Looking after your skin and hair in winter time

Winter wellness for skin and hair

Skin and hair care in winter


Winter months can be tough on our bodies so it’s important to look after yourself to ensure your skin and hair are in tip top condition. There are easy tips you can follow at home such as washing your skin in lukewarm water and always ensuring that you moisturise immediately after a shower.  It is vital that you keep yourself well hydrated during winter time. You will feel less inclined to drink water when it’s cold outside but keeping yourself hydrated will help to avoid your skin drying out. There are some products that you can buy that are well worth investing in to give your skin that extra helping hand. Call into your pharmacy for some winter wellness advice.

  1. Udos oil– Contains Omega 3,6 & 9. These Omega oils help soften skin from the inside. It is not always possible to get sufficient omega oils through your diet so taking a supplement can be useful.
  2. La Roche-Posay Lipikar Baume AP+– It is important to have a really good moisturiser for after the shower. This Moisturiser contains an anti-itch ingredient Niacin amide (anti-histamine). It also has shea butter to nourish, and canola oil which acts as an anti-inflammatory. It will add oil to your skin to moisturise and it will act as a barrier, helping to protect your skin from the cold.
  3. Neutrogena Hand Cream– This glycerin-rich hand cream is a fantastic solution to winter chapped hands. Our hands often suffer the most during the winter months as they are often exposed to the elements.
  4. Blistex lip balm– This will ensure that your lips do not dry out and will avoid lips chapping and getting infected.
  5. Garnier Moisture Bomb mask– Every so often we need to give our skin a little extra boost. These handy sheet masks are the perfect way to introduce extra moisture into the skin. They are a great boost before a night out or after a day out in the cold air.
  6. Aqualia Night Spa Vichy moisturiser- Is enriched with Vichy thermal water, Hyaluronic acid and Aquabioryl. It is rich in minerals leaving skin feeling moisturised and renewed over night. Ideally moisturisers should be applied directly after cleansing your face.
  7. Garnier Ultimate Blends Sleek Restorer shampoo- This shampoo is enriched with coconut oil and cocoa butter. Hair is more likely to get damaged during winter months due to dryness. This can result in split ends and breakage. It is vital to choose a shampoo and conditioner that put moisture back into the hair at this time of year.
Heartburn awareness week

Heartburn awareness week 2016

Heartburn awareness week 2016

Next week is “Heartburn awareness Week”! Heartburn is an extremely common condition that is often referred to as stomach acid reflux. Reflux is where acid flows back from the stomach into our food pipe. This can cause the food pipe to become irritated and painful. People often experience heartburn after eating a large meal or drinking alcohol. Symptoms  can be exacerbated by bending over or lying down.

It is important to be aware when your symptoms are just heartburn that can be treated with over the counter remedies from the pharmacy and when your symptoms are more serious and should be discussed with a doctor.

Most of the time people experience heartburn occasionally. This sort of heartburn can be treated by taking an over the counter preparation called an antacid or an alginate several times a day. These work by neutralising the acid or forming a raft to reduce the symptoms.  Examples of these include Rennies, Maalox or Gaviscon. You can get tablet or liquid preparations. Liquid remedies tend to work quicker but chewable tablets are very convenient and easier to take while out and about. Your pharmacist can help choose an appropriate one for your symptoms and current medications.

If the heartburn is more frequent then you may need a stronger tablet know as a H2 blocker (eg. Zantac) or proton pump inhibitors (eg. Losec, Nexium, Pantaloc). All of these medications need to be discussed with your doctor or pharmacist. You can know buy short courses of these tablets over the counter but they can interfere with prescribed medications so must be discussed with your pharmacist. They work by lowering the amount of acid in your stomach. They are much longer acting than an antacid but may take a few days to fully relieve symptoms..

There are lifestyle measures that can help. These include the following;

Try to lose weight- Excess weight pushes up your stomach causing acid to back flow.

Eat at a steady pace and keep portions small

Quit smoking- Smoking can increase stomach acid.

