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5 Quick Hacks to Soothe your Baby’s Teething

teething
Photo Credit: www.babycenter.com.au

They always said your baby would grow up fast. Who knew teething would be one of the headache milestones. Fun fact: adults have up to 32 teeth! That’s 32x the fun lols

Growing teeth is a gradual process and as parents it’s good to note that signs and symptoms and start up to one month before the actual teeth “cuts” through the gum.

Signs your baby is teething:

  • more irritable that usual
  • tugs and the ear lobe
  • drools more
  • runs a fever/temperature
  • has watery diarrhoea (as he/she swallows the excess mucus)

Sample the chart below to see the different milestones for teeth:

Without further ado, 5 Hacks to Sooth your Baby:

1. Warm baths + Body Lotion

As simple as it sounds, it may just do the trick. Try body lotions with lavender or chamomile which can soothe and calm jittery nerves.

2. Chilled Teething Ring/Frozen fruit+veg

Throw the teething ring into the fridge for half an hour and that will provide soothing cold relief for inflammed gums. Another one is a cold carrot or an apple core

3. Teething Gel

Bonjela or generics of it will give fast relief. Apply every three hours as required. Only use from 4months+

4. Analgesics

Panadol and Nurofen for infants are a mainstay. Keep these handy. Use either one first, if no relief after one hour add the other. Keep in mind that Panadol can be given every 6hrs (max 4 times per day) and Nurofen given every 8hrs (max 3 times per day)

5. Amber

Amber is a long fossilized tree resin formed millions of years ago. I’m personally kind of skeptical but if all of the above hasn’t worked for your child…then it won’t hurt to try. Comes in beads on a string for use as a bracelet or necklace. When buying these make sure individual beads are glued to the string to ensure safety such as when the string breaks-minimizing choke or slip hazard.

Bonus tip

rub on some Sudocrem or Pawpaw around the chin area to form a nice barrier against excess drooling which can macerate the skin (sudocrem is the better of the two at this).

Teeth Care and Maintenance (aka user manual)

Under 1.5 years

Clean gums daily with a dampened cloth or face towel. Gaps in gums are hotspots for food chunks and thus bacterial growth.

At 1.5years

Start a low-flouride toothpaste once daily

At 2 years

Low-flouride toothpaste brush twice daily.

At 6 years

Use adult’s full strength fluoride toothpaste twice daily

Handy tips:

Avoid putting bubs to sleep with the bottle in mouth. Milk after all contains natural sugars (including lactose) which bacteria just love and will cause teeth decay. Once I saw a young boy no more than 7years of age have four teeth removed because of this.

Make going to the dentist a familiar experience by bring baby along to your own dental appointments. Once bubs has his/her own teeth, they can be individually booked in.

See your doctor if:

  • bubs is inconsolable
  • runs a high fever for two or more days
  • Is age 18 months and has not had any teeth come in.
  • Has visible signs of tooth decay.
  • Has permanent teeth coming in before the primary teeth are lost, resulting in a double row of teeth.
  • Has a small jaw or a birth defect of the mouth or jaw, such as cleft palate.
  • Has any facial injury that has damaged a tooth or gums.

Further Reading:

https://www.babycenter.com.au/a6574/developmental-milestones-teething

Indiana State Department of Health

http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/tc/teething-when-to-call-a-doctor

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Sleep Apnoea: the snorer’s risk

devilbiss man sleeping

Think snoring was just a harmless nuisance? Think again.

Snoring is one possible sign of sleep apnoea (in Greek apnoia means ‘breathless’): a condition where you can stop breathing for anywhere between 10 seconds up to 1 minute!

Why should you care if you or your partner snores? Imagine holding your breath for a minute…….doable but not easy right? Now imagine all that oxygen you missed out on, depriving your organs of this essential molecule. The brain and heart suffer most when this happens.

It isn’t any wonder that sufferers experience fatigue, poor mental focus, daytime sleepiness and waking up un-refreshed.

