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Blocked Nose Caused by Hay Fever? Here’s How to Treat It

Posted Thursday 30 April 2020 10:20 by in Hay Fever and Allergy Relief by Harman Bhamra

Are you suffering from a blocked nose caused by hay fever? You are not alone. Millions of people in the UK suffer from hay fever every year. In this blog, we will show you how to treat a blocked nose at home. But before we do that, let's talk about what hay fever actually is.

What Is Hay Fever?

Also known as allergic rhinitis, hay fever is an irritation or inflammation of the nose. The symptoms of hay fever may include a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, itchiness in the throat or roof of the mouth, itchy nose and skin, watery eyes, postnasal drip, and nasal congestion. These symptoms may linger if hay fever is left untreated.

What Causes Hay Fever?

Hay fever is usually caused by allergens like pollen, mould, fungi, perfume, cigarette smoke, dust mites, and pet dander. These allergens are harmless but sometimes, the body’s immune system overreacts to these substances when they enter the body. As a result, your body produces histamines and other chemicals which are the culprit of the hay fever symptoms we’ve discussed above.

How Long Is Hay Fever Season?

Hay fever season in the UK usually begins in the early spring and summer months. Below are some of the allergens commonly present during this period:

  • May and July – grass pollen
  • February and September – tree pollen
  • June and September – weed pollen

Take note that hay fever can be perennial (all year) too. This kind of hay fever is usually caused by indoor allergens like dust, mould, and pet fur.

Treating Your Blocked Nose Caused by Hay Fever

A stuffy nose is caused by inflamed blood vessels (caused by flu, colds, infection, or allergy) in your sinuses. A blocked nose can be a right nuisance, especially when all you want to do is enjoy some fresh air. Luckily, there are some easy ways to fix it. Read below:

1. Take a hot shower

Steam from a hot shower reduces the inflammation in your nose. It also helps thin out the mucus. So, the next time you find yourself bogged down by a blocked nose, consider hopping into the bathroom and enjoy a warm shower.

You can also get the same results by breathing in steam from a pot of hot water. How to do it? Simply put a towel over your head and place your head over the hot water. Let steam build-up for some time and then take deep breaths.

2. Use a humidifier in your room

Breathing in moist air can help soothe your swollen blood vessels and irritated sinuses. Humidifiers can also help to thin out mucus. Humidifiers work by converting water into moisture that slowly fills the air around you. It's a must-have, especially during hay fever season.

3. Use a warm compress

It’s very easy to make a warm compress. Simply soak a clean towel in a bowl of warm water. Squeeze out the excess water and then fold it. Place the warm compress over your nose or forehead. A warm compress can provide relief from a blocked nose by opening your nasal passages. It can also help provide some comfort and reduce the inflammation in your nostrils.

4. Buy a saline nasal spray

A saline spray is just a saltwater solution. You spray it into your nostrils to increase moisture and to thin out the mucus that’s been blocking your nasal passages. Saline sprays also help decrease the inflammation in your sinuses.

Some saline sprays are medicated. For example, this mometasone nasal spray is a saline spray infused with corticosteroids (mometasone) that work by reducing the inflammation and swelling in your nose. Corticosteroids can also help relieve other symptoms caused by hay fever such as sneezing and itchy, watery eyes.

5. Take allergy medicines

Another way to relieve your blocked nose is by taking allergy medicines, usually antihistamines. These drugs work by countering the effect of histamines which are produced by your body when you have hay fever. Histamines cause most of the symptoms of hay fever including a stuffy nose. Antihistamines can help reduce the swelling in your sinuses and relieve your nasal congestion.

Keep in mind that some antihistamines can make you feel drowsy. Don’t take them when you need to be active (like working or driving).

6. Drink liquids

Staying hydrated can help unblock your nose. Liquids (i.e. water, juice, or sports drinks) thin out the mucus in your nasal passages, making it easier to breathe clearly. This relieves pressure on your sinuses. Thus, reducing the irritation and inflammation.

