Category Archives: Health

Can you dig it? The new JCB Kids glasses at Specsavers

Over the weekend the boys went off on an adventure. They were invited to Specsavers at Manchester Fort for the launch of the new range of JCB Kids glasses. It was the promise of getting up close and personal with a real JCB which tempted them; but a free eye test for the boy was also a big draw.

Eye health is something we take pretty seriously as a family. My husband has worn glasses since he was a child and I started wearing them last year. We know it’s likely Ben will need to wear them at some point. Regular eye tests are important for a lot of reasons; not least because having them checked may alert you to a health problem you didn’t know was there.

Can you dig it? The new JCB Kids glasses at Specsavers

Children’s eye tests are available for free from Spacsavers (on the NHS). If they need glasses, they get an under-16s’ NHS optical voucher to put towards new glasses. Kid’s glasses have come a long way since when I was a child. Although the thick NHS specs we dreaded back then are all the rage these days.

Matthew and Ben arrived at Specsavers and were both excited by the real JCB backhoe loader outside. It was even wearing its own giant pair of glasses. Ben was especially excited by the JCB Transformer. Who wouldn’t be? It was an actual Transformer which changed from a JCB to a walking hero in front of his eyes!

Can you dig it? The new JCB Kids glasses at Specsavers

Aside from his school eye test, Ben hasn’t had a proper eye test with an optician and it’s been on my list of things to do for a couple of months now. I was a bit worried that he’d make a fuss and not co-operate with the optician, but he was great. He sat beautifully in the chair and did everything that was asked of him. It helped that the optician who was testing him was fantastic and patient with him. We’ll be back next year!

Thankfully his eyesight is absolutely fine for now. We’re so glad we got him tested, it’s a weight off my mind at least.

Can you dig it? The new JCB Kids glasses at Specsavers

I’m a bit envious of these JCB Kids glasses, they make my sensible glasses look a bit pedestrian. The JCB Kids glasses from iconic British brand JCB are tough, cool and created with adventure loving boys and girls in mind. All of the JCB Kids frames come with single-vision lenses including UV filter and are part of their kids 2 free pairs offer. You can view the full range here.

Can you dig it? The new JCB Kids glasses at Specsavers

Looking after your eyes is so important. I’m so glad we got him tested, it’s reassuring to know that his eyes are ok. We’ll be taking him back next year for his annual test. It’s worth remembering that children’s eye tests and almost all of their glasses are available on the NHS free of charge.

You can find out more about children’s eye tests and the JCB Kids glasses range on the Specsavers website.

We were invited guests of Specsavers and JCB Kids glasses. We received a goodie bag and a voucher towards eye-care as a thank you for attending.

Health: Hormone changes and dry eyes

I’d put it down to just getting older, but in recent years I’ve started to struggle with dry eyes. Part of that is probably increased levels of screen time, part of it is I now have to wear glasses and part of that is my age.

I have noticed that after a long day on the laptop my eyes are feeling it. When I go to the cinema and I put my glasses on, I feel it then too. My eyes feel uncomfortable and dry. Dry eye is a condition where your eyes don’t make enough tears to keep them moist. If you’ve got dry eyes, your eyes can feel irritated, watery and sore.

Health: Hormone changes and dry eyes

Leading Optometrist Sarah Farrant is a new mum and has experienced dry eye problems herself. She had this to say about dry eyes. “There is a well-established link between our balance of hormones and the health of our eyes. During pregnancy, the level of oestrogen in our body changes. This has a direct effect on our eye health, often causing expectant mums to experience dry eyes and find contact lenses uncomfortable, especially in the last trimester of pregnancy.”

There are many things which can cause dry eyes. A night on the tiles, tiredness, too much screen time and central heating can all affect the moisture levels in our eyes and if left unmanaged can lead to more serious eye problems.

Sarah has some tips for people who are having problems with dry eyes – 

•  Blink! Each time you blink it spreads moisture across the surface of your eye. Screen time can reduce your blink rate from 22 blinks to 7 blinks per minute and is a major cause of dry eyes.
•  Use a naturally hydrating eye drop like Hycosan Fresh (£8.99 from Boots) to help keep your eyes moisturised and feeling refreshed.
•  Studies show that supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids can decrease dry eye symptoms. Drinking more water can also help.

