise to the top of our priority list. There are small measures that can make a huge difference such as taking the stairs at work or waking to the shop for a pint of milk instead of driving. However the WHO recommends that we do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, which works out at 30minutes five days per week. So phone a friend and have a catch up over a brisk walk. It’s more fun if you have company and makes it easier to include in your weekly routine.


The third aspect of our health that may need attention after winter is our skin. The magic ingredient that does more for our skin than any other is…..water. During the cold months we tend to not be as vigilant in keeping ourselves hydrated so if you make one change in February then it should be aim to drink more water. We should aim for at least 2 litres of water a day. You will see the difference in your skin immediately. The other thing we can do in winter is to use good moisturisers. High street brands have got some excellent choices for dry damaged skin. You can make a massive difference to you skin by ensuring you apply a moisturiser every morning and evening. You can also treat yourself to a facemask every week such as the Garnier Moisture Bomb sheet mask or other similar sheet mask. These are extremely handy because they take the hassle out of applying a facemask.

garnier moisture bomb mask

Vichy has an incredible range of serums and moisturisers that contain hyaluronic acid which can really improve the texture of dehydrated skin. La Roche Posay has great solutions for extremely dry or intolerant skin such as their Toleriane and Hydraphase range. Call into the pharmacy for a great range of skincare, or send your other half in for a Valentines present.


So leave winter behind, make three resolutions for February to get ready for spring;

  1. Eat well and make sure you are getting your immune system back on track.
  2. Get out and get moving, include exercise in your daily routine.
  3. Look after your skin and drink more water.

If you need healthcare advice, to get your health back on track, call into your pharmacy today. Read more

sore throats

Sore throats in children

It is cold out there and it seems like every second person has some sort of dose and that includes children. We have a lot of people coming to the pharmacy with sore throats. Children tend to get more sore throats than adults. Many children with a viral infection will complain of a sore throat and will in fact have 2-3 sore throats every year.In fact on average most children will get 6-7 viral infections every year. Viral infections are usually self-limiting and will resolve themselves within 5-7 days.  While it can be distressing for the child, 9 out of 10 children will have fully recovered within a week without having to see a doctor.  If the sore throat lasts longer than a week then you should bring your child to their GP as it may mean they have a bacterial infection such as strep throat and may need antibiotics. In the meantime it is advisable to keep your child well hydrated and there are over the counter solutions if the sore throat is painful.

Over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can relieve pain associated with a sore throat. Always check with your pharmacist or GP before using ibuprofen if your child is asthmatic. Older children can also be given lozenges or a throat spray. Avoid giving your child hot drinks or hot food as this can further irritate the throat. You may find giving them ice pops to suck or ice-cream may give them some relief. While it is best to avoid very hot drinks you could make up a warm drink with honey and lemon that can lubricate the throat. If you are worried about your child bring them into your pharmacy and a pharmacist can check you are doing the right things and advice you when it is best to book an appointment with your GP.


Cough in a child- how to treat

What to do if your child has a cough.


Winter doses:

We are coming into that lovely time of year where we get a lot of queries from parents about coughs. It can be worrying to hear a small child suffering and parents often don’t know what to do. However a cough is a sign that your child’s immune system is working effectively. We would far prefer if your child brings up phlegm than allow it to pool in the lungs where it can lead to more serious bacterial infections such as pneumonia.



Most coughs are caused by a mild viral infection such as the common cold or flu. It is one of the symptoms that you may notice when your child is fighting a mild viral infection. Other symptoms may include a stuffy or runny nose, a high temperature and general aches and pains. The cough will usually resolve itself within a couple of days.


Treatment if dry:

However there are some over the counter medications that can help ease the discomfort. If the child is under one year old it is better to get them checked by the doctor to ensure there are no under lying issues. There are no cough bottles that are suitable to use in this age group. However you can get simple syrups such as glycerine, honey and lemon which can be given to babies of over one year of age. These will lubricate the throat and ease a dry non-productive cough. When children reach 6 years of age they can be given dry cough suppressants such as Benylin Dry  for children. However cough suppressants should be used in caution in asthmatics as they can mask an exacerbation of asthmatic conditions.

