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All You Need to Know About the Flu Virus

Posted Thursday 24 November 2016 17:32 by Tim Deakin in Primary Care Givers

flu vaccineWith winter fast approaching, the health headlines are filled with seasonal cold and flu stories. It is indeed the time of year when the flu virus strikes and for older people in particular being struck down by this winter bug can be especially debilitating.

Most commonly suffered between December and March when the weather is at its coldest and your immune system more vulnerable, you may have already encountered seasonal flu. Knowing exactly what seasonal flu is and what you can do to protect yourself is the key to making the festive season a pleasant one and not a pain-filled one.

What is seasonal flu?

Flu or influenza can strike at any time of the year but is more common during the winter months. Flu is essentially a virus that is extremely infectious and rather unpleasant, and whilst it is often mentioned in the same breath as the common cold, the two are very different. The common cold and seasonal flu are the result of different virus groups, and with the flu, symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headaches, coughs, aches and pains start suddenly and last for much longer.

There are three types of flu virus, A, B and C, although C is much more rare than the other two forms of the disease. Once you have been infected, flu virus symptoms tend to appear within two to three days, however most will start to feel relief within one week. Children, older people and individuals with weakened immune systems however many feel unwell for longer periods.

For elderly people and those with long-term health issues, exposure to flu can also lead to serious complications, including chest infections and worsening of existing long-term health conditions. In rare cases, flu can cause tonsillitis, ear infections, sinusitis, convulsions, meningitis and encephalitis. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to infection, and the flu has been linked to pregnancy complications.

As we mentioned the flu is extremely infectious and is passed on from the nose and mouth of the infected person via coughing and sneezing.

What can you do to protect yourself?

There are many ways that you can protect yourself from the flu virus. As the infection is passed from person to person, good hygiene can go a long way in preventing its spread. In addition to washing your hands on a regular basis with warm water and soap, you should also clean surfaces that you commonly come into contact with or share contact with – door handles, computer keyboards and telephones are common culprits when it comes to the spread of flu. Using tissues to guard your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, and disposing of those tissues immediately, is also vital to stopping its spread.

The flu vaccine is also an excellent route to prevention, and whilst it is available for free on the NHS to those aged 65 or over, children aged between 2 and 4 years old, pregnant women, children of school age (in years one and two only), those with long-term health conditions (children and adults suffering from chronic heart or lung disease are particularly susceptible to infection and more serious complications) and individuals with weaker immune systems, privately anyone can have access to the annual flu vaccine. Delivered to children as a nasal spray or to adults as a trivalent (three-component) and quadrivalent (four-component) shot, the flu vaccine triggers the development of protecting antibodies and is most effective when given between September and early November.

A Beginner’s Guide to Movember

Posted Friday 04 November 2016 14:10 by Tim Deakin in Primary Care Givers

movemberUnless you like to spend your Novembers in hibernation, you can’t help but have noticed that each year the streets of Britain see an explosion of facial hair as gentlemen – both young and old – join in the annual celebration of Movember.

But Movember is much more than a ’tache styling competition and a modest cause to raise awareness. This year’s campaign is more ambitious than ever before in its aim to address the crisis in men’s health. Indeed, November offers an opportunity to learn more about the Movember foundation and the important commitment the charity has made to fighting for men’s health around the world.

Why Movember?

On average, men live for six fewer years than women. Testicular cancer rates have doubled in the in the last 5 years, and prostate cancer rates are set to double over the next 15 years. However, it is not just cancer that is taking the men in our lives beyond their prime. A staggering three quarters of all suicides are carried out by men.

Movember is designed to help raise money to improve services and advocates for more open and honest discussions about men’s health issues. If you have never considered getting involved before, your support could play an important role in helping to change perceptions around men’s health and reduce unnecessary and preventable premature deaths among males.

Here is how you can help the cause this November!

Grow a mo

Whether you opt for a lavish handle bar, a modest pencil or a work of art like nothing the world has seen before, facial hair is the hallmark of this great cause, a fantastic way to get people talking about men’s health and a way to show support with pride.

