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.

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.

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.

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.