If your blocked nose comes with a sore throat, try warm tea or soup to help soothe your irritated throat too.

Final Thoughts

Remember that hay fever symptoms will not go away as long as you are still exposed to the allergen that’s causing it. All you can do is manage your symptoms.

But prevention is better than cure. Lifestyle changes like the following can help you prevent hay fever:

  • Not going outside when the pollen count is high
  • Keeping your doors and windows shut
  • Keeping pets outside the house
  • Cleaning your house
  • Not smoking inside
  • Planting a low-allergen garden
  • Damping dust regularly using a wet cloth to prevent it from collecting

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8 Ways to Cope With Anxiety

Posted Friday 24 April 2020 12:00 by in Express Pharmacy by Harman Bhamra

Anxiety is normal. It is your body’s response to stress. It’s often characterized by a feeling of fear or apprehension about future events - for example - one may feel anxious before giving a speech, moving to a new place or going to a job interview.

Although a normal feeling, there are times in life when your anxiety may feel like too much to handle. If your anxiety lasts longer than six months, doesn’t seem to have a trigger or affects your daily life, then you could be suffering from an anxiety disorder. Compared to ordinary anxiety which comes and goes, anxiety disorders are usually intense, debilitating, and extreme.

Who Can Anxiety Disorders Affect?

Anxiety disorders can affect anyone, regardless of age. Below are the most common disorders associated with anxiety:

  • Phobia – irrational fear of an activity, object, or situation
  • Panic disorder – recurring, unexpected panic attacks. A person who experiences sudden panic attacks may also develop a phobia (i.e. agoraphobia)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder – commonly known as PTSD, this type of anxiety is usually caused by a traumatic event
  • Separation anxiety disorder – the fear of being far or separated from loved ones
  • Social anxiety disorder – extreme fear of being judged by other people

What Does Anxiety Feel Like?

Anxiety symptoms vary from one person to another. But in general, people experience:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Increased heart rate
  • Inability to focus
  • Restlessness

How to Cope with Anxiety

Can I overcome my anxiety? Of course, yes! There are many ways to cope with anxiety. Read on to discover some of these ways.

1. Exercise regularly

We can’t stress enough the importance of exercise to your overall well being. Moving your body can ease your anxiety and boost your self-confidence. Aim for light, 30-minute workout sessions at least 5 times a week. It doesn’t have to be in a gym. You can always workout at home using the online tutorials.

2. Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol intake

Alcohol is considered to be a "downer" while caffeine is an "upper". Food and drinks containing these substances can kick your anxiety into overdrive. So, try to limit or avoid them. It’s not just coffee and soda. These substances are also present in chocolates, teas, weight loss pills, and even headache meds.

3. Practice deep breaths

Through taking deep breaths, you can help your mind and body to relax. This is why mindful practises like meditation and yoga are so effective! Here’s how to do it right:

Step 1: Lie down on a flat surface

Step 2: Put one hand on your chest and another hand on your belly

Step 3: Breathe in slowly (make sure you can feel your belly rising)

Step 4: Hold your breath for a second

Step 5: Breathe out slowly

Step 6: Repeat

4. Get enough sleep

Getting enough sleep is one of the many ways to cope with anxiety. But it’s not just how long you sleep - it’s also about how good your sleep is. Doctors recommend at least 8 hours of sleep per night. If you find it hard to fall asleep, try these tips:

  • Create a routine and stick to it
  • Make sure your bedroom is free from clutter and your bed is comfortable
  • Avoid staring at phones or computer screens at least one hour before you go to bed (try reading a book instead!)
  • Keep your room temperature cool

5. Tame your thoughts

“I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” – Invictus by William Ernest Henley

You are the boss. You can control how you react towards anxiety. When negative thoughts nag you, take control and turn them into positive ones. Don’t run away from your fears. Instead, face them head-on! The more you tame your thoughts, the easier it is for you to fight off anxiety.