Long term, the stress on the heart and brain leads to high blood pressure (7-fold higher risk)

This is what Wikipedia says: Sleep apnea can affect people regardless of sex, race, or age. However, risk factors include:

  • being male
  • excessive weight
  • an age above 40
  • large neck size (greater than 16–17 inches)
  • enlarged tonsils or tongue
  • small jaw bone
  • gastroesophageal reflux
  • allergies
  • sinus problems
  • a family history of sleep apnea
  • deviated septum

A simple home test can help determine if you have sleep apnoea. Our pharmacist will help set up the kit and all you need to do is go home, hook up, and press a button. The test looks for hours slept, number of times you woke, and then give us a print out at the end when you return the kit.

To book a kit, ring a pharmacist on: 02 8068 7131

To read more about it…head to:
http://www.snoreaustralia.com.au/obstructive-sleep-apnoea.php

 

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Nurturing our children’s courageous curiosity

Is dinner time still family time at your household? Or are your kids glued to an iPad whilst mum and dad chit chat the day’s events or themselves watch TV?

What is this digital revolution doing to our kids? Should we hand iPads to kids during their tender years? Does all these use of technology make our kids less sociable with their peers and later life? Is technology a band-aid solution to parenting? These are questions I’ve had for a few years now..

Technology is a necessary part of life..it’s impact widespread-a Digital is disrupting whole industries: Uber and taxis, AirBNB and hotels..rather than just feeling left behind..should we as parents be preparing our children for this revolution? Jobs like drivers, cleaners, data analysts…are going to be gone in the next few years. New industries built atop of: 3D printing (challenging manufacturing jobs), artificial intelligence (challenging data processing jobs) are actually available today..SpaceX rockets, IBM’s Watson Supercomputer, respectively. Heck I’m simply amazed that Woolies practically has no cashiers anymore!

…so what careers should we guide our children towards? Rather than answering that question I would like your permission explore the idea of nurturing our child’s inborn curiosities.

Albert Einstein said “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious”

The reason I was inspired to write on this topic is because I had read somewhere in the USA that a 16 year old boy had made a nuclear fusion reaction in his grandma’s garage. I thought OMG! At what age did he start learning this stuff? Who influenced him? Did his parents not stop him?

You can watch the whole story at :

Wonderment: the state of awe or respect. In school and home we can foster this state where no questions are stupid and it’s okay not to know the answer…for the void of knowledge is the basis of curiosity. Take your child to the err library (seriously I still do because who has money for magazines) it encourages exploring new genres…or simply Google…you literally ask questions like “How do I…”, “How much does it cost to…”, “Why does this….” With 7 billion people on this planet there’s bound to be someone with the same questions.

Curiosity some say is a skill that’s like a muscle….use it or lose it. Use it on the daily and it grows into a tool that we can rely upon to push through hard times. Back when I was a student sitting there I would often have questions to ask but because I was too shy to seem like the idiot…I would hope some other kid had the same question in mind. Half the time they did, the other half I was resigned to silence. As adults, it’s not like these bad habits die away…imagine though the world of possibilities if you just had that bit of courage?

To start building courageous curiosity…try:

  1. Letting our kids go wide: read/watch/study a wide range of things..rockets to volcanoes, role playing police and butcher, save the whales and ask why snow is snow. Branch off down the rabbit hole.
  2. As the parent, ask lots of questions: rhetorical and non-rhetorical. Children will learn by modelling. Curiosity starts with an unknown and a question sets the stage for finding the answers.
  3. Be patient. Learning can seem a struggle at the start when new jargon needs to be picked up or when the answer is obvious to you but not your child. Guide them with further questions.
  4. Stand in the other person’s shoes: it can teach a different perspective on touchy subjects like politics and religion and build invaluable tolerance for other culture’s.
  5. Challenge the status quo. Like Taylor, the kid who believed he could produce greener energy and built the nuclear reactor in his garage
  6. Travel: this ones self explanatory
  7. Go BIG: dive into unsolved mysteries of the world, try to tackle the hard issues which can be the most rewarding

