Constipation & You

Constipation is a common health condition that affects adults, children and the elderly. It is the passage of hard, dry stools that are often infrequent or difficult to pass and is one of the most common health conditions that brings a patient to see their doctor for advice.

 

Constipation can be caused by many lifestyle factors that are simple to fix. Risk factors for developing constipation include:

  • A change in routine
    Normal bowel motions depended on the regular and rhythmic contraction of the bowels that is regulated by the body’s internal clock. This can be disturbed when travelling, undertaking shift work or changes in your daily routine.
  • Lack of fibre in your diet
    Fibre adds to the bulk and softens your stools. This helps the passage of material through the digestive tract making it easier to eventually pass. Good sources of fibre in your diet include fruits and vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals.
  • Dehydration
    Insufficient water causes the poo to become hard and dehydrated and makes it difficult for the poo to move down the intestine. By drinking at least two litres of water a day you soften the stool and prevent constipation.
  • Lack of regular exercise
    Physical activity helps to relieve constipation because it stimulates the nervous system and helps the muscles and nerves in the gut to work better moving poo through the digestive tract.
  • Withholding going to the toilet
    When you ignore the urge to go it means that more water will be extracted from the stools making them more difficult to pass. If you regularly ignore the urge this makes the body less sensitive to the normal signals to alert you to go to the toilet and your gut becomes lazy causing a build up of poo in the intestine.
  • Pregnancy
    The pressure of a growing baby on the intestine combined with reduced activity and the action of hormones means that constipation is common in pregnancy.
  • Medications
    Some medications particular pain strong pain killers, iron supplements and antacids cause constipation by slowing down bowel movements. Often supplements to soften stool and provide bulk will also be prescribed to avoid constipation.
  • Illness
    Reduction in normal activity, dehydration and bed rest typically cause constipation.

 

If you are suffering from constipation or have tried home remedies without relief download our My Emergency Dr app for a confidential online consultation with an expert clinician today.

Back Pain

Low back pain is a very common problem with approximately 80% of Australians suffering from back pain during their lifetime. It is a significant and debilitating condition that impacts your quality of life and reduces ability to function. Here at My Emergency Dr we can provide you with an immediate assessment and help you to manage this disabling condition.

Back pain can occur after moving heavy objects but often is provoked without an inciting event.  It is also more common in those who are overweight, who are physically inactive or those undertaking repetitive tasks at work.

The low back supports the weight of the upper body and provides the mobility for movements such as bending and twisting. Most acute low back pain results from injury to the muscles of the back, or the ligaments, joints or discs around the spine. After an injury to the back the body reacts by causing the surrounding muscles to stiffen. Patients often experience severe pain at the site of the injury due to the surrounding inflammation.

‘Red flag’ symptoms make a doctor more concerned that there may be a serious cause for your back pain. Please let your doctor know if you have:

 

  • A history of cancer
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • A history of trauma to the area
  • A history of intravenous drug use
  • A fever
  • Loss of bladder or bowel function
  • Weakness of your limbs

 

More than 85% of patients who present to emergency with low back pain have no specific cause found and their pain improves within a few weeks of simple treatment. Our tips for a rapid recovery include:

 

  • Speak to your doctor for an accurate assessment and diagnosis
  • Use the pain medication as prescribed
  • Stay active and avoid too much bed rest as it will slow down your recovery.
  • Once your pain subsides undertake gentle stretching and strengthening exercises to prevent further episodes in the future

 

Here at My Emergency Dr we are experts in the assessment and diagnosis of back pain. Call us today for an immediate online medical assessment using the My Emergency Dr App. If your back pain causes you to develop weakness in your legs or bowel or bladder dysfunction please seek urgent medical attention.

Winter flu and you

Last year we had a horror flu season, one of the worst on record, which caused unexpected deaths and multiple admissions to hospital for patients young and old across Australia. To protect you and your family here are some simple steps you can take to minimise infection and transmission.

Spreading the illness
– Wash your hands thoroughly
– Don’t share cups or cutlery
– Cough or sneeze into your elbow
– Use tissues and dispose of them into the waste bin
– If your child is sick keep them home from daycare or school to prevent spreading the illness

To prevent influenza there is a vaccine. The flu vaccine is free for
– Children aged 6 months to 5 years
– anyone over the age of 5 years with a chronic health condition
– all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over
– pregnant women (influenza vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy)
– people aged 65 years and over
– health workers

The evidence demonstrates that those who are vaccinated against the flu are less likely to get sick and less likely to get admitted to hospital. The vaccine also stops the spread of flu in the community and prevents those that are too young or too sick to be immunised from becoming infected. The vaccine is an inactivated (killed) virus. It will not give you the flu. Side effects of the vaccine include pain and redness at the site of injection. Less commonly, children may develop a fever or aches and pains, which last one to two days.