Eat healthy foods- Fatty, fried and spicy food may make heartburn worse. Excess caffeine and alcohol consumption can also aggravate heartburn symptoms.

Avoid eating just before bedtime- Lying down after eating increases the chances of acid moving from the stomach into the food pipe.

Raise up the head of your bed or sleep on a few pillows- This helps keep acid in your stomach at night by taking advantage of gravity.

If you have any of the following you should definitely speak to your doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible;

Rapid weight loss for no reason

Blood in your stools or vomit

Severe or persistent diarrhoea

Issues when swallowing

If your heartburn doesn’t improve after 2 weeks of medication.

Call into your local pharmacy this week to discuss your symptoms. There are simple solutions to heartburn that can ease your pain and relieve the irritation. Letting heartburn go untreated can cause damage to your food pipe in the long run. It is important that we all raise our awareness of the signs and symptoms of heartburn.



Why get the flu vaccine?

Why get the flu vaccine?

It is coming up to winter time. Winter is  a time of year where many of us will end up suffering from a cold or the flu. While having a cold is never nice it tends to be less severe than flu and doesn’t impact your life in the same way that influenza (the flu) will. It only takes a quick visit to your pharmacy to get a vaccine that immunises you against the influenza virus for up to 12 months. If you feel that you are at risk of the flu this winter call into your pharmacy today to discuss vaccination.


The symptoms of flu are;

  • High temperature
  • Sore or dry throat
  • Headache
  • Fever/ sweating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Chills/ feeling shivery
  • Aching limbs

If you get the flu, the symptoms are usually the worst for 3-4 days but it can take up to 2 weeks to fully recover from the flu.


Many people have heard of the flu vaccine but, are afraid to get vaccinated in case it causes the flu. However the flu vaccine cannot give you the flu, it is an inactivated vaccine. It can take up to two weeks after the vaccine for your body to build up protection against infections. I am also frequently asked if the vaccine will be painful. However it is very quick and most patients say they never felt anything. Including the consultation with your pharmacist, the vaccination takes about 10 minutes and then we keep patients in the pharmacy for a further 15 minutes so we can ensure you are still feeling well.


A different flu vaccine formulation is developed every year so the most prevalent strains of influenza are included to ensure maximum protection. It is important to get vaccinated every year to ensure you are immunised against this year’s flu strains. Most people over the age of 18 can get a flu vaccine in the pharmacy. However if you have a known allergy to eggs or chicken or have ever had an anaphylactic reaction to a vaccine you need to go to your GP for extra monitoring.

It is crucial that certain groups of patients are given the flu vaccine because while usually harmless, getting the flu can be life threatening for them. These groups include;

  • Persons aged 65 and over
    • Those with a long-term medical condition such as diabetes, heart or lung disease
    • People whose immune system is impaired due to disease or treatment
    • Persons with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 40
    • Pregnant women (can be given at any stage of pregnancy)
    • Residents of nursing homes and other long stay institutions
    • Healthcare workers
    • Carers
    • People with regular close contact with poultry, water fowl or pigs

If you think you are in an at risk group or if you are in close contact with someone in an at risk group, call into the pharmacy to discuss flu vaccination with your pharmacist. If you have a medical card or GP visit card then the vaccination may be free of charge.




Back to school time!

It’s back to school time! While this can be a busy and exciting time of year, it also brings some headaches for parents. This article contains some back to school health information for parents navigating the minefield of headlice and threadworms.


  1. Head lice

Head lice spread by head to head contact. It is a common problem at this time of year with schools restarting after the summer break. There are some practical things that parents can do to prevent the chances of their children catching head lice such as keeping long hair tied back in a plait. You can also buy repellent sprays that can help disrupt the life cycle of any lice that land on the hair. These sprays should be used daily. It is also useful to inspect the hair frequently. This inspection should be done with a fine tooth comb with the hair divided into sections. It is important to pay careful attention to the nape of the neck and behind the ears. It is important to be aware of what head lice actually look like; they are grey to black in colour and about 3mm long. Whereas the eggs are opaque white to yellow in colour and cling to the base of the hair.