Remember that kids will learn at their own pace. Just because your friend’s child started talking at two doesn’t make your child any less effective a person if he/she starts talking at three. Be observant of times when your kid is flexing their new brain power…like devouring higher level textbooks, being more pre-occupied with a certain musical instrument, or drawing sketches on the margins of the exercise book =p

Links to stimulate those minds:

Wikipedia

Khan academy: learn economics, calculus, physics etc…

Learn to code: https://code.org/

Science Comps: https://www.asi.edu.au/about/

DIY Science Projects: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/

Inspiring young scientists: https://www.googlesciencefair.com/en/

Science competitions: Physics/Chemistry/Science Olympiads, Big Science, Curious Minds Winter Camp

 

State of Australia: http://www.pwc.com.au/pdf/a-smart-move-pwc-stem-report-april-2015.pdf

 

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Sunscreens: the down-low

After a mother came into the pharmacy to ask about how effective MooGoo SPF 15 sunscreen+moisteriser is for her baby…I took to research journal articles on Google Scholar to get at an answer!

Honestly, I came out with more questions than answers.. lols.

Image result for sunscreens

Photo credit: http://www.womenshealthmag.com

 

First some basic terminology:

SPF = Sun Protection Factor….the time it takes for your skin to turn red

Here’s the definition from HowStuffWorks.com (this site saved my HSC btw)

To determine a sunscreen’s SPF, testers round up 20 sun-sensitive people and measure the amount of UV rays it takes them to burn without sunscreen. Then they redo the test with sunscreen. The “with sunscreen” number is divided by the “without sunscreen” number, and the result is rounded down to the nearest five. This is the SPF.

SPF numbers start at 2 and have just recently reached 70. To figure out how long you can stay in the sun with a given SPF, use this equation:

Minutes to burn without sunscreen x SPF number = maximum sun exposure time*

e.g. if it takes you 10 minutes to burn without sunscreen…using SPF 30 means 10mins x 30 = 300mins before you burn*

*WARNING this formula isn’t applicable once you past SPF 30! See this table:

SPF % UV absorbed
2 50
4 70
8 87.5
15 93.3
30 96.7
50 98

So that SPF 70 that you saw at your Myer store is giving you a false sense of protection if you think it gives you 700 minutes of protection (10min x70). So how much time do you enjoy in the sun with SPF70? it’s anybody’s guess unless you called the company itself.

Further…how many times do we slip, slop, slip, half-assed? C’mon Hands up! To get the supposed 300 minutes of protection from the earlier example, you will need to lather to a thickness of 2.0 mg/cm. Erm what? Most folks apply only a quarter (if at all) that thickness. Research in China showed that SPF 15 not slapped on properly drops to only SPF 2! So the lesson is to slap on generously. Try the teaspoon rule: 

TEA SPOON RULE:

Legs, chest and back: 6mL aka a tad more than one teaspoon

Arms, face, and neck: 3mL or a tad less than a teaspoon worth.

Second thing, UV radiation has two main forms:

UV A: causes that goddess-tan look; long term causes premature aging and wrinkling

UV B: causes sunburn, skin cancers, cataracts (eyes)

Because SPF only measures UV B levels...you’re going to be misled if you simply look at SPF numbers. What you should look for are the words: “Broad Spectrum” which means it covers both.

The stuff in MooGoo SPF 15 is Zinc Oxide….the white stuff cricketers have on their noses and the same ingredient in nappy rash cream. Zinc is an excellent blocker of both UVA and UVB. Now a lot of us don’t like the “white” look and so companies have come out with “microfine” versions that are invisible to the eye. Great! I hear you say. Here’s the catch (like that pun?), the smaller “microfine” particles are not as good at protecting you against UV A…Alas!

Third, a sunscreen ain’t gonna work if it doesn’t stay on you through water, sweat and rubbing. Re-apply after every swim or every hour to be sure. Here’s what those other labels mean:

  • Sweat-resistant: protects up to 30 minutes of continuous heavy perspiration.
  • Water-resistant: protects up to 40 minutes of continuous water exposure; and
  • Waterproof: protects for up to 80 minutes of continuous water exposure.