Health: Hormone changes and dry eyes

I really like the design of the Hycosan Fresh bottle. I’m useless at doing my own eye drops, but this is a pump, so you just aim the dropper in the corner of your eye, press the pump and it’s in. Why aren’t all eye drops designed like this?

Since I took Sarah’s advice my eyes have felt much better. I’m making an effort to blink and drink more, take regular breaks away from the screen, and when my eyes start to feel uncomfortable I use a drop or two of Hycosan Fresh.

Note: I was sent a bottle of Hycosan Fresh for review purposes. All images and opinions are my own.

Health: Making sick days better #VicksTricks

It’s February and we are slap bang in the middle of cold season; not that there’s ever really a time when you can’t catch a cold. With school being like it is – a festering swamp of germs. Bugs, viruses and colds can knock a whole class out for weeks at a time and kids are having sick days left, right and centre!

Inevitably the kids bring home germs and the whole family goes down. Whilst we make every effort not to take any unnecessary time off school and work, sometimes a sick day is what you need to knock the bug on the head. 

As a parent, the problem with sick days is that you don’t want them to be too much fun, you don’t want to give the idea that being at home is more fun than being at school, but you still want to be able to offer comfort and care to your child.

Health: Making sick days better #VicksTricks

The boy has had thankfully very few sick days off school. But when he has I always make sure he’s warm and comfortable. Snuggled on the sofa under a blanket is fairly standard. He might watch TV for a while, or do some colouring or work his way through an activity book. We will often read to each other and we will always have as many cuddles as he wants or needs. It’s a difficult balance to strike between keeping him entertained but not making it too exciting, so he won’t want more fun sick days at home.

In terms of looking after him when a cold hits, I let him drink as much water or watered down fruit juice as he wants. He’s not yet discovered the comforting hug in a mug a hot cordial can be, but that will come. If he’s suffering he can have some paracetamol medicine, and I encourage him to just keep blowing his nose. If he’s snuffly and coughing at night, the old trick of Vicks Vaporub on the feet really helps.

Interestingly Vicks have done some research into how parents cope with colds and bugs within their families –

• Over half (52%) of parents said that rest was the most important thing for making children feel better
• This was followed by ‘medicine’, which 40% of parents rely on
• More than a third of parents (36%) believe in the power of TLC

And when it comes to keeping children entertained: 

• Three out of four (75%) British parents put on the TV or a DVD
• Over a quarter (27%) read to their children
• 1 in 10 parents get really creative; either telling jokes (8%) or even do magic tricks (2%)

Of course prevention is always better than a cure. We are big on hand washing and trying to avoid getting the bugs in the first place. At the first sign of a cold, we adults start taking zinc supplements and praying for mercy. We’ve recently discovered Vicks First Defence. You spray it up your nose a few times a day at the first sign of a cold. It helps to stop the cold bugs in their tracks. 

Health: Making sick days better #VicksTricks

I admit to being a little skeptical, but last week I woke up with a tickly throat and reached for the Vicks First Defence Nasal Spray. It was easy to use and I used it for a couple of days and it really did seem to stop the cold in its tracks. I just don’t have the time to be fighting bugs, so this will be part of my bug battle armoury from now on. 
 

This post is an entry for the BritMums #VicksTricks campaign.

Chronic Health Conditions: I’m all out of spoons

In recent years the word “Spoonie” has been used to describe someone like me. Someone who has a chronic health condition. For me it’s pain. I live with pain, most of the time I am the boss of it. I manage it so that it doesn’t appear to the outside world that it manages me. Sometimes the mask slips and I have to admit that I just can’t do it anymore and I need to rest up. Today, this week, is one of those times. I’m all out of spoons.

The idea of spoons – you get X number of spoons a day and you have to choose how to “spend” them. For example a shower might take three spoons, a walk to the shops 5, but you might only have 15 spoons a day, how should you use them best? I don’t always think the spoons thing is always helpful to me, like most people with chronic health problems I have good days and bad. I might have five spoons today, but tomorrow I could have 50. And yes, some days if I use too many spoons I won’t have any or many to use the next day. I feel like I’m saying the word spoons a lot here.

