As everyone must know by now – given how much horrendous facial hair has sprouted on your friends by this point in the month – November has become Movember for a great many men. Movember is a campaign to grow a moustache, which is in turn geared at raising awareness of prostate cancer (as well, perhaps of prostate health in general).
The problem with raising awareness about prostate cancer is that most of the raised awareness centres around screening tests for prostate cancer, and the simple reality is that there is still very little consensus about which men should get tested with PSA (that’s the blood test for prostate cancer) and when they should get that test, if ever.
The real problem with sore throats, especially during the winter, is that it’s very, very hard to tell the difference between a strep throat, which is a bacterial infection and hence can be treated with antibiotics, and a sore throat caused by a virus, which should never be treated with an antibiotic because, well, because antibiotics don’t kill viruses.
And when we use antibiotics inappropriately, such as in the treatment of viral sore throats, we increase the risk of several very significant health problems: rising resistance to antibiotics, development of hardier and hardier bacteria, and complications from antibiotics, such as significantly higher risks of developing a Chlostridium difficile infection, a potential nightmare.
Here’s a trade secret that may get me kicked out my doctors’ golfing club (which wouldn’t bother me much, to be honest, because frankly, I hate golf): very often, when we see what looks like a bite on someone during the summer, we tell them it’s a spider bite, which generally satisfies the patient who nearly always says, “You know, that’s just what I thought, too.”
Trouble is: spiders rarely bite, especially in Canada, so a “spider bite” is much more likely to be a result of the bite of another bug, such as a flea, for example.
In fact, according to one expert, Chris Buddle, an arachnologist – that’s a guy who studies spiders – at McGill University, spiders don’t want to bite you because like me at most parties, they’d really much rather avoid contact with humans.
As the number of flu cases continues to increase this flu season, it isn’t too late to receive your flu shot. London Drugs Certified Injection Pharmacists can help protect you from the seasonal flu, and ensure you’re up-to-date with any other vaccinations you may require, such as:
In honour of September 29 being World Heart Day, I would like to point out that this is an era in which so many conditions and health problems are vying for your attention – not to mention your dollars, as well –and in that constant barrage of news and press releases about different illnesses, heart disease often seems to get shifted aside or ignored, at least in terms of media attention.
But despite that seeming neglect, heart disease (and strokes) remains the main killer of Canadians, and it deserves more of your attention than it may be getting, mostly because to a very large extent, heart disease is so preventable.
My favourite pastime – by the proverbial country mile – is hiking.
In fact, the week after this item gets published, Phyllis (the woman who has tolerated me for over 44 years mostly because, she says, I make her laugh a lot – at me, not with me, but hey! Whatever works, right?) and I are off for a 9-day hike in the UK.
And in case you’re wondering why I love hiking so much, especially in the UK and France, the answer is simple: the 2 large ciders (in the UK) or the 2 large glasses of wine (in France, bien sur) that I am allowed to have every afternoon as we finally make it into our destination for that day.
The hiking is OK, but the cider and wine? Priceless.
Anyway, that aside, hiking also carries certain obvious risks, most of which I have run into over the years – sprains, strains, scrapes, blisters, rashes, and even the one I want to mention today, poison ivy, which I experienced once because of a side trip I had to make into the bushes (do not try to imagine this).
“Poison ivy” is a rash caused by sensitivity to an oily resin in the poison ivy plant (but also in poison oak and poison sumac).
I spend a lot of time every fall and winter reminding everyone to wash their hands often because aside from getting a flu shot – something nearly everyone should get – frequent hand-washing is the best way to reduce your risk of getting a cold or the flu.
Of course, that bit of advice is not nearly as important for most to remember in the summer because flus and colds are not nearly as prevalent in the summer as they are in the winter and early spring.
There is, however, one group that should be very careful about remembering to wash their hands frequently in the summer, as well as the winter, and that’s people who visit petting zoos with their kids.