Gentlemen, this is your chance to get creative. If you are short of your own ideas, why not let the sponsor with the highest donation choose the style or colour of your new furry friend for added hilarity and a boost to donations!

Whatever you do make sure you direct people to the Movember web page to donate.

Take the Move challenge

With the festive season around the corner and the cold months settling in, there is no better time to get physically active. Make a bid to move more during November and your new fitness regime can help raise money for men’s health with the help of sponsors. Take the Move Challenge means you can carry out any activity you like: organise a race with friends; learn salsa; or don a costume and head to the gym to set a new personal record. Get thinking and get moving!

Organise an event

Not able to grow your own moustache or take part in a sporting event? Why not organise a different type of event to rake in the pounds instead? Set up a ping pong tournament, try a game of Dungeons and Dragons or plan a good old fashioned dinner party.

Organise well and you and your friends can enjoy a great night whilst making a valuable contribution to the Movember Foundation.

Distinguished Gentleman’s ride

Are you a keen motorcyclist? Then maybe you should consider joining the annual Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride - where hoardes of suave bikers across 500 cities ride out together to show solidarity.

So, there you have it. A great cause with plenty of options available – all as part of a great cause.

Are You Taking Care of Your Mental Health?

Posted Monday 31 October 2016 19:54 by Tim Deakin in Primary Care Givers

Most of us will visit the doctor when we think we have an infection or the dentist when we feel pain in our teeth. But how many of us take the same steps when we feel more down or stressed out than usual?

It can be easy to consign your mental health to the backburner, but it’s actually just as important to take care of the mind as it is to look after the body. Here are some tips for looking after your mental health during the winter months.

1.Watch your mood

All of us will feel upset or stressed at some point – these emotions are part and parcel of daily life. However, it’s important to make sure that your mood isn’t impinging on your ability to carry out daily tasks. For example, you may be busier than usual at work as the festive season approaches.

It’s normal to feel a little bit stressed out as you try and fit all the work in. However, does that stress stay with you when you come home from work? Or do you feel like your stress response isn’t proportional, and that you shouldn’t be feeling as overwhelmed as you do? If that’s the case, it is possible that you’re exhibiting symptoms of an anxiety disorder.

It is also important to look out for low mood. Many people find that they feel fine throughout the summer, but as the days get shorter they end up hit with the “winter blues”. Whilst a lot of us don’t like cold weather or long nights, “winter blues” shouldn’t be ignored. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of recurring depression thought to be caused by the lack of sunlight characteristic of autumn and winter.

Persistent low mood can be debilitating, and a feeling of depression for almost half of the year should be addressed. Some people tackle SAD by ensuring that they have winter breaks abroad, while others choose treatments such as talking therapy, medication or even mood lamps, which can mimic natural exposure to sunlight.

Elderly relatives should also be looked after during the winter months. As travel becomes difficult and temperatures drop, it’s easy for elderly people to become isolated. This loneliness can lead to depression in older people, which is only worsened at Christmas, so be sure to pay a visit to elderly family members who cannot travel during winter.

2.Address the causes of anxiety

Research into the causes of mental health problems is still ongoing. Having said that, most experts agree that mental health difficulties such as anxiety or depression can be caused by unexplained chemical imbalances in the brain or traumatic events and experiences. While you won’t be able to tell exactly what’s going on in your brain, pinning down a root cause of anxiety or depression can do wonders for your mood.

We’ve already mentioned that SAD is particularly common in the elderly, many younger people also suffer from regular anxiety and depression. Health conditions such as erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation or hair loss, it may be possible that these issues are causing unnecessary worry. Fortunately, a lot of these problems are treatable with the kind of medications we offer here at Express Pharmacy.

With treatment, symptoms such as anxiety may be reduced. But it is also important to talk about your feelings and mental state with friends, family members or a trained health professional (even if you prefer not to disclose the source of your anxiety).