Anyway, long story short. I’ve hurt my back a bit, so my pain levels are high. The numbness in my legs and pelvis is distracting, but I’m trying not to worry. On top of that I’ve got a stomach bug. I’m all out of spoons.

Today I managed to sit up in bed long enough to chug down some painkillers. Then it took me two hours to get the energy together to shakily make my way downstairs to keep the dog company. Then I had to find spoons I didn’t have to clean up the little puppy gifts she’d left me, before I grabbed a drink and lay on the sofa watching TV for the afternoon. I know the boys will be home from school and work soon, so I spent my last remaining spoon on a shower so I looked less like hell for them. No more spoons.

I’ve just had a text “what’s for tea?” To which I replied “I’m too wobbly to stand, sorry”. It’s official, I am all out of spoons.

My beautiful son is making his Beavers promise tonight. I really should go and watch him and his proud moment. I will probably make myself go, using the precious spoons I’d squirreled away for tomorrow. The dog remains unwalked for now, but she’s been played with, which was all I could manage.

I’m normally on top of this. I am normally well in control of my spoons but I’m all out. I’m all out of spoons for now and I’m running up a deficit for tomorrow and the day after.

Note – I wrote this last night on my iPad but didn’t have any spoons or energy left to publish it. I didn’t have enough to get me to Beavers to watch Ben make his promise either, so now I feel like a terrible parent. So here it is, my blog post, and now I’m going back to bed.

Chronic Health Conditions: I'm all out of spoons

Health: Dealing with a fungal nail infection

Last year I discovered that I had a fungal nail infection and it was not pretty. I tend to keep my toenails painted, and being somewhat lazy I have previously just painted over the old coat with a new coat and only very rarely taken the nail varnish off. This was my first mistake. I don’t know where I picked up my fungal nail infection from, but I know that repeatedly painting over my nail meant I didn’t notice the first signs of infection until it was too late.

Health: Dealing with a fungal nail infection

Sorry, it is pretty gross. This was before I started my treatment.

My first port of call was to find out what the hell was wrong with my big toe nail. A quick internet search revealed that I had a fungal nail infection. The only thing I could do was to hot foot it to the chemist and speak to the pharmacist. They recommended Canespro Fungal Nail Treatment, which cost me £19.99, which is not cheap, but I was hopeful of a cure.

The Canespro Fungal Nail Treatment kit contains one 10g tube of urea ointment, 22 specially designed waterproof plasters and one plastic scraper. The instructions are clear and easy to follow. So follow them I did. 

I began by removing as much of the infected nail as possible. This wasn’t difficult; within a couple of days of me realising my nail was infected, part of it had detached itself and begun to curl (sorry for TMI). Using sharp nail scissors and a bit of bravery, I removed as much as I could. I carefully filed the rough edges and discarded that nail file as it was now contaminated. 

Health: Dealing with a fungal nail infection

Over a period of 2-3 weeks I used the cream on my nail. This softened the infected part of the nail. Once you’ve applied the cream you need to cover your nail with one of the plasters. Every other day or so after that, use the scraper to remove the softened, infected part of the nail. The only way to clear the infected part of your nail is to remove them, this also stops the infection spreading to other nails too.

I did lose about three quarters of my nail; but the infection didn’t spread and my nail has grown back just fine. I hope to never get another fungal nail infection again; but if I do I know that although it’s not pretty, it’s not the end of the world and it can be treated.

If you find yourself with a fungal nail infection, then do speak to your pharmacist. Chances are they’ll recommend the Canespro Fungal Nail Treatment kit anyway, but it’s always good to get a professional opinion. Fungal nail infections are more common than you’d imagine, and I promise that with a little bit of TLC your nails will be back to their former glory before long.

Note: I was sent a Canespro Fungal Nail Treatment kit to tackle any future fungal nail infections. All images and opinions are my own. 

Health: 3 reasons you might be losing your hair

If you’re losing your hair, you might feel like you’re losing part of your identity – and this can be especially difficult to deal with if you’re a woman. If your locks are thinning and this is having an impact on your confidence and self-esteem, it’s important to understand what’s causing this process. You may find there are treatments available that can help you slow or even reverse your hair loss. Here, we take a look at three reasons why you might be losing your tresses.