Vaccination remains the best protection against influenza to help keep you well this winter. To prevent becoming struck down with the flu get a flu vaccine.

My chest is on fire

Indigestion is a term that describes recurrent pain in the upper abdomen and a feeling of discomfort, burning, bloating, belching or nausea during or after eating. It is a common problem and is frequently caused by reflux of food contents (and acidic digestive fluid) from the stomach into the esophagus. If this continually occurs the lining of the stomach and esophagus becomes irritated, inflamed and painful.

 

Heartburn occurs commonly in patients who are pregnant or overweight individuals or those who have a diet high in spicy foods, coffee and alcohol. It is also common in patients who have a hernia of the diaphragm muscle, which causes part of the stomach to move up into the chest cavity. Smokers are at an increased risk of experiencing heartburn and anti-inflammatory tablets can also cause stomach irritation and pain.

 

The symptoms of heartburn or reflux include:

  • upper abdominal pain
  • a burning sensation in the middle of your chest
  • an acidic taste in the mouth
  • feeling full or bloated
  • burping, belching or flatulence
  • feeling sick or nauseated

 

You can ease heartburn and acid reflux by undertaking simple lifestyle changes. By quitting smoking and losing weight your symptoms will reduce. Importantly if you eat smaller more frequent meals and avoid foods that trigger your symptoms the irritation and inflammation will subside. We also recommend avoiding eating meals 3 hours before bed to avoid heartburn symptoms.

 

Should these lifestyle changes fail to reduce your symptoms you can call upon the experienced clinicians at My Emergency Dr for an immediate online consultation and expert care. If you have experienced any of the following symptoms please advise the team at My Emergency Dr – vomiting blood, difficulty swallowing, loss of appetite or unintentional weight loss; so, we can expedite your care.

5 steps to strong bones

It is never too early to start thinking about your bone health. Bones are living, growing tissues and are continually broken down and rebuilt, however there is a silent disease affecting the lives of Australians and causing injuries due to weak bones. This disease is called osteoporosis and it makes strong bones brittle causing them to break after a minor bump or fall. In Australia osteoporosis affects one in two women over the age of 50 with women affected two times more often than men due to the hormonal changes from menopause.

 

Bones are living growing tissues that are constantly remodeling in response to the stresses and strains placed on them during our daily activities. They become weak when they lose minerals, particularly calcium and are less able to regenerate their strength. Osteoporosis increases the risk of breaking a bone. In a woman’s lifetime half will go on to have a broken bone of the hip, wrist or spine.

 

The good news is that there are 3 vital steps you can take to prevent bone loss, improve bone strength or delay the onset of osteoporosis:

      • Eat a diet rich in calcium
        Almost 99% of the body’s calcium is found in bones and it combines with other minerals to form hard crystals to give bones structure and strength. To increase calcium in your diet eat foods such as dairy, green leafy vegetables and canned fish containing bones which have high amounts of calcium.

     

      • Ensure your Vitamin D level is in the healthy range
        Vitamin D supports bone growth and helps to absorb calcium into the bones. The main source of vitamin D is through sunlight exposure when our skin is exposed to ultraviolet B light. Just a few minutes of skin exposure to sunlight will increase your Vitamin D levels. You can also get vitamin D by taking supplements. This is a good way to get vitamin D if you can’t get enough sunlight, or if you’re worried about exposing your skin.

     

    • Undertake regular weight bearing exercises to strengthen bones
      Regular exercise that is weight bearing such as walking or weight training helps our bones to become stronger. The extra strain of weight bearing exercises causes the bones to remodel and increases the bone mineral density and bone quality to prevent bony injuries.

     

    Osteoporosis can easily cause a broken bone due to a minor bump or fall. If this has happened to you and you have ongoing pain, swelling deformity, bruising or if you are unable to use the limb call My Emergency Dr today for an immediate assessment and expert medical advice. We will arrange the treatment you need and help you avoid a long Emergency department queue. Download our App for immediate consultation now!

That niggling stomach ache

Abdominal pain can be caused by a range of health conditions and can cause you to have mild discomfort to severe in. Here at My Emergency Dr we can help you to assess the cause of your pain, provide further investigations to isolate the condition and provide you with the necessary medications to manage your pain and other symptoms.

 

Abdominal pain can range from mild self-limiting conditions such as trapped gas in the large intestine causing bloating and ache, to pains during your period or cramps due to food poisoning. More severe pains are concerning and can be suggestive of conditions that requiring more urgent medical attention. Some conditions that can cause you to have severe pain include appendicitis, bowel obstruction or kidney stones.

