Monday, July 30, 2012

Jetting off home.

Sorry about the silence, but we've been moving back to Western Australia which has meant packing up one house, traveling half way around the world and then moving back into our pristine "old" house. Then the roses needed pruning and the hedge needed a trim, and all that before our eldest son arrived with a friend for a conference here in Perth and could they stay for the weekend ..... And then there was JET LAG!

Flying from West to East always gets me: I feel good during the day and go for a jog, or prune those roses and by "beddie-byes" time my body tells me "You're ready for some serious ZZzzz's" so I lie down and go to sleep. 90 minutes later I'm wide awake and ready for action! But it's not just the sleep deprivation, it's the "bodily functions" that also have to catch up too and for we older folk, that is often more of a challenge to get back into a normal routine.

The good news is that we are having plenty of sunshine to stimulate Melatonin in the brain, and we can get out for some good physical activity and last night I slept from 1am to 6.54am and the world seems like a great place once again!

I'm told that if you turn left when you get on the aircraft and are able to stretch out on a bed and actually sleep then jet lag is not such a big issue - but then you have to refuse all the Champagne they apparently offer you if you can afford to buy Business Class tickets. (Disclosure - if an Airline would like to sponsor this blog and include free Business Class travel for the young bride and I as part of the deal, then I am prepared to negotiate a package).

At this stage there doesn't seem to be an effective way around Jet Lag, apart from sunshine, exercise and maintaining good hydration on the aircraft: if anyone knows of any new insights, please let me know so that I can spread the word.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Reducing the fallout from Falls

The Young Bride" and I were out for our morning jog this morning, and as she related it later, she was just thinking that the track by the lake that we were jogging on was a bit uneven and perhaps she'd better run on the nearby path! At which point she tripped over a tree root and literally "came a cropper"! Needless to say I was extremely proud of the way that she rolled as she fell, thus distributing the bruises and sprains over several parts of her body, instead of focusing on one area which may have led to a broken bone! Even more impressive was the way she gazed at her skinned knee and just got up and carried on: I think her attitude to pain makes me understand why she had the babies and I looked on!

But falls come completely out of the blue, and often when you least expect them - and most of them happen in the home! As we age and become less flexible and "bouncible", falls can prove life-threatening and the more we can do to help prevent and prepare for them, the less likely they are to irreversibly change our lives in a bad way.

Firstly the human factor, and there are three elements here: the brain, the muscles and the bones.

Part of preparing for any form of exercise, be it a walk, jog or cycle ride should include the thought bubble - "What should I do if ..". What the Young Bride did was to roll as she fell - something we had discussed in the past - so as to distribute the "energy of impact" over a wider area of her body. You still get the pains and the bruises, but they pass: if you just stick your hands out, you're just as likely to snap your wrists and end up in plaster for 6 weeks and all that rehab afterwards. Or even worse, it could be a fractured hip which will put you in hospital or even underground!

Secondly, maintaining muscle tone is very important as your muscles will act as "Shock absorbers", in other words they will let you down a bit more slowly and again reduce that energy of impact. And finally, maintaining bone strength will help reduce fracture risk. Having strong bones happens through constant use and good nutrition - and that includes adequate Calcium intake and healthy Vitamin D levels - if you're not sure what this means for you, then check with your family Doc.

Then routinely run a check list for home safety: carpets, cables and debris on staircases etc. Remember that you might keep the place as you want it, and you may well know where the dangers lurk, but a well meaning family member or care-giver can "move things" and that could just lead you to take a wrong step in the dark and fall "base over apex"!

Summary: Prepare yourself by keeping as fit and strong as you can. When preparing for exercise, have an "emergency exit" plan - roll as you fall. And check your home environment on a regular basis for potential "man/woman traps". Pride may come before a fall, but a little forethought might just save your pride!
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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hand Foot and Mouth - post script

I recently wrote a Blog on Hand Foot and Mouth Disease and said that although it can be a serious disease - but rarely fatal - infants can occasionally become very ill due to dehydration from having lots of painful mouth ulcers. In these situations, the ulcers can make it impossible to hold food, drink or even saliva in their little mouths and they can end up in hospital on IV fluids. In the vast majority of cases the infection passes and all is well!