Your genes

In men, male-pattern baldness is by far the most common cause of hair loss, affecting approximately half of all men by the time they reach 50, often starting much earlier. A hereditary condition, it’s thought to be a result of over-sensitive follicles and it’s generally characterised by a receding hairline and thinning on the crown. There are treatments available, including finasteride tablets and a lotion called minoxidil. You can find out more about how these hair loss treatments work online or by speaking to your doctor.

Less is known about female-pattern baldness – which tends to involve thinning of hair on top of the head – but this may also have a genetic trigger. The condition tends to be more common in postmenopausal women and this could be because of a drop in female hormone levels. Finasteride isn’t a treatment option for women, but minoxidil is. Up to a quarter of women with female-pattern baldness who use this lotion experience hair regrowth. If you think you might benefit from it, it’s worth getting advice from a pharmacist or your GP.

Your immune system

If you have small patches of hair loss on your scalp, your immune system could be to blame. The condition alopecia areata is caused by a problem with your body’s natural defence system that causes it to attack your own tissue. Usually, hair grows back within a few months, but treatments are available if this doesn’t happen. Steroids can be used in the form of injections, creams, ointments and gels, and in some cases immunotherapy is an option.

losing your hair through Stress

If you’ve experienced major physical or emotional strain recently, there’s a chance this has triggered your hair to thin. A condition called telogen effluvium, which involves a widespread thinning of the hair across the scalp, can be brought on by intense physical trauma – such as childbirth, serious illness or a surgery. It can also be triggered by extreme psychological stress, hormonal changes or alterations to your diet. The good news is, in most cases of telogen effluvium, hair stops falling out and begins to regrow within six months, meaning there’s no need for treatment.

If you’re still not sure what’s causing your hair to thin, or you think you know but you’d like further advice on how to tackle the issue, it’s a good idea to contact a medical professional.

Nanogen - losing your hair

= This is a collaborative guest post =

Review: LiveLean Best of British Meat Hamper

As a keen cook and eater of food I care about what my family put on their dinner plates. This year we’ve been trying to eat a bit healthier, eat fewer carbs and a little bit more protein. My husband has taken up what we call “muddy races”, you know the kind of thing (which fills sane thinking people with horror), run 10 miles and conquer a million military style obstacles. He’s all about the protein and kettlebells, but at the same time he’s a greedy boy who won’t be without his big dinners. LiveLean sent us their 82-Piece Best of British Super Lean Meat Hamper to try out, but were my protein loving carnivores happy?

LiveLean Meat Hamper

LiveLean are a British company supplying mostly British farmed and butchered produce. The LiveLean Best of British Meat Hamper is a huge hamper (it’s currently £59.95 which I think is a huge bargain) and contains the following 82 pieces of meat –

  • Premium Chicken Fillets 5kg (approx 24)
  • Two aged Rump Steaks 6oz
  • Two packs of Best UK Lean Steak Mince 400g
  • Two Beef minute steaks 6oz
  • Two packs of Super Lean Steak Burgers (8 burgers)
  • 24 Lean Steak Meatballs  
  • UK Chicken Burgers 2 burgers, 4oz each
  • 8 Lean Pork Sausages (made with 74% pork)
  • Lean Back Bacon 10 rashers / 400g

The hamper comes in a big box, wrapped in a big silver cold bag and with lots of frozen packs inside to keep the meat cool while it’s on its way to you. The meat all arrived in perfect condition and looked really appetising. I unpacked it and put most of it away in the freezer (tip, separate the 5kg of chicken breasts into smaller amounts which you’d typically use, so for example, portions of four breasts).

LiveLean

It’s probably wise to clear some space in your freezer before you take delivery, as there is a lot of meat to put away, easily enough for our family for a month or so. We put what we knew we’d use over the next couple of days in the fridge and froze the rest.

That night the small boy had sausages for his tea and his dad had one of the rump steaks. The sausages were great, they contain 74% pork and hardly any fat came off them while I was cooking them. The boys said they were really flavoursome. I cooked the steak in a hot griddle pan and served it with a big salad – he said it was one of the best steaks he’d eaten.

I’ve been away for a few days and with the two packets of steak mince I made a huge shepherds pie to tide them over while I was away – again there was very little fat, so little that I didn’t have to bother draining the mince after I’d browned it. 