If you find lice you should treat them as quickly as possible to avoid further spread. You can buy 2 types of treatment in the pharmacy; one is based on an insecticide called permethrin and the other works of suffocating the lice. It is very important to use the treatments exactly as directed. It is crucial to treat all affected members of the household.


  1. Threadworms

Back to school time can also bring threadworms. They live in the intestine but the female worm comes out at night which causes the itching around the anus associated with worms. Usually children who have threadworms are irritable during the day due to lack of sleep because of night time itching. Sometimes children will lose weight even though their appetite has remained the same. It is also possible to identify threadworms visually as tiny white cotton threads in the stool. Threadworms are easily passed among household members sharing the same towels and bed linen.


It is important to treat everyone in the household at the same time. The medication used to treat threadworms is called Vermox (Mebendazole) and is available over the counter in pharmacies for patients over two years of age. It is available as a liquid or tablet. The dose is the same for adults as it is for children over two years of age; 5mls of the liquid or one tablet. The dose should then be repeated after 2 weeks as it won’t kill the eggs which can take two weeks to hatch. There are also non medicated measures that can help avoid re infestation. These include; observing strict hygiene especially around meal times, using separate towels and linen and wearing tight fitting underwear. It is also important to change all bed linen and to carefully hover the living area on the treatment day in order to eliminate any eggs.


  1. Prevention of colds in children

When children spend 7 hours a day together in the classroom it is common that bugs spread quickly. It can be helpful to boost your child’s immunity before they return to school. There are many multivitamin available in pharmacies, however if a child has a very good diet a vitamin C and Zinc supplement. It is also possible to get probiotics supplements that can help stimulate good gut health. Children should also be taught good hygiene such as hand washing and using hand gels.

Call into your local pharmacy for more advice for this busy time of year.




Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

About IBS

IBS symptons

Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is a functional bowel disorder where normal gut function is disturbed and may be associated with pain or discomfort. However there are no physical or structural abnormalities. It is often diagnosed in the absence of other diagnosis. IBS most commonly occurs in people aged 20-30. It occurs in women twice as often as in men.


The causes are not clear but may be related with over activity of part or parts of the gut. Food intolerance and stress may also contribute to an exacerbation of IBS symptoms. In some cases IBS may occur after an infection.


The symptoms that people report are pain and discomfort which is described as spasm or colic like. People often experience bloating and more wind than usual. You may also experience constipation or diarrhoea, often alternating between both. IBS may also be associated with nausea, headaches, belching, poor appetite, tiredness, backache, muscle pains, feeling full quickly after eating, heartburn and bladder symptoms.


IBS is usually treated through a range of diet, lifestyle and medication measures. Increasing fibre can help some IBS sufferers but may make others worse. There are two types of fibre; soluble and insoluble fibre. It is soluble fibre rather than insoluble fibre that help ease IBS symptoms. It is important for IBS sufferers to have more soluble fibre and minimise their intake of insoluble fibre. Dietary sources of soluble fibre include oats, nuts and seeds, some fruit and vegetables and pectin. You can also take ispaghula as a form of soluble fibre. Ispaghula can be found in Fybogel sachets found in pharmacies. Insoluble fibre is found in corn bran, wheat bran and some fruit and vegetables.


Antispasmodics such as Mebeverine, Hyoscine and Peppermint oil can help ease short term effects of IBS. It is also possible to treat diarrhoea and constipation that occurs with IBS with over the counter remedies. It is important to avoid sorbitol if you suffer from diarrhoea and increase your intake of oats and linseeds if you suffer from wind and bloating. Some studies have found that increasing the friendly bacteria in the gut can help alleviate symptoms of IBS, these are known as probiotics. The strain of probiotics that has been investigated most thoroughly is Bifidobacterium infantis 35624. You can find this strain of probiotic in the over the counter product Alflorex.