But over the past couple of days, there have been worrying reports of a widespread outbreak of a "mystery" infection in China, and the SE Asian countries. This infection appears to have been caused in part by an Entero virus from the same family as the one that causes Hand Foot and Moth disease. In the Cambodian outbreak however,  the death rate amongst infants has been terrifying with about 60 dead and only a couple surviving so far. In this new outbreak, the classical rash on the hands, feet and in the mouth have often been absent and the children are presenting with serious brain swelling (encephalitis) and then die from destruction of the small alveoli (air sacs) in the lungs.

But although this is a terrible thing for the children and families affected, when put into perspective against the rate of hospitalization for Dengue Fever in the same period (over 5,000) then the magnitude of the challenge becomes a little more clear.

This is still an evolving story but one that we need to keep an eye on.

The message: we need to be vigilant, especially when it comes to the smallest and most defenseless in our communities. If you think you have a sick child, get a professional to check them out. As I've said on many occasions, it's far better to come home from an emergency department with a red face, then leave your child there with a white one!
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Thursday, July 5, 2012

How does your child "measure up"

I was listening to an E-Lecture on abnormal growth in children and was struck by a few facts that I didn't know before. Firstly, it's not where you are born in this wonderful world that matters, but how things are in the home. According to a big International study completed by the WHO on children in various parts of the world, if they are given the optimum start in life, then those children all have the potential for normal growth and development for both height and weight - relevant to their age.

It's back to those critical first five years of life when so much potential can be developed, or so much permanent damage can be done.

The second point that registered was that "Hormones" play a relatively small part in the growth equation: much more important factors are Genes, Nutrition, and a healthy, positive domestic environment. From my experience, parents who bring their child in to see me and say they think Johnny is very small, "Could it be his hormones Doc?", the simple answer is it almost certainly isn't. The answer is usually there in front of you, with both parents being short, or perhaps the smell of tobacco/alcohol coming from the parents clothes!

The only way to determine whether the child has a definite "growth" problem is to have accurate growth charts and if you're interested in recording these yourself, then instead of using the back or the laundry door to mark with a pencil (it's always so hard to unscrew the doors and taken them to the Doctors surgery!) download the WHO charts from the CDC and then if necessary you can email them to your Doc for comment - after 6 to 12 months!

But when it comes to measuring the child, it must be accurate:

Bare feet together: back flat against the wall: head up and looking straight ahead: bring the horizontal marker down till it touches the top of the head and note the height. THEN, get them to step away for a second and then repeat the process. The results should be within 3 to 4 mm of each other to be accurate. NB if your child wants to be "taller", then measure in the morning as the discs in the spine are more hydrated/thicker, meaning that the spine will be longer and your child "taller"!

Isolated measurements have no real meaning: what is much more important is the Velocity of Growth, and this will only become apparent over time, so the earlier accurate measurements are started, the sooner any anomaly will become apparent. But growth is not a smooth process and is affected by stresses of illness, social and domestic problems and poor nutrition. Even when these episodes have passed, it may take 3 to 4 months for growth to "catch up", which in nearly all cases it will do so.

Finally, if your child wants a rough estimate of how tall they will be by the time they have finished growing - assuming they live a healthy life within a normal domestic environment - then it's down to genetics.

      For boys: add 13cms to the height of the mother and then average that number with the height of the father.

      For girls: subtract 13cms from the height of the father and average that number with the height of the mother .

Remember that this is only an indicator and can vary up to 8.5cms either side of the resultant number.

Listening to the lecture highlighted the fact that investigation of growth issues in children is a slow process, but we can minimize many of those problems by making sure that our young children have good nutrition early in life, and that we raise them in a nurturing environment: something that needs to be done 365 days of every year. And for that to happen, we all need to lend a hand.

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