It all seems like really good quality meat, and what the boys have eaten so far they’ve loved! LiveLean have a whole range of meat hampers of different sizes and with different kinds of meat in them. The quality is excellent, I really couldn’t fault it and I think a little under £60 is a very good price to pay.

If like a bargain, I do have a discount code to use if you’re buying the 82 piece Best of British hamper – just enter HPD5 at the checkout.

LiveLean
To check out the LiveLean Best of British Meat Hamper for yourself, visit their website and don’t forget that exclusive discount code!

 

Health: Why Vitamin D is a daily essential

A recent government report has offered some new guidelines about the amount of Vitamin D we should consume on a daily basis.

As a general rule, everyone, all adults and children over the age of one should consume 10 micrograms of this essential vitamin every day. But why? The experts at Vitamin D supplement retailer, Pharma Nord, explain what this essential vitamin does and why it’s so important.

What does vitamin D do?

This vital vitamin is important as it helps the body to absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet. Because calcium and phosphate are essential for maintaining healthy bones, teeth and muscles, it’s essential that we keep our vitamin levels at the optimum level.

Only 10% of our daily intake of this vitamin comes from our diet and the other 90% must come from sunlight. Because we predominantly rely on sunlight for Vitamin D, it’s often difficult to get the amount that we require during autumn and winter. This is because sunlight doesn’t contain enough UVB radiation between October and early March in the UK. Instead, many people take supplements  to try and up their vitamin intake and prevent a deficiency occurring.

vitamin d

What happens if you don’t get enough vitamin D?

If your vitamin levels drop too low, you will have a deficiency.

Vitamin D is crucial to the health of bones and teeth, without this, calcium cannot be effectively absorbed by your body. A vitamin deficiency can result in bone and muscle pain, poor bone mineralisation and a greater risk of osteoporosis and fractures as we age.

Vitamin D can stimulate the body’s production of anti-viral and anti-bacterial proteins, making it an effective nutrient to boost immunity and protect against colds and flu. People with low levels of this vitamin are 40% more likely to visit their GP with respiratory infections. Deficiency is also associated with increased risk of auto-immune disorders such as multiple sclerosis.

Who is effected by vitamin D deficiencies?

Some people are more at risk of vitamin deficiencies than others. Those at greater risk include babies from birth to one year old, children aged between one and four and the elderly.

Vitamin D synthesis is also inhibited by lack of sunshine or covering up with clothes. Pregnant and breast-feeding mothers and people with darker skin pigmentation may also have inadequate UV exposure.

can Vitamin supplements help?

Public Health England has recommended that everyone considers taking vitamin D supplements in autumn and winter to ensure they get enough of this essential vitamin.

vitamin d

= This is a collaborative post =

ParkLives Manchester: Body Conditioning in the park!

Yesterday I attended my second Walking Workout session at Fletcher Moss Gardens in Didsbury, Manchester. I was expecting a very similar session to last week, but due to the awful storm the night before and the unusually heavy rain parts of the park were flooded or too churned up with mud to use. So instead of walking we had a body conditioning session, and I can really feel it this morning!

I arrived at the Visitor’s Centre and waited for the instructor and other participants to arrive. Despite the dramatic storm the previous night it was warm, really too warm and I knew I would be a puddle by the end of the session. The park was partly flooded and some of the paths were slippy and not ideal. We went into the Botanical Gardens and the instructor decided that instead of a cardio session that we would do some body conditioning instead. 

body conditioning

She handed round some resistance bands, and in an area shaded by a wisteria covered pergola we worked our whole bodies in a series of exercises. Some were tougher than others. We did a lot of quite intense leg work and I think every muscle in my legs is screaming at me today.

It was a tough workout and she offered suggestions for making the exercises easier or harder if need be, and encouraged us to drink lots of water and stay in the shade. It was hellish hot and I was in part glad to not be walking around in the hot sunshine.

Next week when the flood waters have receded I think the session be back to normal, part walking workout, part body conditioning. I did enjoy it and the soreness I’m feeling today is just reminding me what a lazy bones I’ve been this year. It feels good to be doing something again and I’m hoping I’ll start to see as well as feel a difference soon.

body conditioning

Not a bad view to have when you’re exercising!