6. Allow yourself to have 'worrying time'

According to experts, one way to cope with anxiety is to schedule your worry time. Set aside a specific time - let’s say 30 minutes a day - to confront your fears and anything that makes you anxious. Do this at the same time every day. No what-ifs. Focus on what’s bothering you and deal with it as much as you can.

7. Identify your triggers

Look for patterns in your anxiety attacks. Identify times, places, or events where you feel anxious. Write these down. Once you know what triggers your anxiety, you can work on ways to confront these triggers so you’ll be better prepared next time they come round.

8. Speak to your doctor or therapist

If anxiety is dampening your quality of life, then a doctor will be able to get you on the road to recovery. Whether they refer you to a therapist or prescribe you medication, there are many routes to take to win back a life without anxiety.

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Allergy Awareness Week: 8 Signs of an Allergic Reaction

Posted Tuesday 21 April 2020 11:26 by in Hay Fever and Allergy Relief by Harman Bhamra

Are you feeling a bit under the weather, as though you have a sudden burst of hay fever or an intense cold? You might be having an allergic reaction. But how can you tell if you’re suffering from an allergic reaction?

We’ve listed the 8 signs of an allergic reaction below. Give it a read to see if your symptoms match.

What Is An Allergic Reaction?

Your body's immune system is responsible for keeping you safe against viruses and bacteria. However, there might be times when your "defence system" overreacts and attacks harmless foreign substances, called allergens, that enter the body.

Examples of these allergens include:

  • Bee stings
  • Certain plants
  • Moulds
  • Pollen
  • Certain foods (i.e. shellfish, nuts)
  • Pet hair/fluff
  • Certain medications (i.e. aspirin)
  • Dust

During an allergic reaction, your immune system releases certain antibodies that tell your cells to stop the allergen. In response, cells targeted by your antibodies release a substance called histamine along with other chemicals. These antibodies only target a specific allergen. That’s why some people are allergic to nuts while others are allergic to moulds.

Allergens usually enter your body through your mouth, nose, skin, and eyes. Depending on the point of entry, these allergens can cause nasal congestion, rashes, or an upset stomach.

What Are The Common Signs Of An Allergic Reaction?

Sometimes, it can be hard to distinguish an allergic reaction from the common cold. So, we've outlined below the most common signs of an allergic reaction to help you understand what you might be dealing with.

1. You experience a dry cough

When it comes to colds and allergies, throat symptoms can be hard to distinguish. But there’s a telltale difference between the two. If you are coughing up mucus, you most likely have a cold. People suffering from an allergic reaction rarely develop a productive cough. They develop a dry cough, instead.

2. Your mucus is watery or clear

Speaking of mucus, both colds and allergies start with clear liquid mucus. However, as symptoms continue, your mucus will start getting thicker and yellowish with a cold. If your mucus stays clear and watery, it’s more likely to be allergies.

3. You have itchy and watery eyes

According to Dr David Rosenstreich of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Centre, allergies are most likely to cause watery and itchy eyes than colds. Although, the latter may also cause some redness or discomfort around the eyes. Your eyes tend to tear up to wash away pollens and other allergens.

In some cases, an allergic reaction may also cause some swelling or puffiness around your eyes. This happens because your eyes have protective cells, known as mast cells, which produce histamine to fight off allergens.

4. You don’t have a fever

A fever is a telltale sign that something bad is happening in your body - almost always an infection. Allergies can elevate your body temperature but they rarely cause any fever, unlike the common cold and the flu.

5. You can still stand up

The muscle aches and joint pains caused by colds and flu can send you to bed for days! Allergies, on the other hand, are not as bad. Yes, it can make you feel tired and run-down but at the end of the day, you still have the energy to do your daily routines.