Finally, between chemical and physical blockers, what’s safer for our kids? Physical blockers sit atop the skin and don’t get absorbed. Chemical blockers absorb into the top layers of the skin and some can cause dermatitis. Both are safe to use in adults but in young infants its best avoid because they have a larger surface area to weight ratio meaning they’re more likely to absorb chemical blockers in minute amounts and be susceptible to possible irritation.

For infants under 6 months, the FDA recommend not using any sunscreen-but if you’re at Bondi Beach and just spent an hour finding parking…try sunscreens made of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. From 6 months plus, you’re quite safe to try any on the market. Just spot-test a small area to check for allergies in either case.

UV B Chemical Blockers Comments
Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) Can cause contact dermatitis. Avoid in children under 6months as it may absorb through skin.
Cinnamates* Can cause contact dermatitis
Octyl salicylate
Octocrylene
Phenyl benzimidazole sulfonic acid
UV A Chemical Blockers
Benzophenone Can cause contact dermatitis
Anthranilate
Avobenzone
Terephthalylidene dicamphor sulfonic acid or Mexoryl SX
Bisethylhexyloxyphenol methoxy phenyl triazene
Physical Blockers (UV A and UV B)
Titanium dioxide ideal for infants as it won’t absorb through skin
Zinc oxide ideal for infants as it won’t absorb through skin

*don’t bring these if you’re watching Fifty Shades Darker =P

So what would I recommend to that mum with the baby? Seek shade for her infant, avoid the hours of 10am to 2pm if possible. If you’re at the beach, try a physical blocker such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.

Summary Points

  • Apply sunscreen 15-30mins before going in the sun.
  • Re-apply every 15-30mins
  • Apply a thick layer (you’re allowed to be wasteful in this instance)
  • Wear a shirt, hat, sunnies
  • Seek shade between 10am-2pm esp for infants under 6months
  • Physical blockers are ideal for infants…just apply to exposed areas and keep use to a minimum

References:

Melissa Jeffries. 2017. What do SPF numbers mean? How Stuff Works: Link
Schneider J. The Teaspoon Rule of Applying Sunscreen. Arch Dermatol. 2002;138(6):838-839. Link
Rai, R. and Srinivas, C.R., 2007. Photoprotection. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology, 73(2), p.73. Link
Liu W. et al. 2012. Sunburn protection as a function of sunscreen application thickness differs between high and low SPFs. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine, 28(3), p.120-126 Link
Wulf, H.-C., Stender, I.-M. and Lock-Andersen, J. 1997. Sunscreens used at the beach do not protect against erythema: A new definition of SPF is proposed. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine, 13: p.129–132. Link
Commonwealth of Australia as represented by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). 2015. Ultraviolet Radiation. Link
More, B.D., 2007. Physical sunscreens: on the comeback trail. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology, 73(2), p.80.
US Food & Drug Administration. 2016. Should You Put Sunscreen on Infants? Not Usually Link
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First Impressions Matter!

Do first impressions count? A whiter smile can often make the difference..or so the ads say….find out in this episode with pharmacist, Vien, as he meets folks within our community.

In this funny episode-we call it “edu-tainment”-Vien gets behind the scenes of next door’s dental centre. Safa is a tour guide/practice manager and Rami shares his view on the best teeth whitening products.

 

 

Safa and her team of dentists can be reached at:

www.canterburydental.com.au

02 9787 6611

 

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The socially acceptable Terror on our Roads

This one is just going to be short and sweet. But excuse me if I get on my soapbox and rant.

I’m just so angry that over the last two months I’ve seen three accidents. My sister, two days later myself then only last weekend our barista next door.

The latter two involved the other driver at fault and more importantly, under the influence of alcohol.

On the 6th of Feb I was driving my girlfriend home…had just left home and driving past Canterbury Hospital when I noticed a white van signalling to turn onto a side street. The idiot didn’t see me driving straight and we had a collision. I swear the first thing I noticed after the crash one that his front wheels were still spinning. Suggesting he did not even hit the breaks. He was just blind drunk? He got out of the car…lit a cigarette and acted like he knew nothing. I was so stupid to let him get back into the van and he did a runner. Luckily we had his number plate on camera.