Treatment if chesty:

If your child’s cough sounds chesty then they may need an expectorant to help loosen any phlegm on the chest. A good expectorant is Carbocisteine which is the main ingredient in Exputex or Viscolex. These can be given to children over two years of age. An expectorant is usually given twice or three times per day. However try to avoid giving an expectorant just before bed time as they can make the child cough more if they lie down directly after getting their evening dose.


What to do if the cough lasts longer then 3 weeks:

Also keep your child well hydrated while they have a dose. If the cough does not clear up within 3 weeks it is worth bringing them to the GP to ensure there is no underlying condition or infection that is causing a problem. If you are worried about your child’s health bring them in with you to your pharmacy for some advice on whether you need to bring them to the GP.

You can get more advice on the following website:


What effects Fertility-


What effects Fertility?


A huge amount of women come into our pharmacy looking for advice on fertility and on getting pregnant so I have decided to write a blog on this topic. Fertility is often in the media lately with TV shows such as the Babymakers shedding light on a subject that we have always treated as taboo. It is great that we have started to have these conversations in Ireland but it can still scare some women into thinking that she and her partner need to rush straight to the nearest fertility clinic immediately.


How long does it take to get pregnant?

When you make that decision to stop using whatever contraceptive method you have relied on and to start trying to have a baby, you expect it to just happen immediately, however this isn’t always the case. So women often get confused as to when they need to seek help and when they need to keep trying on their own. My advice would be to start with the basics. If you want to get pregnant then it is important to be in the best possible health you can be in. This means eating a balanced diet and doing exercise. You should also avoid smoking, excessive drinking of alcohol and caffeine.

Conception is a complicated process and it is completely normal for a healthy couple under the age of 35 to still take up to a year to get pregnant. This process can be further delayed in the women has been the contraceptive pill for a long time. If you do need further advice, call into your pharmacy to have a chat. We will make sure you are doing all the right things and can let you know if it is time to speak to your GP or a fertility expert.


Do you know your cycle?

It is also important to get to know your cycle so you know when you have the best chance of pregnancy. For some women this may be on day 12-14 for many women they may have a longer cycle, while means it could be day 26 before they ovulate. It is a good idea to start tracking your cycle. You can do this easily now with various different apps which allow your record the day of your period and then they estimate when you will ovulate. There are also aps such as Natural Cycles which allow you to input your temperature every morning which will give you a more accurate prediction of ovulation as your temperature tends to be lower before you ovulate and higher afterwards.  You can also purchases Luteinising hormone detector kits that detect the LH surge that happens just before ovulation. These can be bought in your pharmacy.


Why is ovulation so important?

So why is it so important to understand when ovulation occurs in your body? Well ovulation is the term given for the release of an egg from the ovaries. In order to get pregnant an egg must get fertilised by sperm. As sperm can live up to 5 days in the body, the best time to have sex is in the 5 days leading up to and including the day of ovulation. However trying to plan sex too much can result in stress for a couple. So the advice is to aim to have sex every couple of days keeping in mind to have sex around your ovulation window.


What supplements should you be taking?

We are often asked for advice on supplements to take when planning a pregnancy. The first priority for women when considering pregnancy is folic acid. This should be started 2/3 months before conception and should be continued for at least the first trimester. Folic acid is essential for development of the baby’s neural tube. Don’t panic if you find that you are pregnant and you have started folic acid but do start it straight away. The department of Health recommends a daily dose of folic acid of 400ug which can be purchased without a prescription in the pharmacy. There are also supplements that provide folic acid as well as other vitamins and minerals that support egg and sperm health. Examples of these include Pregnacare conception and Proceive.