6. You have hives

Hives, medically known as Urticaria, is characterized by patches of swollen, pale red bumps on your skin. Hives appear suddenly and are often caused by allergies. It causes itching as well as a burning or stinging feeling and can appear anywhere on your body.

Hives can be as small as a coin or as large as a plate. Small patches may join together to form plaques and can last for hours or days. Hives are mostly triggered by allergic reactions from insect bites, food (i.e. nuts, fish, eggs, berries, milk, and tomatoes), and certain medications.

The best way to treat hives is by removing the trigger or cause of allergy.

7. You have diarrhoea

Diarrhoea can be another sign of an allergic reaction to certain foods like shrimp, crab peanuts, egg, peanuts, soy, and milk. It is your body's natural response to get rid of the food that it mistakenly identifies as harmful.

8. Your symptoms don’t disappear

On average, cold symptoms hang around for a week. Allergy symptoms, on the other hand, linger as long as the allergen that triggers it is still present. You will feel almost instantly better once you are no longer exposed to the allergen. It’s easy if it’s just someone else’s pet. The challenge is when it’s caused by pollen, dust mite, or moulds.

Anaphylaxis: What you Need to Know

Allergies can be serious and life-threatening when left unchecked. It could lead to a condition called anaphylaxis - a severe allergic reaction to food or medication. Anaphylaxis can cause symptoms of low pulse, rash, and shock called anaphylactic shock. Contact your doctor immediately if you encounter any of these symptoms.

How to Treat an Allergic Reaction

Most allergy symptoms are mild and don’t require urgent medical care. Allergic reactions don’t go away until the trigger is removed and you are no longer exposed to the allergen.

You can control your symptoms by heading to an online pharmacy, taking antihistamines, drinking plenty of fluids, and getting enough rest.

Antihistamines work by blocking the effects of histamine in your body. They work within 30 minutes and provide relief for hours. Depending on your symptoms, you can take an antihistamine every day to keep your symptoms checked. Antihistamines are more effective when taken regularly as a preventive measure rather than taking it when you already have symptoms.

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Best Practices on How to Stay Safe From Covid-19

Posted Friday 17 April 2020 11:09 by in Express Pharmacy by Harman Bhamra

At the time of writing, Covid-19 has infected more than 1 million people worldwide and has killed over 50,000. The UK government mandates everyone to stay at home and avoid unnecessary trips outside the house to limit the spread of the deadly virus. The most common symptoms of Covid-19 is high temperature and continuous cough. For most people, these symptoms are mild. But it can be dangerous and fatal for the elderly and those with underlying health issues.

Below are some of the best practices on how to keep yourself and those around you safe from Covid-19.

If you are sick and alone.

If you are living alone and have mild symptoms caused by Covid-19, stay at home for 7 days. Start your count from the day your symptoms started. If you develop a fever, keep isolating yourself until your temperature goes back to normal. You don’t need to continue self-isolating after 7 days if you don’t have a high temperature. There’s also no need to continue your self-quarantine if you just have a cough after 7 days. Coughs may linger for weeks after the virus has run its course.

If you are sick and living with other people.

If you are living with other people and you develop coronavirus symptoms, stay at home for 7 days. All other members of your household must self-quarantine for 14 days. The count starts at the day when the first person in the house showed symptoms.

Any member of the family who develops symptoms must stay home for 7 days regardless of what day they are in the two weeks quarantine period. The count will begin on the day when symptoms first appeared.

Protecting the most vulnerable members of your household.

If the situation allows, transfer any vulnerable members of your family (i.e. the elderly and those with underlying illnesses) to a friend’s or another family member’s house until your quarantine is over. If you can’t move them, maintain a safe distance from them as much as you can.

Keep your interactions with the vulnerable members of your household in shared spaces like sitting areas, living rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms to the minimum. Maintain a distance of 3 steps (2 metres) away from them. If possible, they should use a different bed and bathroom from the rest of the family.