 

When you see a doctor they will ask you many questions about the pain. The answers you provide give important clues to to help them further assess the cause and appreciate where the pain may be coming from. If you are experiencing additional symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fevers or bloating please advise the doctor as this may help them to diagnose your illness.

 

There are some basic things you can do which often will help to ease your discomfort. We recommend drinking clear fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated plus using simple pain medications such as paracetamol to reduce your pain.

 

You should arrange an urgent review by a doctor or present to hospital if:

  • your pain is severe and getting worse
  • you have fevers
  • you have difficulty keeping food down and are persistently vomiting
  • it hurts to touch your abdomen or it is swollen
  • you are losing weight
  • you are bleeding from the bowel or have vomited blood
  • your skin is yellow

 

Here at My Emergency Dr we are experts in emergency care. When you call you will be assessed by our specialist doctors who will evaluate your medical condition and help you arrange further tests and care. To speak to a doctor today download the My Emergency Dr app from the App Store or Google Play and follow the simple instructions.

High blood pressure – is it dangerous?

The facts:

– Most of the time there are no obvious symptoms of high blood pressure

– Certain physical and lifestyle choices can place you at a higher risk for developing high blood pressure

– When high blood pressure is left untreated it increases your risk of having a heart attack, stroke and other health problems.

 

Hypertension or high blood pressure is an extremely common condition which affects over 60% of adults over the age of 75. As we get older the pressure in the arteries increases gradually over many years.  Your blood pressure is normal if it is below 120/80. When the reading becomes higher than this it is a sign that there is excessive pressure building up on the artery walls and potentially affecting organs.

 

To diagnose hypertension you need to have serial measurements taken during the course of the day as blood pressure varies upon waking and during the night. It also is important to note that blood pressure is affected by stress so some may go to the doctor and find their blood pressure is higher than when they measure it at home. This is all taken into account when diagnosing hypertension.

 

Hypertension is broken down into two main categories. Essential hypertension is the term given to those who have raised blood pressure but without a cause found. For those who do have a cause they are described as having secondary hypertension. Often those with secondary hypertension have a much quicker onset of raised blood pressure and a much higher reading than those without a cause found.

 

High blood pressure is concerning because the excessive pressure placed on the artery walls causes damage to blood vessels and organs in the body – particularly the heart, kidneys, brain and eyes.  Uncontrolled blood pressure increases your risk serious health problems including heart attack and stroke.

 

The changes you can make in your life to lower your blood pressure include:

– losing weight

– exercising regularly

– eating a healthy diet

– reducing the amount of salt in your diet

– limiting the amount of alcohol you drink

– quitting smoking

 

If your blood pressure is high and you need a specialist medical opinion download the My Emergency Dr App. This is an app that allows you to have a video consultation with a specialist emergency doctor within minutes, 24/7, from wherever you are in Australia.

Dealing with Stress

In the modern world we are on the go all the time. Whether it be working, taking phonecalls, planning our next project, juggling kids, trying to fit in exercise.  Add to that the social media ideals that we see of perfect abs, perfect jobs, perfect clothes…. The stress can be overwhelming.

 

It has been shown time and again the negative effects that stress can have on weight, mood, wellbeing and our health.

 

There are simple things we can do to reduce stress and allow us to enjoy our lives that little bit more…

 

1. Exercise

If a regular exercise programme isn’t something you can manage, just elevating your heart rate for 30 minutes a day can make a huge difference. There is a wealth of free online resources posting workouts that can be done at home. Go for a walk, kick a ball or do running relays with the kids. As well as being good for our bodies, exercise is good for our minds, releasing endorphins and promoting better sleep.

 

2. Sleep

It’s tempting to cut back on sleep when we have such busy lives but missing sleep has such deleterious effects for our health. Our energy levels suffer, concentration deteriorates and we can even gain weight due to hormonal imbalances. Miss that extra hour of Netflix and aim for 8 hours a night and you won’t regret it.

 

3. Eat

Diet can influence our energy levels and in turn our mood. Relying on processed foods high in sugar causes fluctuations in our blood sugar leading to large swings in energy and mood. Not eating enough nutrient rich whole foods can leave us feeling exhausted and add to the workload of our tired brains. Caffeine and alcohol are often relied upon to deal with stress but have numerous negative health effects and can also lead to poor sleep.

 

4. Breathe

It’s so hard to make time for ourselves, let alone go to yoga or guided meditation. What is important though is to take time, even 10 minutes to just be still, empty your mind and breathe. Take deep breaths and fill your lungs. This has not only good effects on your posture but can help you to gain perspective on stressful situations.