ParkLives Manchester offers free and fun activity sessions across the city and is now in its second year in Manchester. There are a huge range of activities available, from multi-activity fun camps for families, walk to run sessions, buggy fit and more.

There are hundreds of activities listed on the ParkLives Manchester website and you can quickly and easily book yourself in for an activity session in advance. 

For more information on ParkLives Manchester, or to book and activity visit the website.

Just So Festival Accessibility – put to the test

In August we went to the Just So Festival for the weekend. I was incredibly excited and a little bit apprehensive about going for various reasons. We were camping together as a family for the first time, and for me that felt like a bit of a challenge, as I have chronic pain and nerve damage which means I can’t really feel my feet and legs. 

Just So Festival 2016

I’m used to it now and ordinarily I am able to manage it to the point that most people can’t tell until I walk on an uneven path or down some stairs or a hill where I have to concentrate hard and maybe hang on to something or someone for stability.

The pain and the medication I take to manage that mean that I get tired more easily and need to rest regularly. I was worried about managing my pain levels, being able to rest, struggling to walk and stay on my feet for longer than I ought to and having somewhere I could relax, take my pills and stretch out for an hour. 

I try not to let my pain and funny legs stop me from doing much, but the thought of camping for a whole weekend was challenging for me. Happily the people behind the Just So Festival are the most amazing, accommodating and helpful people I’ve probably ever encountered. 

They have a very detailed information page on their website with pretty much everything you need to know about Just So Festival accessibility for people with additional needs or who are disabled. They’ve thought of almost everything, from wheelchair charging, fridge space for medication, dedicated quiet spaces and advice on how to make the best of some aspects of the festival, like the famous lantern parade. 

just so festival accessibility

This is one of the glamping tents in the accessible camping area

I decided to apply for an accessible camping space, this area is located next to the main entrance and has a wheelchair-accessible shower, accessible toilet and a water point within 50 feet. In this area you are also able to park next to your tent. Just So reviewed my application and allocated us a spot. I was really pleased as I knew being closer to the entrance would really help me manage myself better over the weekend.

Just So Festival Accessibility

Our tiny tent in the accessible camping area

The next challenge for me was sleeping in a tent. I stiffen up overnight and I wasn’t sure how I’d get on with sleeping on the floor. We thought long and hard about it and decided to buy an airbed. We had a tent which we used a few times before my accident, so we decided to give that an airing and camp in that. The small boy was beyond himself with excitement! 

When we arrived on the first day, the accessible camping area was already filling up. We were welcomed by Callum, the Safeguarding and Accessibility Manager who was really helpful. We managed to pitch our tiny 3 person tent in the rain and head off to enjoy the festival.

Close to our small tent were a toilet and shower cubicle as well as a Mobiloo, a small truck which looked spotlessly clean. The Mobiloo is a place where disabled people can use the loo and have a wash in comfort and warmth. I didn’t use the Mobiloo, but I can vouch for the disabled toilet which was emptied each night and was pretty clean and tidy. I remember hideous festival toilets of the 90s and these were a world apart. 

In terms of Just So Festival Accessibility, the festival is largely set around proper hard paths, with some firm bark chipped paths in the woods. It rained a lot during the weekend and this had churned up lots of mud. The festival organisers managed this by putting straw down which made the paths much easier to walk on. 

There’s not much seating around the site, so I took my own camping chair which was lightweight enough for us to carry around and plonk down for me to rest on when I needed to. This is an essential for me, without my chair I couldn’t have managed more than a couple of hours each day.

There are lots of information points and volunteers around if you need any assistance, as well as a first aid point staffed with qualified first aiders. I felt very comfortable, secure and relaxed. The Just So Festival is so easy going and for me, as a person who at times struggles with mobility I just felt welcomed and not like I was being treated differently to everyone else.

just so festival accessibility

The only thing I’d change would be our tiny tent and constantly deflating airbed. The tent was very bijou and a bit too cosy with us all in it, but we had lots of fun and midnight giggles, so we would definitely camp again, just in something a bit bigger.

I think that the adaptations and considerations the festival organisers made in terms of Just So Festival Accessibility were seamlessly woven into the fabric of Just So. It’s a truly accessible event. And that’s exactly how it should be for everyone, everywhere. 

For more information about Just So Festival Accessibility visit their website.

Read our review of the Just So Festival 2016 here.