If you share a bathroom with vulnerable people, consider drawing a rota where they get to use the bathroom first for bathing. Make it a habit to clean the bathroom thoroughly every time you use them. Wipe and disinfect areas you’ve come in contact with.

The same guidelines apply for shared kitchens. Avoid using the kitchen when vulnerable people are around. If possible, encourage them to take their meals inside their room. They should have their own set of utensils to use.

If you are breastfeeding.

Current evidence shows that children develop less severe symptoms of coronavirus. If you are sick and breastfeeding, understand that there’s no evidence yet about Covid-19 transmitted through breast milk. However, your baby may still get infected through close contact.

The benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh the risks of infecting your child. However, this is more of a personal decision and we encourage you to call your GP or midwife for advice.

When to seek medical help.

Do not go to the pharmacy, hospital, or GP surgery if you have coronavirus symptoms. If you are staying at home, you don’t need a Covid-19 test. Don’t call 111 to inform them that you are self-isolating.

If your symptoms get worse after 7 days and you are finding it hard to manage, call NHS 111. You can also use the NHS’ coronavirus online service here. If you have a medical emergency, dial 999 right away.

What is the proper social distancing?

Social distancing measures help limit your interaction with other people. Thus, reducing the risks of transmitting the virus to others. Practice proper social distancing by:

  • Avoiding using public transportation when it’s not needed.
  • Keeping a safe distance from someone who’s coughing or sneezing.
  • Working from home. Your employer should be able to set this up for you.
  • Avoiding small and large public gatherings.
  • Avoiding family gatherings. Instead, use technology to keep in touch with family.
  • Contacting your doctor or other essential services via phone or online.

Other tips to keep in mind.

  • Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands with soap and water as often as possible for at least 20 seconds. You can use hand sanitiser too.
  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze with a tissue or your bent elbow. Never with your hands. Properly dispose of used tissues immediately.
  • The World Health Organisation doesn’t recommend the use of face masks. Leave them for front liners.
  • Do not invite visitors into your home even if they are family. Carers can continue their visit but they must be provided with gloves and face masks to reduce their risks of catching the virus from you.
  • There is no concrete evidence yet of the virus infecting pets.
  • Bleach and detergents are very effective against the virus. Use this when cleaning surfaces around your home --- especially door handles, remote, tabletops, handrails, etc.
  • Dispose of cleaning cloths and used tissues in rubbish bags that should be placed into another bag. Tie securely and separate them from regular waste. Wait at least 72 hours before putting them out for collection.
  • Do not shake dirty laundry to minimise the risks of spreading the virus through the air. If you don’t have a washing machine, wait for at least 72 hours after your quarantine period before taking it to a laundry shop.

You may find these guidelines boring and limiting. And we understand. These measures are placed to help control the spread of the virus so our healthcare system can catch up and eradicate it once a vaccine becomes available. These guidelines are for your own good and are only temporary. The day will come that we will start living our normal lives again.

Tags: COVID-19

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How to Stay Healthy During a Covid-19 Lockdown

Posted Friday 17 April 2020 10:58 by in Express Pharmacy by Harman Bhamra

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it. As the government place communities and cities in lockdown, you may feel bored, unproductive, lonely, anxious, and afraid. You may be concerned about your health and that of your family and friends. During this uncertain time, it is important that you take care of your mental, social, and physical wellbeing. Here are some tips:

How to Stay Mentally Healthy

1. Find ways to connect with others.

Keeping in contact with people you love is important for your mental health. Although social gatherings are strongly discouraged, you can still continue to nurture your relationships via social media, video calls, and phone calls.

2. Learn to serve others.

Everybody is suffering. And most of the time, the best way to make yourself feel better and forget about your worries is to help those around you. Is there are a neighbour that you can message? Are there community groups around you that can volunteer on? Do you have any surplus that you can donate to charities or offer to a friend? There are many ways to support each other during a time of crisis. Just make sure these are done according to the social distancing measures imposed by the government to keep everyone safe.

