Category Archives: Health

I bite my nails and I’m ok with that

I bite my nails and I know that my nails make my otherwise ok hands look shabby. I don’t want to stop biting my nails. I actually quite like it. Other people seem to have a problem with it though. Should I stop biting my nails just to please other people?

I’ve got this slightly anti-social habit and I have no desire to stop it. Every so often when an occasion looms ahead, like Christmas or a wedding, I paint my nails in advance. This stops me nibbling for a while and my hands look briefly quite tidy and respectable.

I’m off to a blogging conference this weekend and it’s one of those rare occasions I think I might try to spruce myself up for. I’ve painted my nails and to anyone else they probably look terrible. But to me they look ok. I’ve got funny cuticles which need attention and the paint job isn’t great, but they’ll do. Anyone who wants to stare at my nails and judge me on them can judge away.

I bite my nails and I'm ok with that

I’d love to be able to go for a manicure. I’d love to spoil myself with one. I’ve had them in the past and almost without exception they’ve been joyless experiences. The nail technician always comments on my nail biting, the length of the nails, the state of my cuticles and has a resigned “what the hell am I going to do with these” look on their face.

No I don’t want false nails thank you. No I don’t want to grow them either. I hate the feel of having even slightly longer nails that I already have. Feeling the tips as they tap on the keyboard makes me feel sick and they have to come off. They have to be short and after 40 years of biting I’m not going to stop now.

I’d just love a manicure from someone who gets that I just want to make what I’ve got look pretty and tidy. I don’t want to stick false nails on. I don’t want to try nasty flavoured stuff either. My need to bite my nails is such that I will tolerate the terrible taste to get my nail nibbling fix.

My name is Jane and I bite my nails (and always will because I like it).

Health: Living with Alpha Thalassemia Trait

Way back in 2010 when I was pregnant with my son, I had the usual barrage of tests they give to pregnant ladies. I wasn’t really expecting anything to flash up in the results and I think my Doctor was as surprised as me to find that I had Alpha Thalassemia Trait, a genetic blood disorder.

My husband and I were quickly thrown onto a conveyor belt of further tests and genetic counselling. Something neither of us were expecting nor were in any way prepared for. Being pregnant and having a baby is scary enough, but when you find out there’s a chance of something unthinkable happening, your world turns upside down.

On its own my Alpha Thalassemia Trait is a bit like having anaemia. I’m a bit tired most of the time. I always have been. I remember being a teenager and family members telling me how lazy I was and how I didn’t have any get up and go. It wasn’t that I was lazy, I just had no energy at all. Thalassemia comes in various forms, some are far more serious than others and some people with other versions of the disorder can have terrible health problems. Thankfully Alpha Thalassemia Trait has pretty low-level symptoms.

As an adult, I learned to cope and manage my low-level exhaustion and factored those symptoms into my lifestyle. I can’t actually nap unless I’m ill, but rest periods are essential, as are lie-ins a couple of times a week. Caffeine is my friend, it gives me false energy and a little pep up when I need a boost to get me through. I work from home now and as much as I can I work when I’m energised and rest when I am not.

When I was first got pregnant in the days before I knew the reason why I was fatigued all the time, I was absolutely shattered. I’d do a days work, come home and get straight into bed. My husband would wake me up to give me a meal in bed and I’d fall asleep again. He’d wake me up later to make sure I had a drink and then leave me to sleep until morning. For a few weeks I thought I was seriously ill. I was just pregnant.

In terms of my health during my pregnancy it didn’t really affect me. I was advised to try to eat more iron rich foods and to rest when I could. I suspect that’s advice given to pregnant women regardless of their thalassemia status.

What I did find stressful, and it was something which definitely contributed to the deterioration of my mental health after my son was born, was the genetic counselling. It was supposed to educate us about the risks of having two parents with the disease, which is helpful, but at 18 weeks pregnant I was faced with the possibility that my baby could die if my husband also had this genetic anomaly. Until the test results came through I could not be reassured.