You know what the really dumb thing is? Police eventually found him that night but because of the delay…couldn’t officially use alcohol breath tests. He wasn’t charged for driving under the influence. And I am left without a car for 6+ weeks and waiting.

The barista was in a worse off accident. Horrific when she retold it to me. She was in a hired van with her partner and was on Canterbury Road waiting to turn right. Suddenly I madman rear-ends their van at ~80km/hr….sending the van towards oncoming traffic…causing a secondary head on collision with another car. The first idiot was also under the influence of alcohol. The barista and her partner had to be hospitalized for two days.

Roundabout story but this alcohol fueled insanity is not healthy for our communities. Honestly men, if you can’t handle your alcohol-man up about it. Stop putting other people’s families in harms way for your recklessness. I think we need tougher laws..maybe following the USA for once and implementing a 21 year age limit is a good idea? And tougher sanctions on those who have previously offended with DUIs. I once had a chat with a lawyer and he said paraphrasing here: “Hands down alcohol is the biggest offender and responsible for much of the harm in the Sydney area-Much more than other illicit drugs”

Do you know someone involved as an alcohol-fuel collateral? Leave your 2 cents in the comments.

Vien LeTran (Pharmacist)

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WOTOI: Social media and Depression. Is there a link?

WOTOI (Whats Our Take On It) is a layperson’s plain English interpretation of medical journals found online.

This one is going to be unique because I look at TWO journals and give my thoughts and opinions. The journals are:

  1. Online and Social Networking Interventions for the Treatment of
    Depression in Young People:A Systematic Review, 2014, by Rice SM, Goodall J, and others.
  2. Association Between Social Media Use and Depression Among U.S. Young Adults, 2016, by Liu yi Lin, Jaime E. Sidani, and others.

Two articles. Two different hypotheses. But for sake of clarity essentially: Does Social Media Positively or Negatively Affect Young Adults in Terms of Depression.

Facebook Suicide Reporting
Facebook now has tools to flag a friend as possibly suicidal thereby allowing appropriate support staff and resources to be made available. Photo: TechCrunch  @meganrosedickey

Before I dig into the results…I want to say I felt that each had its good points but were quite limited by its scope. Let me explain:

For instance, Article 1 only looked at Facebook as the ONLY social media platform available, which back in 2014, definitely wasn’t the case. There was and still is Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, among others.

I’ll digress for a moment here: If you consider how you typically use Facebook vs Instagram vs Snapchat…..the thinking would be:

  • Facebook-use to keep up with birthdays and anniversaries and nearby events;
  • Instagram-foodporn, aspirational lifestyles of the rich and famous, motivational infographics;
  • Pinterest-hunt for the next home DIY project; aspiring trophy homes; and
  • Snapchat: share daily musings, bloopers, and more intimate moments.

Clearly the study is limited to only Facebook where people might see a ton of baby anniversary photos and possibly feel glum that they’re still single (just one possibility) VS say browsing foodporn on Insta and salivating for their ossu bucco at Jamie Oliver. Different platform, different feelings!

Article 2 did better to cover all social platforms by asking people: Q: how many hours do you spend on social media each week. Again though I think there’s room to drill down further into the data! They looked at: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn,
Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat, andReddit. But wait! what about Whatsapp, or Weibo, or Messenger? Social media surely covers that too? It has photos, it has messages, it involves people. Seriously it is a disservice to do a study and exclude the second most used platform in the world! Look below!

Top-Social-Network-sites-by-number-of-active-users-2017
Source: Smart Insights, http://bit.ly/2lT7NAg

 

So back to the study results Article 1 says social media is an “OK” tool for psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors and mental health workers because it is a very accessible way for young adults to find and get help (rather than sitting in a cold waiting room I presume!). Because the of the scattered data that they found on social media, it was hard for them to say definitely whether it is positive or negative at detecting depression and/or treating depression. More work needed!