3. Don’t be afraid to express your worries.

Let it out. Covid-19 is no joke. So far, it has infected over one million people and killed over 50,000. It is normal to feel helpless, worried, and scared. Share your feelings with family and friends. Be open. Tell them how you are coping up too. As you open up about your worries, you’ll realise that you are not alone in this predicament and that support is just right around the corner.

If you are not comfortable sharing your worries to your friends or family, there are various support groups that you can join online. Alternatively, you can also speak somebody who cares via these NHS recommended helplines.

4. Manage your information intake.

There’s a lot of negativity floating around the social media and 24-hour news. While it is important to keep yourself informed, exposing yourself to a constant barrage of bad news can make you feel worried or scared.

If you think too much information about the pandemic is affecting you, try to limit the time you spend watching, listening or reading news about Covid-19. Only check the news at specific times of the day.

5. Beware of fake news.

Absorbing inaccurate information can damage your mental health. Sharing it online can affect others too. So, make sure you gather your information from high-quality and credible sources only. If you find posts about the virus online, always fact check the information against the NHS website or GOV.UK. Getting the right information will help you stay vigilant during a lockdown.

6. Do the things you enjoy or learn new skills.

Instead of focusing on your anxiety, learn something new and do the things you enjoy instead. Or just take some time to relax to boost your mood. There are many free tutorials, online classes, games, and even streamed live music concerts that you can enjoy while staying at home.

7. Practice mindfulness.

Instead of worrying about the future, focus on the present. There are many relaxation techniques online that can help reduce anxiety and brighten your day. Looking for something to do right away? Try mindful listening! Here’s how to do it:

  • Select a song you’ve never heard before.
  • Close your eyes and put on your headphones.
  • Ignore the artist or the genre (the key here is to be neutral). Allow yourself to get lost in the journey of sound throughout the song.
  • Be aware of the track. “Dance” with the soundwaves.
  • Explore each sound. Separate each instrument in your mind.
  • Hone in on the vocals. Pay attention to the range and the tone.
  • The idea in mindful listening is to learn how to listen intently without judgment or preconception.

How to Stay Physically Healthy

1. Take care of yourself.

Your physical health will have a big impact on your mental and social state. During a lockdown, anxiety can easily pull you towards bad habits and unhealthy choices which do more harm than good. Your health should be your top priority. You can take care of yourself by:

  • Eating healthy and balanced meals
  • Hydrating
  • Avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and drugs

Exercising (there are lots of exercises that you can do at home without the need for gym equipment. If you can go outside, consider walking or jogging while practising safe social distancing measures.)

2. Get enough sleep.

The lack of sleep can weaken your immune system --- making you more susceptible to the virus and other illnesses. Getting a good night’s sleep can make a big difference in your physical and mental health. Do this by:

  • Maintaining regular sleep schedules
  • Staying away from screens at least an hour before bed
  • Limiting your caffeine intake
  • Creating a relaxing environment (i.e. removing clutter, listening to peaceful music, etc.)

3. Develop new routines.

The lockdown has surely disrupted your normal routine. So, try to develop a new one based on your current situation. Find time to engage in meaning activities like reading or video chatting with a friend. Set aside some time for useful things like cooking and exercising. Avoid idleness and get moving. Treat this lockdown as an opportunity to catch up with family time or revisit some old hobbies.

4. Get outside at least once a day.

If you can, spend some time with nature at least once a day. Green spaces have superb effects on your physical and mental health. If you can’t go out, you can still “commune” with nature by letting as much sunlight and fresh air as you can into your home. If you have a garden, the better!

The Covid-19 lockdown may have disrupted the normal lives of many, if not all, of us. While the future is still uncertain, rest assured that this is only temporary. We hope these tips on how to keep your mind and body healthy during a coronavirus lockdown can help you get through this crisis.

Tags: COVID-19

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