Eczema and dry skin


We get a lot of queries in the pharmacy about eczema. Eczema is a very common skin condition. It affects 1 in 5 children and 1 in 12 adults.  The term eczema is often used to describe various skin conditions such as irritant dermatitis and contact dermatitis. For this blog post I am going to discuss atopic eczema which is the one that most people are familiar with.  Eczema is where the skin is extremely itchy and severely dry. The skin can appear red and irritated. It is often seen on the inside of the wrists and knees or other warm areas of the body. In babies eczema can often appear on the cheeks, forehead and scalp.



No one knows the root cause of eczema but it is known that it runs in families. Also people who suffer from other atopic conditions such as hay fever or asthma are more likely to have eczema. Your skin acts as a barrier stop allergens or irritants entering the body. It also prevents excess water loss from the body. However in people with eczema the barrier that covers the skin is weakened and as a result there is excess water loss and the skin dries out. This can be made worse by the use of soaps and harsh chemicals.

Daily maintenance:

It is so important in eczema to ensure that the skin is well moisturised with hypo allergenic emollients. You should avoid scented or coloured soaps and shampoos. Everyone will have their own individual triggers that will exacerbate their eczema so it is vital to know what your triggers are and to avoid them. The most common triggers are extreme changes in temperature, scratchy fabrics, chemical detergents, pet hair and dust mites. Some people can be affected by certain foods, if this applies to you it is important to keep a food diary and avoid foods that cause you issues. You may also find that certain detergents and washing powders can trigger a flare up. Then general rule of thumb is that non-biological washing powders are best. It also helps if you avoid colour catchers, drying sheets and stain removal products.


Managing flare ups

While it is crucial to always ensure you are using your emollients, it is critical during a flare up. You may need to get topical corticosteroids from you GP, these reduce inflammation. These creams should be used as well as your usual emollients. I would recommend you leave 15 minutes between applying your steroid and your emollient or vice versa.  Steroids creams range from mild to very potent. It is important to use steroids as directed by your GP or pharmacist and then to stop using them when the flare up has subsided. However DO NOT stop using you moisturiser as this will prevent a flare up reoccurring.


Which emollient?

The choice of emollient varies from person to person. You can get emollients in lotion, cream or ointment form. You should apply your emollient in the direction of hair growth. I particularly like La Roche Posay Lipikar as it reduces the itch as well as acting as an excellent moisturiser.  The La Roche Posay range also has a moisturising body wash called Syndet which can relieve very dry skin. You can purchase the entire La Roche Posay range in store or we have a limited selection in our online shop which can be accessed using the following link;

I am also getting very good feedback about the Childs Farm range which can be used in children as well as adults. This range has fabulous shampoos and showers gels.

When you find which skincare range works for you stick with it and apply an emollient often. If you need more advice call into the pharmacy where one of our trained skincare specialists or one of our pharmacists can help.

constipation in babies

Constipation in babies

We often get parents in our pharmacy worried about constipation so I have written a short blog with some advice on constipation in babies. I have also included a helpful fact sheet explaining the Dos and Don’ts of treating your baby. This can be accessed here;  Constipation babies 0-6 months


Constipation in babies is usually caused by a change in diet or dehydration. Dehydration in babies may be associated with fever or teething. If the baby is under or over weight this can also cause to constipation. It can also be due to interruptions in the your babies regular routine or due to medication. You can come discuss your concerns with your pharmacist and we can help you evaluate the cause of your babies constipation.


Usually parents notice that their child seems to be in pain when trying to do a number two. This can be crying or irritability before or while doing a poo. Your child’s poo may also be hard and dry or they may have lost their appetite. There is no normal amount of poos per week, but babies who are doing fewer than three bowel movements per week, may be constipated as babies tend to poo more than adults. Breastfed babies tend to have more poos than bottle fed babies so if your baby is only going every few days but is not in any discomfort then don’t worry.