Article 2 was ehh-I really didn’t like their method of surveying people’s use of social media and surveying scores of depression and anxiety, then simply marrying the two together. If I did a survey of monkeys crossing the road VS monkeys crossing the road and they can see a zoo keeper with a bunch of bananas on the opposite side…I too would say that bananas give monkeys navigational intelligence for oncoming traffic =p Don’t get started on the road toll.

What also annoys me is they say women are more likely to be depressed from social media usage. Especially the younger they are. Firstly, it’s a fact that women are more likely than men to have depression, regardless of cause-They also tend to seek out help earlier than men on the whole-men are too proud oftentimes. Secondly, it doesn’t take a genius to figure than teenage girls are the top users of social media. Any parent can attest to this.

The saving grace for the authors is that they admit a lot of their shortcomings. For instance: that most of their participants are on social media; that different posts on Facebook elicit different emotions, and that it can be a chicken or the egg situation with social media-depression.

“However, one reason for our finding may be that our sample had so few individuals who did not use social media (only 3.2% of the sample).”

One great take-away I thought is that they did mention that active participation on social e.g. 1 on 1 conversation was better than passive consumption e.g. scrolling through the news feed. Reasoning was that if you keep comparing your lifestyle to that of the rich and famous, you’d probably feel bummed.

WOTOI? I think Facebook could probably give us a better answer, considering the richness of their database and new features such as Reactions (Haha, Wow, Sad, Angry, Love) on top of the LIKE button. Science being science, more “clinical” trials need to be done on a more in-depth level and should include chat programs like Whatsapp, WeChat, Skype etc…

As a pharmacist I would recommended cultivating deeper your relationships with your friends and family. That way when life throws you a curveball, you’re less likely to stumble and if you did, you’d bounce back faster with those support networks. Chat away!

Take care. xoxo.

Vien LeTran-Pharmacist

PS. Tonnes of good info on our FB page including these blogs so make sure to follow us at:

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Opinions belong to the writer alone and do not represent views of Canterbury Late Night Pharmacy. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Blues-Depression

If you missed it…our previous blog was on Autism in Young Children. Read the story at: Brainy Kids

Also as part of Brain Week we’re going to explore mental health. Specifically, Depression. 

depressed young lonely woman girl, sitting on the floor alone

Everyday life is a frenetic rush for most of us readers. Getting errands done, picking up the kids, checking off our to-dos. Seldom does one have time to slow down for any extended period-heck just the thought of it may even be so abnormal/weird-I know I think that! It’s a fact though that half the people with depression are without employment and so life in the slow lane is a place one can definitely go to-and it’s not what you think.

Waking up and just not feeling it. Not knowing what to do with your life so you go back to sleep. Feeling like you have no friends and noone to speak to-even just to hang out is a mission. Your drive and zest for life just ain’t there and so following through with tasks is a big ask. Compulsive drinking/gambling, reckless driving can sometimes be conduits of escape though shortlived.

Do you know someone like this? As cheesy as it sounds but there are many support lines one can call such as Beyond Blue, LifeLine, as well as chat rooms such as HeadSpace, etc… The sooner contact is made, the better the outcomes as depression can spiral out other aspects of life: relationships, job commitments, and physical health. Think about it: you don’t feel like going out with friends-next time they don’t invite you out; you are grouchy to your partner-all because you haven’t been sleeping enough; or you oversleep and keep missing your work appointments-causing you to lose your job; etc..

Personally I know of someone who withdrew completely from our social circle. Before he was the chirpy guy, loud and socially attuned. Now quite stunted in his communication. What happened? He had led himself to believe that he wasn’t enough for any girl-he was single. With the low self-esteem, he turned to alcohol. From there he began a downward spiral-he let go of work commitments as well as TAFE. He’s undergoing treatment now but it’s a long time coming.

Another close female friend went through a bad break up and her ex-boyfriend became quite physically abusive. She’s a young girl in her twenties and in the prime of her life with plenty of friends. After the breakup she felt she could no longer trust her friends. Her social life began a downward spiral and she admitted herself to hospital. Luckily she got treatment early on but the after effects, anxiety, and general caution with peers is always there.

