Top tips to beat the germs

Top tips to beat germsWe know germs are around, but because we can’t see them, it’s very easy to be complacent — until we get sick!

Did you know that germs are actually animals? Germs are microscopic beings that can cause all kinds of diseases and illnesses in humans. The two main types of germs are viruses and bacteria. It’s important to note however, that not all bacteria are harmful. In fact, some of them help the body to work properly.

Germs are found in most places and can be spread in a number of different ways:

  • through the air (via coughing and sneezing)
  • person to person (via touch, sharing personal items or through bodily fluids)
  • via contaminated food or objects (germs can be transmitted by other people or animals to the food we eat and the things we touch).

While we cannot always prevent the spread of germs, there are positive steps we can take to beat the spread of germs.

  1. The most important way to halt germs in their tracks is to wash your hands using liquid soap and water. When washing, ensure you wash the front and back of your hands. Rinse in warm water and dry thoroughly with a paper towel, or hand dryer. Using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser is a good option when soap and water is not available.
    You should always wash your hands after using the toilet, changing a nappy, coughing into your hands or blowing your nose. You should also wash them before, during and after preparing food and before you eat.
  2. It’s important that you cover your mouth when sneezing and coughing to prevent germs becoming airborne and being passed onto others. Always sneeze and cough into a tissue, rather than your hands, and wash your hands after using tissues.
  3. If you are unwell, avoid contact with others and stay at home when you are sick. When you are sick, you should avoid shaking hands, hugging and kissing other people and avoid preparing food for others. And don’t be a martyr and go into work. Not only will you slow your recovery, but you will spread your germs further afield.
  4. You must always take care when preparing food because the spread of germs from the kitchen is quite common. A few key points include washing your hands before preparing food, avoiding food past its use-by-date, keeping raw and cooked meat separate, cooking food thoroughly and storing food at the correct temperatures.
  5. Don’t forget your home may be harbouring all kinds of nasty germs, so make sure you practice good hygiene in your home. Clean and disinfect bathrooms and toilets at least once a week, wash towels and sheets in hot water, wipe up any spills immediately, throw out sponges and dishcloths regularly and never use the same one for floor spills and washing the dishes! You should also clean your rubbish bin and refrigerator once a week to prevent the spread of germs.

So don’t be complacent when it comes to germs. Do your bit to stop them in their tracks.

Further information

The Department of Health 


Can music really help your workouts?

IMG_4744Whether you like lifting weights, attending a boxing class or going for a run, chances are you are listening to music while you work out. But does your choice of music just make exercise more fun, or can it actually improve your workout?

Numerous studies indicate that music does have an impact on workouts, and can actually lead to greater work output.

For example, a study involving 12 college students riding stationery bikes was published in 2010. The subjects rode the bikes while listening to six different songs played at their normal tempo. The songs were then played 10 per cent faster and 10 per cent slower. When the tempo of the music increased so did the pedalling. When the music slowed down, pedaling also slowed down, indicating that music influenced the rate at which they were pedaling.

So how does this compute in the real world?

It seems that the rhythm (the tempo) of the music is the most important factor when it comes to the motivational factor.

When engaging in moderate to intense exercise, music with a tempo of between 125-140 beats per minute (bpm) is what works best, particularly if the rhythm is in time with some of the movements of the exercise (e.g. boxing or kickboxing).

But it’s not just the tempo that influences whether we work harder or not. When a piece of music has some kind of meaning for you, or has an emotional story attached to it, then you are more likely to work harder. For example, the theme from Rocky or Hall of Fame, which was used to promote Australian television coverage of the Winter Olympics.

So if you want to get more out of your workout, perhaps look at the type of music you are listening to.

For some great ideas on workout music (including details of bpm), visit

For a more in-depth look at how music can motivate and enhance performance, read Fitness Australia’s article “Move to the Music


Costas I, Karageorghis & Priest, D, 2012, ‘Music in the exercise domain: a review and synthesis (Part I),International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 44-66

Costas I, Karageorghis & Priest, D 2012, ‘Music in the exercise domain: a review and synthesis (Part II), International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 67-84.

All you need to know about stroke

stroke foundationThis week is National Stroke Week.

Stroke is the second biggest killer of Australians after coronary heart disease. Over 437,000 people live with the effects of stroke, 65 per cent of who suffer a disability preventing them from living without assistance. This is according to the National Stroke Foundation (NSF).

What is stroke and are there different types?

Stroke occurs when there is a sudden interruption to the supply of blood to the brain. Stroke is also known as cerebrovascular disease.

According to the NSF, there are two main ways a stroke can occur:

  • a blood clot or plaque blocks a blood vessel in the brain (ischaemic stroke)
  • a blood vessel in the brain ruptures (haemorrhagic stroke).

Symptoms of a stroke

Stroke is a medical emergency that can be fatal, so it’s important to seek urgent medical attention if you suspect a stroke, even if symptoms last only for a short time.

The NSF recommends the following test as a quick and easy way to recognise the most common signs of stroke. It is known as the FAST test:

  • Face — Check their face. Has their mouth dropped?
  • Arms — Can they lift both arms?
  • Speech — Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
  • Time — Time is critical so call 000 immediately if you notice any of these signs.

Other signs of stroke can include any or a combination of the following:

  • Weakness or numbness (including paralysis of the face, arm or leg on either or both sides)
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Loss of vision, decreased or blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • A severe headache that has come on suddenly
  • Difficulty swallowing.