3.Talk to someone

Indeed, it may not be possible to find a particular cause for your mental health difficulties. A lot of people find that they are affected by mental health problems almost randomly, just like physical illnesses sometimes afflict us without cause.

If you’re worried about your mental health, it’s best to make an appointment with your GP. Doctors are well palced to help you plan a course of treatment that is best-suited to your individual circumstances. This can range from medication and talking therapies to lifestyle changes such as a better diet and more exercise.

Would you like more advice and guidance from an experienced medical professional? Did you know that pharmacists are highly trained in many aspects of healthcare and can help you with many issues beyond prescription medication. Try our Live Chat tool today and let us help you work through your health matter.

Tired of GP Waiting Times? Here's How Your Pharmacist Could Help in Future

Posted Monday 25 April 2016 21:36 by Tim Deakin in Primary Care Givers

There are increasing calls for the burden of minor and more general medical appointments to be taken away from overstretched GP surgeries and placed in the hands of other primary caregivers such as pharmacists.

If more low-risk appointments were seen by pharmacists and not in the GP's surgery it is estimated that the NHS could save an extra £727m per year. Such an overhaul of the appointment and care system may seem controversial, but think tank Reform argues that models of care have changed very little since the NHS's inception. This, it says, has contributed to the increased and, in some cases unnecessary, burden on the health service and its professionals.

As it stands, appointments relating to minor ailments and problems concerning the use or side effects of certain medications currently account for around 15% of a GP's workload, a workload that is already widely believed to put them under too much pressure to be able to treat patients effectively.

It has been argued that pharmacists are the best placed to relieve GP's surgeries from the responsibility of seeing low-risk patients who present with common symptoms or side effects. Pharmacists are highly trained medical professionals and are more than equipped to deal with a broad range of low-risk conditions and general queries.

More work does, however, need to be done in raising awareness of pharmacists as primary caregivers and offering patients confidence in alternative medical professionals.

“The process of trying to steer patients away from the GP's waiting room and to their pharmacist for treatment and advice has been a slow one, but we're finally starting to see results across the board,” says Express Pharmacy’s Daman Bhamra.

“Pharmacists are in a great position to offer primary care solutions to those who need them but don't necessarily need to see a doctor. Patients would still get the same level of expert treatment and knowledgeable consultation and GPs would have more time to spend on those who really needed them and not just a medical mind to talk to.”

Reform believes that increasing the amount of appointments handled by pharmacists would not only save the NHS money, but would also increase the length of most appointments to around twenty minutes at a time. The think tank also stated in a report released on 12 April 2016 that making better use of clinicians outside of the GP's surgery would allow the government to scrap it's lofty target of recruiting the extra 5,000 GPs it believes is needed to allow current patient numbers to be seen.

The report was the result of interviews with 22 important stakeholders from within the NHS, the healthcare consultancy, private healthcare groups and the government. One of the other findings of Reform's findings was that pharmacists should also be relied upon to deliver ongoing support for GPs after a diagnosis and treatment plan has been established, with pharmacists delivering reviews and medication monitoring services for chronic conditions such as asthma.

“In reality, pharmacists can do a lot more than dispense your medication after you've seen your GP,” says Daman. “Pharmacists are an essential part of the care process already but we can, and should, be taking on much more of the responsibility for patients’ broader needs.”

If you require health advice or guidance, why not consult one of our qualified pharmacists over the phone on 0208 123 0703.


Peter Kay on Saturday 14 May 2016 17:19

I'm 73 and now see things as a waste of time due to this " B" ED. I am still able to heave 3x2 paving flags about but have to turn my back on my wife because I'm a failure.How can I

find a way back, any guidance much appreciated.

Marina Abdalla on Saturday 14 May 2016 17:25
Reply to Peter Kay

Dear Peter,

Thank you for reading our blog. Erectile Dysfunction is a common problem in men which can be resolved with a range of different treatments. We offer private prescriptions for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, which can be viewed on our website, under the 'Treatments' tab.