You may find that your baby will improve after gently massaging their tummy. It may also be helpful to move their legs in a cycling motion, You should never dilute their formula but you can give them some cooled boiled water in between feeds. After babies are weaned, pureed fruit can ease symptoms of constipation.

If you are worried about your baby’s bowel movements call into your pharmacy and your pharmacist can give you additional help and some over the counter preparations to help ease your baby’s discomfort.


hay fever solutions in your pharmacy

Hay fever advice- It’s that time of year

Hay fever advice- It’s that time of year

Do you suffer from hay fever every year or have you just started this year. Either way this article has practical tips and advice to help you find solutions to your hay fever problems.

1 in 5 Irish people suffer from hay fever. The first symptoms that people usually notice are runny nose, watery eyes and sneezing. This is because hay fever is where the body’s immune system over reacts to normally harmless substances. Hay fever affects the nose, the sinuses, the eyes and the throat.

Hay fever can affect any one but is more common in families where there is a history of eczema and asthma. Hay fever tends to be worse when the pollen count is high. However people react to different types of pollen. In general tree pollen causes more problems from January to April, where grass pollen causes hay fever from May to August.

There are practical steps you can take to reduce your exposure to your trigger. These include closing windows and doors so pollen doesn’t enter, this is especially important if grass is being cut outside. It can also help to put a small amount of Vaseline on the inside of your nose to block the pollen from getting in. Wearing sunglasses outside can help you avoid getting pollen in your eyes. It can be useful to change your clothes and to take a shower after being outside in pollen.

You can also visit your pharmacist or doctor for help with your symptoms. In the pharmacy you can buy over the counter antihistamines. Some of these can cause drowsiness and may interfere with other medications so be sure to mention any regular medicines that you take. Antihistamines work by blocking the action of Histamine. The body produces Histamine when it thinks it is under attack.

Another option is to buy a Corticosteroid nasal spray that will work by reducing inflammation inside the nose. These sprays can work really well to both prevent and relieve hay fever symptoms. They are based used every day and ideally before the start of the hay fever season.

You can also buy antihistamine eye drops to relieve eye irritation. These drops usually contain Sodium Chromoglicate. You can get these in a multi-use bottle or individual single use versions. The single use drops are very handy if you only suffer from eye symptoms from time to time as they don’t expire a month after opening.

It is also possible to buy nasal decongestants over-the-counter which work well for short term nasal congestion. However you should be careful not to use these for longer than 7 days as they can cause dryness and rebound congestion if used continually.

Above all there are options that can ease your symptoms, don’t suffer on. Call into your pharmacy and ask for help.




How to recognise and treat a scabies infection

Scabies is quite a common condition that we see in the pharmacy. It is contagious and the primary symptom that people report is extreme itching. Scabies is caused by a mite known as Sarcoptes scabiei. There is an outbreak of scabies at the moment so it is useful to know some extra information about the condition.

Scabies is spread by skin to skin or sexual contact with an infected person. Less often it can also be spread by sharing towelling and clothing with someone with scabies. It takes up to eight weeks for symptoms to appear after infection. Outbreaks of scabies occur in places where people are in close contact such as schools or nursing homes.

Scabies mites tend to prefer warm areas on the skin such as between the fingers, under fingernails or around creases such as those at the groin or breast area. The rash can also be commonly seen at the wrists and the elbows. It also sometimes appears around the waist, on the soles of the feet and shoulder blades, on the lower legs and underarm area. It is the intense itching that people complain of the most. This itching is usually worse at night because the skin temperature tends to be warmer. In most cases the itching takes a month to six weeks to develop as it takes the body awhile to react to the infection. On the other hand if you have previously had scabies then the symptoms will appear within a few days as the immune system recognises a scabies reinfection. Some people such as those whose immune system is compromised and the elderly or young children can develop a rash on their head or neck. In infants and young children the rash can appear on the face, neck, head, scalp and soles of the feet and palms.