Lifestyle changes can also improve the quality of lives of IBS sufferers. These include taking regular exercise and avoiding stress. The following tips should be followed by people suffering from IBS:

  1. Have regular meals and eat at a leisurely pace.
  2. Avoid missing meals or leaving long gaps between eating.
  3. It is important to drink at least eight glasses (2litres) of water per day.
  4. Restrict tea and coffee to 3 cups per day.
  5. Restrict fizzy drinks to a minimum.
  6. Reduce alcohol intake
  7. Stop smoking

It is important to discuss your symptoms with your GP or pharmacist who can advise you on where to begin treating IBS.

cystitis treatment


cystitis treatmentCystitis is a distressing condition caused by an infection and/or inflammation of the bladder. Cystitis will occur in 4 out of 5 women at least once in their lifetime, so it is a very common complaint. Cystitis can occur in men and children but not as often. It is a good idea to get any cases of cystitis in men or children checked by your GP.

Many women come into our pharmacy unsure if they are suffering from cystitis. So how do you know if you have cystitis? Well symptoms usually include but are not limited to;

A sharp stinging sensation on passing water

An urge to pass water more frequently

Darker urine than normal or bleeding in the urine

A high body temperature and general tiredness

Many women ask why they end up with cystitis. There are two types of cystitis: Bacterial cystitis and non-bacterial cystitis. Bacterial cystitis is usually caused by bacteria left after a bowel movement ending up in the bladder. This can occur during sex or after the bathroom. The best way to prevent this occurring is to always ensure you urinate after sex. It is also important to ensure that after a bowel movement you wipe from front to back to ensure bacteria does not spread to the vagina.

Non-bacterial cystitis on the other hand is caused by triggers such as harsh soaps, deodorants and tight trousers.

If a patient hasn’t tried anything yet and the cystitis has just started in the previous few days, I usually advise CYSTOPURIN sachets to give fast and effective relief from the symptoms of mild cystitis.

It works by reducing the amount of acid in the urine by making it more alkaline and so reducing the burning sensation caused by that acid.

The course should be started at the first sign of an attack and should be continued for 48 hours (one sachet in a glass of water every 8 hours), to have full effect, even if the patient feels better after only a few hours.

The drink, when made up is a pleasant, clear citrus flavoured drink.

However, if you have ongoing symptons or if you see blood in your urine then you should call into your pharmacist or GP.

There are other measures that can help prevent cystitis occurring. I have mentioned that it is important to urinate after sex and follow appropriate hygiene after bowel movements. It can also be helpful to wear cotton underwear and to avoid tight trousers. It may also be beneficial to avoid harsh soaps or shower gels. You can buy pH balanced intimate washes in your local pharmacy. These are soap and fragrance free, gynaecologically tested and enriched with vitamin E, so won’t cause intimate irritation. They can be used daily in the shower, to keep you feeling fresh. Brands such as Vagisil are widely available.

You may also find cranberry capsules can relieve symptoms and prevent further episodes of cystitis. Cranberry used to be used to treat cystitis because people believed it acidified the urine but we now know Cranberry works by inhibiting bacteria sticking to the walls of the bladder. Cranberry also contains hippuric acid which is known to be an antibacterial agent. Unlike cranberry juice, cranberry tablets do not contain sugar. They are commonly available in pharmacies and usually contain 200mg of Cranberry extract which is equivalent to a whooping 5000mg of Cranberry juice.

It is also important to drink loads of water and urinate frequently when suffering from cystitis. I would also recommend you should avoid alcohol, fruit juices, coffee and strong tea. If you need more advice call into your local pharmacy and they will help you out.

colds and flu treatments

Colds and Flu

treatment for common coldIt’s coming to that time of year again! The clocks have just changed, the fires are being lit and we leave work in darkness. Winter comes every year but yet we are still somehow surprised when we start sniffling. Working in a pharmacy; with winter comes the avalanche of coughs, colds and flu symptoms.

Firstly it is important to know what the symptoms of a cold are and how they differ from flu. Flu is a viral infection which tends to come on rapidly. It usually means you feel symptoms in your whole body. It can be really serious and leave you exhausted even after you recover. On the other hand a cold tends to come on over a few hours or days. A cold usually just affects your head whereas flu affects your whole body.