If you require any further assistance or advice from a pharmacist, please call us on 020 8123 0703.

Thank you,

Express Pharmacy


The Pursuit of Happiness: It's a Hormonal Affair

Posted Friday 11 March 2016 10:53 by Tim Deakin in Primary Care Givers

Happiness is something we all strive for. But it is also something that is hard to put one’s finger on. The pursuit of happiness is different for everyone – it can stem from something spiritual or something material; involving euphoric highs or deep contentment. We each experience this phenomenon in different ways to different degrees.

Ahead of this Sunday’s International Day of Happiness, we look at whether the secret to happiness actually lies with science.

The Science of Happiness

From an evolutionary standpoint, our bodies are designed to release happy-making hormones and monoamines when all is well. Similarly, unhappiness may be experienced when neurological imbalances occur.

With the chemicals in our body so finely balanced, the rigors of day-to-day life can have a huge impact on our state of happiness, as lifestyles lead to the constant ebb and flow of hormones.


One way the human body has failed to adapt is recognising the difference between paper tigers (a piece of paperwork) and actual tigers (a predator). As a result, the human body tends to overreact to stressors by inducing a ‘fight or flight’ response. In other words, many people feel excessively agitated and unnerved by events that, although often serious, are not immediately life-threatening.

Stress causes the body to experience a huge surge in hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to prepare for a life or death situation – even when there is no genuine danger to life.

Menstrual cycle

The rise and fall in levels of progesterone and oestrogen produce the changes in women’s bodies during the menstrual cycle. In turn this fluctuation in hormones can also cause low mood and changes in appetite, which can lead to side effects such as depression and weight gain.

Neurotransmitters help regulate our mood. Two of which, GABA and endorphins, are very important in this process. Fluctuating levels in both of these chemicals can result in anxiety, irritability and tension. GABA helps promote feelings of calmness while endorphins are vital in helping us experience pleasure and pain.


Self-esteem can have a very significant bearing on happiness. Body image, mood, confidence and a sense of self worth all play an important role in our general contentment in life, but it often doesn’t take much to send this off course.

Research from the University of Michigan has shown that the greatest indicator of human satisfaction is satisfaction in the self. As a result, unhappy people often have low self-esteem. Those with low self-esteem are more likely to turn to outside sources for happiness and therefore are more susceptible to substance abuse, anxiety and depression.

Just a few physical issues that can impact on self-esteem include weight issues and even concerns over unwanted facial hair.

Seek Hormones not Happiness

The monoamine neurotransmitter serotonin is known to contribute to feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Research has shown that those with depression have a deficit of serotonin.

Levels of serotonin can be boosted by taking part in activities that make you happy, such as reading a book or eating chocolate as a treat. If in doubt, strenuous exercise is also known to boost serotonin, so a gym session or sex with a trusted partner is also a sure way to promote wellbeing.

Endorphins are also hormones considered to be key to happiness. Most commonly known as the chemicals released during exercise, endorphins are released when the heart rate rises, particularly during sexual intercourse.

If you have heard of the phrase ‘runners high’, you will also know that heading out for a job can bring on a feeling of euphoria. The after-effect of exercise is a flood of endorphins that make us feel a hormonal hight that can be as intoxicating as many drugs. This is because endorphins resemble the chemical structure of opiates, which is why exercise is commonly prescribed to recovering drug addicts as a source of stimulation and a way to access a similar sense of euphoria.

Oxytocin is a hormone released when we cuddle. It is a bonding hormone considered to be crucial in maintaining feelings of contentment. It doesn't just work amongst humans either, research shows that cuddling a pet is just as effective in the production of oxytocin.

To ensure a happy and healthy self we must try to boost the production of those happy hormones; adrenaline, endorphins, GABA and oxytocin. Regular exercise, restful sleep, thinking positively and practicing self-care, are all ways to help us maintain a healthy hormone balance.