Scabies are resistant to soap and hot water, and so cannot be scrubbed from the skin. An infection needs treatment or the infection can last indefinitely. The exact cause of the intense itching is mostly unknown. It is thought that the itching is caused by the reaction of the immune system to the scabies mites and their saliva, eggs and stools. However the mites cannot fly or jump. They have to be spread by direct and prolonged physical contact such as sex, holding hands for a prolonged period of time or in rare case from shared bedding or towels. Scabies can live outside the body for 24-36 hours.

It is important to get a suspected scabies rash examined in order to confirm the diagnosis. It is possible to buy an over the counter treatment called Lyclear in the case of a definite infection. It is necessary to treat all close household contacts at the same time to prevent reinfection. The cream contains an insecticide called Permethrin which kills the mites. The cream is applied to cool, dry skin. It should not be applied after a hot bath or the cream will be absorbed too deeply into the skin and will not work on the area with the burrows from the mites. The cream should be applied all over the body from the chin and ears down.  All clothing, bedding and towels should be washed in a hot wash (over 50 degrees).  It is very important to treat all close contacts in order to prevent reinfection. It can take weeks for symptoms to appear so it is important to treat everybody even if they are not showing any signs of infection. In the case of someone who has a weak immune system or is very young or very old, the cream should be applied all over including the head and scalp. Lyclear should be left on for 8-12 hours and if the hands are washed before 8-12 hours the cream should be reapplied to the hands. The treatment can be repeated after a week and within 2 weeks.


It can also be helpful to use an anti-itch cream such as Eurax and antihistamines. Some antihistamines can cause drowsiness so care should be taken when driving. Calamine can also help with the itch. The itch can continue for weeks after the infection is cleared as your immune system can still react to the dead mites. If the itch continues for more than 6 weeks you should go back to your GP for a follow up appointment.


Hypothyroidism- diagnosis and treatment



This is a common condition that we see every day in the pharmacy. Patients do not always get their diagnosis straight away as the symptoms can be confused with many other conditions. If you feel you might be suffering from this condition you should contact your GP or your pharmacist. It can be easily diagnosed with a blood test.


Hypothyroidism is the clinical term for an under active thyroid. The thyroid gland is located in the throat and makes hormones that control growth and metabolism. It is a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough of certain hormones. It is most common in women over 50 but can affect younger women and men as well. In the early stages people may not notice any difference but offer time hypothyroidism can cause problems such as weight gain, infertility, joint issues and heart issues.


Other symptoms that can occur may include tiredness, a hoarse voice, puffy face, unexplained weight gain, constipation, increased sensitivity to cold, muscle weakness, irregular or heavy periods, brittle nails and depression.


There are different causes of hypothyroidism such as autoimmune conditions, treatment for hyperthyroidism, radiation therapy or certain medications.


In order to be sure that you have hyperthyroidism your GP will perform a blood test. This blood test looks for levels of TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) and the hormone Thyroxine. If the thyroid gland is not producing enough Thyroxine, the body reacts by increasing the amount of TSH in the blood. Therefore if your GP sees that you have low levels of Thyroxine and high levels of TSH they may start treatment for hypothyroidism.


The most common treatment choice in Ireland is Levothyroxine (Eltroxin). It is normal to begin treatment on a low dose of Levothyroxine to assess how you react to the medication. It is important to get regular blood test initially to ascertain how your body reacts to the medication. Once the correct dose of Levothyroxine is reached you should continue to get a blood test once a year to ensure your TSH levels remain constant. Hypothyroidism is a lifelong condition. If you do not show any symptoms your GP may decide not to start medication but will monitor your TSH levels regularly.


In terms of lifestyle modifications, it’s important to eat a balanced diet. It also helps to exercise regularly, get enough sleep and to get fresh air and relaxation. If you do start medication always remind your pharmacist or GP that you are taking thyroid medication. Levothyroxine can interact with other medications including some over the counter remedies.


If you are concerned about hypothyroidism you call into your pharmacy for advice.