The symptoms of cold and flu include runny/blocked nose, sneezing/coughing, aches and pains, high temperature and sore throat. The treatment is the same for each condition regardless. Colds and flu generally last for about 7 days at most. The treatment is the same for each condition regardless. Colds and flu generally last for about 7 days at most. Both infections are caused by viruses so antibiotics have no effect. However colds and flu can lead to secondary infections such as sinus infections or chest infections and these may need antibiotic treatment by your GP. Your pharmacist can help you differentiate between viral symptoms and bacterial infections.

Your pharmacist can help you treat the symptoms of both a cold and flu. If you have a temperature or aches and pains, paracetamol or ibuprofen can help. Anti-histamines will help with sneezing or a runny nose. However some cold and flu remedies containing antihistamines can cause drowsiness so caution should be used. Decongestants can relieve a blocked nose but can increase your blood pressure so shouldn’t be taken if you have heart problems. Also decongestants can have a stimulant effect so shouldn’t be taken before bedtime. There are also nasal sprays that can relieve congestion but these should only be used for 5-7 days.

You can end up with post nasal drip when you have a blocked nose which may result in a sore throat or a cough. Throat sprays and lozenges can relieve a painful throat. There are many cough bottles available, some of which just suppress a dry cough and some loosen phlegm from the chest to help relieve a chesty cough.

You can prevent yourself getting and then spreading the flu by taking simple precautions such as covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with hand wash or alcoholic hand gel. A flu vaccine will also help to protect you from the most common flu viruses. It is also very important to keep you immune system boosted throughout the winter. Vitamin C, Zinc and Echinacea have all been shown to be beneficial in boosting the immune system.

Child with chickenpox

Chicken Pox

Child with chickenpoxFor all you parents who have yet to experience chickenpox, this post is for you.

Everyone has heard of Chickenpox but yet it is still hard to determine if that is what is going on with your child. Chickenpox is a highly contagious illness that is common in children. It causes an itching skin rash with blisters. The disease is caused by the varicella-zoster virus and usually runs its course without problems.

Chickenpox in children usually starts with a slight fever and feeling unwell, sometimes with mild flu-like symptoms. A rash then appears in patches, usually behind the ears, under the arms, on the chest and stomach, and the arms and legs.

Patients often ask me how Chickenpox is spread between children. It is a viral infection that can be spread by direct contact with broken chickenpox blisters and by droplets in the air. People often think that their child is only infectious from the day they see the rash but in fact the infectious period starts about three days before the rash appears and lasts until all the blisters have formed scabs.

A child may not actually show symptoms for 10-20 days after being infected with the Chickenpox. The rash usually begins on the body and face and later spreads to the scalp and limbs and it is often itchy. When you first notice the rash you will probably see small red spots which develop into blisters in a couple of hours.

Your child may also have a high temperature as their body fights off the virus. You can usually treat the child at home but if you see the rash spread to inside the mouth or to the genitals then further advice should be gotten in your pharmacy or GPs. Chickenpox in children usually last 7-10 days but can last longer in adults.

Chickenpox is rare but usually much more serious in adults. You may have a high temperature, aches and pains and a headache a day or so before the rash appears.

Once you’ve had chickenpox you develop lifelong immunity to it. It’s rare to catch chickenpox again occasionally some people with a weak immune system may have a very mild re-infection (often without any symptoms).

While Chickenpox is usually self-limiting, it may be necessary to bring your child to the pharmacy or GP if their fever lasts longer than 4 days, they have trouble breathing, a severe headache or if they have any difficulty walking or they are vomiting. The sores can become infected and then would need antibiotic treatment.

However all this is of little comfort to parents who are trying to deal with a very upset and uncomfortable child. Call into your local pharmacy and get some advice to make the next week more bearable for you all. You may find that using Calamine lotion on the rash will help calm it down. Sometimes I find using Calamine from the fridge can give greater relief.

There is also a lotion called Eurax which contains an anti-itch ingredient called Crotamiton which can be used in children older than 3 years of age. Your child will probably have a temperature or pain so giving Calpol or other Paracetamol medications will also help.