 

Even finding the right healthcare can be stressful. Finding the right doctor, one you feel comfortable enough to talk to about intimate physical and mental problems, is no mean feat. Often patients are not sure where to go and who to see, adding to the demand of an already stressful situation. Here at My Emergency Dr we aim to provide you with the medical advice and care that you need for urgent medical situations  that arise anytime (24/7), when your usual GP may not be available.

Youth Sports and concussion

Sports are a great way for children and teenagers to stay well, engage in physical activity and improve their performance at school however some sports do place children at risk of injuries. One of the more common types of injury a child or teenager may sustain is a concussion. This is a traumatic type of brain injury which occurs when a child receives a bump, knock, blow or jolt to the head, causing the brain to move quickly inside the skull. It causes a rapid onset of injury to the brain, with most often a mild quick to resolve time course.

 

Sports associated with a higher risk of concussion include any contact sports or those that place your child at risk of falling and hitting their head.  It is particularly high in the football codes (rugby union, rugby league, AFL) as well as netball, soccer, cricket, martial arts and snow sports.

 

After a head injury the brain has a temporary disruption to the amount of blood flow to the injured area and disruption to hormones in the cells of the brain. This causes the following symptoms and signs:

 

– appearing dazed or stunned or even having a brief loss of consciousness

– confusion about the score, their position or forgets an instruction

– moves clumsily or answers questions slowly

– is unable to recall events prior to or after a hit or fall

– demonstrates abnormal behavior

– complains of a headache, double vision, unsteadiness

– starts vomiting or feels nauseous

– feels sluggish and tired

 

Should you suspect your child has had a concussion they should be immediately removed from play and assessed by a doctor. Symptoms and signs of concussion often show up immediately after the injury however some symptoms may not show up for hours or days.

 

Warning signs of a more serious head injury that requires further medical assessment include:

 

– drowsiness or does not respond to your voice

– has ongoing vomiting or persistent headache

– slurred speech, weakness, numbness or decreased coordination

– new twitching, convulsions or seizures

 

After a concussion the brain needs time to heal and rest. During this period your healthcare provider needs to be actively involved in your child’s care to aide in a return to school, normal activities and sports. This is a gradual process, which needs to be carefully managed and monitored by a health care provider.  Most importantly children with a concussion should not continue to play whilst the brain is healing. A repeat concussion after a recent head injury can be very serious and cause harm to your child.

 

If your child is unwell and you need to speak with an After hours GP download the My Emergency Dr App today to have an immediate consultation with a qualified specialist using our online app.

Back to school checklist to review your child’s health and safety

The start of a new school term presents a good opportunity to have conversations with your children about important topics regarding health and safety. With summer on the way we recommend using the following checklist to guide you and your family towards good health and injury prevention.

 

Safety

– For children to be safe at home it’s important that harmful medications are placed in a locked cupboard and that access to basic first aid information including emergencies numbers are readily available.

– Key emergency numbers include 000 plus the numbers of friends or relatives to call if parents are unavailable in an emergency.

– It’s also a good time to discuss stranger safety and ensure your child knows what to do if approached by a stranger who is acting abnormally.

– Remind your child to always wear a seatbelt and when riding a bike, using a skateboard or roller blading to wear a helmet.

– Review your family’s emergency plans if there is a weather emergency or fire and check fire alarms and fire extinguishers at home to ensure they are working.

 

Nutrition

– Talk to your children about what they would like to eat from their lunchbox. Discuss healthy food options for food and drink choices.

– During this time it’s important to review your child’s intake of processed foods, carbonated beverages, junk food and fruit juices and check that alternative healthy snacks and drinks are available.

– Food is usually stored in lunchboxes for several hours. It’s important to keep the lunchbox cool so that the food stays fresh. Choose an insulated lunchbox or use a freeze pack to help food stay cool.

 

Exercise

– One in four Australian children is overweight. Current evidence demonstrates that overweight children are more likely to carry this weight into their adult life and suffer from chronic diseases associated with excess weight.

– Regular exercise and engaging in physical activity has immediate health benefits like improving fitness, motor skills and self-confidence. It also prevents disease, promoting health and wellbeing into adulthood.

– You can give your child a lifelong love of exercise and movement by being active yourself, and encouraging school-based and weekend activities.

 

Electronics

– This is a good time to review your child’s use of electronic machines like computers, phones and iPads.

– To help them get to sleep, limit their screen time before bed and discuss healthy habits of balancing electronic use with other forms of activities.

– This is also a good time to review your child’s social media use and inform them on how to handle common situations (for example if your child sees information that seems inappropriate or scary).

– It’s also important to discuss with your child about what types of information are unsafe or inappropriate to post online.

 

If your child is unwell and you need to speak with a doctor after hours, download the My Emergency Dr App today to speak with a qualified specialist within minutes.