What is a ‘mini-stroke’?

A mini-stroke is also known as transient ischaemic attack (TIA) which can be a warning of an impending stroke within hours, days, weeks or months.

A TIA occurs due a temporary drop in blood supply to the brain, usually caused by a partial blockage from a clot, which dissolves or is dislodged from the blockage.

Symptoms of a TIA are the same as a stroke, however they are temporary and patients make a full recovery. However, it is still vital to seek urgent medical attention if you suspect a TIA.

stroke symptomsCan you recover from a stroke?

Some strokes are fatal, but some are not. Recovery from a stroke depends on a number of factors including the type of stroke; which area of the brain was affected; the amount of brain tissue permanently damaged; and the health and activity levels of the patient before the stroke. The amount of time it took to receive treatment is also a contributing factor to recovery.

Generally, a stroke on the right side of the brain will cause problems on the left side of the body while a stroke on the left side of the brain leads to issues with the right side of body. Strokes that occur at the base of the brain can cause difficulty with eating, breathing and moving.

Can you prevent a stroke?

While it is impossible to prevent all cases of stroke there are many risk factors that you can control in order to reduce your risk. These include:

  • High blood pressure — is the most significant risk factor, so make sure you check it regularly
  • Smoking — smoking can double or even quadruple your risk for stroke
  • Diabetes — having diabetes doubles your risk of stroke, so it’s important to manage your condition
  • High blood cholesterol — have it checked regularly and keep within healthy levels as it can lead to blood vessel disease
  • Heavy drinking — heavy drinkers are three times as likely to have a stroke, so limit your intake
  • Poor diet — increase your consumption of fruit, vegetables, lean means and whole grains and limit sugary, fatty and processed foods
  • Lack of exercise — aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days
  • Carrying too much weight — make an effort to maintain a healthy weight.

If you are worried about your risk of stroke, please speak to your doctor.

How can you be involved?

The mission of the National Stroke Foundation is to stop stroke, save lives and end suffering. So this week, during National Stroke Week, why not find out how you can be part of this worthy cause.  Further details on how to be involved can be found at the National Stroke Foundation website.

Further information:

National Stroke Foundation

Better Health Channel

You can beat allergy season

hayfever2While most Australians are happy to say goodbye to winter and welcome in the warmer weather, there are many who find spring a difficult time.

Usually, because they suffer from allergies — most commonly, hay fever.

Hay fever (also known as allergy rhinitis) affects millions of Australians every year. While hay fever can strike at any time of the year, it is usually worse during spring and autumn.

What is hay fever?

Hay fever is actually an allergy that affects the nose. While symptoms and severity of hay fever differ for everyone, the most common symptoms are:

  • Sneezing and runny nose
  • Blocked nose
  • Cough
  • Teary, red or itchy eyes
  • Itchy nose or throat
  • Sinus pressure or facial pain
  • Blocked ears
  • Decreased sense of smell
  • Fatigue
  • Asthma.

Symptoms usually begin after the person has been exposed to the allergen (the substance that causes the allergic reaction). In Australia, common spring-time allergens include pollens from grass and trees and spores from fungi and moulds. Other triggers may include animal dander (skin, hair and feathers from animals), cockroaches, dust mites and indoor fungi and mould.

How to prevent or reduce symptoms

The best course of action in preventing symptoms is to avoid the triggers that cause a reaction. While the most common spring-time allergens are found outside, you don’t have to miss out on the gorgeous spring sunshine. The following tips will help reduce the likelihood of your exposure:

  • Shut doors and windows during pollen season.
  • Hang washing inside to dry, as pollen can stick to clothes.
  • Avoid being outside in the early morning when pollen counts are the highest.
  • Avoid being outside on dry, windy days.
  • Be aware of the pollen count each day (check the weather report for your area) and stay inside on days when it is high.
  • Avoid gardening activities that stir up pollen and mould.
  • Wear a mask when gardening.
  • Line the inside of your nose with petroleum jelly to prevent pollen from sticking in your nose.
  • Use a humidifier to reduce the amount of pollen in the air.
  • Rinse your eyes and nose out regularly to flush out any pollen.

What about medications?

Of course it’s not possible to avoid allergens all the time. After all, we have to go to work, do the school run and get our daily dose of sunshine.

That’s where medications can come in handy. The first line of defence is over-the-counter (OTC) medications. These can be in the form of:

  • Antihistamines — can prevent or reduce the symptoms of an allergic reaction, and are best taken before experiencing symptoms
  • Decongestant — can help unblock stuffed up noses
  • Corticosteroid nasal sprays — may relieve nasal inflammation and provide relief for blocked, irritated noses.
While pretty, spring blossoms can spell misery for a hay fever sufferer.

While pretty, spring blossoms can spell misery for a hay fever sufferer.

You may also wish to use eye drops to relieve itching, watery eyes that sometimes accompany hay fever.

Should I see a doctor?

If using allergy medications does not provide relief, or your hay fever is preventing you from leading a normal life, consult your doctor. If you suffer from asthma, which is made worse by hay fever, you should also speak to your doctor. There are a range of prescription medications available that may help you. In some cases, a referral to an allergy specialist may be required.

So this spring, don’t let hay fever get the better of you. Take positive action so you can enjoy one of the most beautiful times of the year.

Further information:

Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy

Asthma Australia