This dark cloud hung heavily over us while we waited for his test results to come back. My husband is half Armenian and thalassemia is prevalent in Mediterranean, South Asian, Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern counties. I knew this was a concern to the medical team treating me. It was a truly horrible time in our lives. The two weeks of waiting were torture. Thankfully his results came back absolutely clear and we were discharged from the Thalassemia Service and told our baby would be ok.

Alpha Thalassemia Trait is a strange condition. I have it but there’s no treatment for my minor version of it. There’s not a lot I can do to make myself better, I just have to factor in self-care where I can. The concern is that I will have passed my genetic anomaly on to my son. If I have then he will need to be cautious should he ever want children of his own. If he has it, then his partner will need to be tested to make sure that together they can have healthy babies of their own.

The test for Thalassemia is really simple, it’s a quick blood test. I’d never heard of the disease before I knew I was a carrier. It’s not infectious, you can’t catch it from me, not unless I give birth to you, which is unlikely. If you’re worried you may be a carrier it’s worth speaking to your GP and requesting a test, especially if you’re thinking of having a baby.

Health: Living with Alpha Thalassemia Trait

You can find out more about Alpha Thalassemia Trait by visiting this website.

This blog post does not constitute medical advice. I am just sharing my experience of  Alpha Thalassemia Trait.

Health: Vicks First Defence Nasal Spray side effects

Earlier this year I wrote a blog post about Vicks First Defence Nasal Spray and I was pretty positive about it. We’d all three of us used it on the early onset of a cold and it really had stopped it in its tracks, I was impressed. But today I want to share with you a bad reaction I had, which on further investigation seems quite common.

Health: Vicks First Defence Nasal Spray side effects

This morning I woke up with a bit of a sniffle, so I reached for my bottle of Vicks First Defence Nasal Spray and used it according to the instructions. If you sniff when you spray it does burn and run down the back of your throat and is very unpleasant, so I’ve learned not to do that. Taking care not to sniff, I popped two squirts up each nostril whilst I was sat up straight and my head not tilted. I was almost instantly hit by the most incredible pain.

The pain was like a hot poker being pressed on the top of my head on the right side, then forced down through my skull and down my neck. Over the first few minutes it radiated through the right side of my skull and through my right ear. In an attempt to try to get some of the Vicks First Defence Nasal Spray out of my nose, I gave it a good blow, which may have helped I don’t know. Every tooth on the upper right side of my mouth hurt and I had to lie down in the dark for over three hours. I took painkillers and slept, I couldn’t physically have done anything else. This is what I imagine having a stroke feels like.

When I woke up later, the pain is less, but the top of my head is still throbbing and fizzing, I have earache and my eyes are aching. I feel rotten. As soon as I felt able, I propped myself up in bed and googled “Vicks First Defence Nasal Spray bad reaction” which brought me to the Amazon reviews for the product. I filtered them so I could read the (49 at the time of writing) 1 star reviews and almost every one of them complained of a similar reaction.

Health: Vicks First Defence Nasal Spray side effectsImage above is a screenshot taken from Amazon.

The Vicks website gives a comprehensive list of the possible side effects, but it does not mention the searing intense pain that myself and other users have reported.

I’m sharing this information with you, not to stop you from using the product, because it has worked for me over and over in the last six months; but to say if this side effect happens to you, you know it’s not just you.

If you are worried, contact your GP. It’s just over four hours since I used the spray now and my head and neck are throbbing and achy. I took painkillers, I’ve drunk plenty of fluids, I lay down and rested as much as I could. It’s not as acute as it was but it feels like it had probably settled in for the day and many of the 1 star Amazon reviewers said the same. 

It could be that I am just suddenly sensitive to the ingredients. But I have used it several times over the last six months with no ill effects. I wont be using Vicks First Defence Nasal Spray again, I’d rather have a cold than feel that pain again.

If you experience any bad side effects when using Vicks First Defence Nasal Spray or any other medicine, you can report your experiences to The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency here.

Note: This blog post does not constitute medical advice, I am just sharing my experience of this product.

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!