As you can see depression can stem from life events-breakup, divorce, loss. Some of the risk factors that can add to the stressful event include:

  • living in isolation
  • family history of depression
  • financial strain
  • chronic pain
  • few social connections

If you know someone going through a tough time, these are some of the things YOU can do to make a positive impact:

  • Reach out and listen. Start the conversation. Meet for lunch.
  • Encourage them to get moving (I always like to say motion is emotion)
  • Help them reconnect with nature/volunteer together/share in a hobby you once enjoyed.

Whatever you do, don’t give up on that person! Chances are they just don’t know how to reconnect. Importantly, don’t feel like you need to fix the problem or provide solutions. A listening ear can be huge solace for those who are lonely.

Handy Contacts:

R U OK?

Beyond Blue

LifeLine

HeadSpace

 

Vien LeTran, Pharmacist
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Can probiotics benefit children with autism spectrum disorders?

WELCOME TO THE FIRST IN A SERIES OF ‘WHAT’S OUR TAKE ON IT!?’ 

(We read scientific journals and distill the core ideas into bite-sized, easy-to-read English!)

First the formalities…todays journal is from Houston, Texas, USA and poses the question-do probiotics work for our kids with autism? Click the link below if you want to see the full article:

Navarro F, Liu Y, Rhoads JM. Can probiotics benefit children with autism spectrum disorders? World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2016;22(46):10093-10102. doi:10.3748/wjg.v22.i46.10093. Click here for original text

IMO probiotics are a confusing lot! Walk into any good pharmacy these days and they’ll present you with a 20+ selection to choose from. Combine these with the new ones coming out each year and it’s easy to fall behind. Hence why I’m looking at some research data to see if I can make any sense of it for you.

Again I’m talking about autism, a topic I covered in the last blog [insert link] because I’m starting to see more and more of it daily. I also think probiotics are cutting edge stuff yet still cloaked in mystique.

INTRO

Good bacteria live inside us. There they perform things like digest the carbohydrates (sugars) we eat, manufacture vitamins, help absorb nutrients, boost our immune system and the list goes on. Because they live in our gut, scientists believe they are involved with common symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, constipation, and stomach aches. To be precise, scientists think that when there’s an imbalance of good vs bad bacteria…it can cause said problems. Their Question is: Do probiotics help kids with autism-specifically their gut problems?

BACKGROUND

When two events happen at the same time and a definite link can be found…it’s called a causation. When there is a possibility (but unconfirmed) of a link…its called a correlation. Scientists think there’s an correlation between autism and their gut problems. i.e. 40% of autistic kids have gut problems. Fix the gut fix the autism? Not so fast!

What problems?

..feeding abnormalities, gastroesophageal reflux, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fecal incontinence, constipation, and alternating diarrhea and constipation.

HYPOTHESIS

Theories abound for why autistic kids have more gut issues. One of these is inflammation. When you sprain your ankle, it starts to swell with blood; it hurts to touch-let alone walk on; and it looks pinkish-red. This is inflammation and it can happen on a smaller scale inside your gut. Scientists can measure things like cytokines and special sugars and enzymes to say Yes there’s something going on. Unfortunately the evidence isn’t clear cut. One group says one thing and another the opposite.

Another theory is that autistic kids have guts that are just more sensitive to stimuli such as various foods in our diet. Their symptoms resemble those of adults who have IBS. So maybe it’s just IBS that our kids have and the gut problems have no link to autism?

THE DATA

So if probiotics can perform wonderful things, why not just stick them in the gut? There’s a 1000 species of bacteria in our gut and in total their numbers are in the trillions. We just don’t know what does what and where (stomach, small intestines, large intestines, etc). Scientists think that it’s not so much the bacteria but the by-products bacteria produce. Short-Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs) are such a by-product which is supposed to affect our brain chemicals (neurotransmitters e.g. dopamine) as well as behaviour and moods.

Here are some examples:

Bifidobacterium bifidum – may help prevent leaky gut aka unwanted toxins getting absorbed… (tested in animals)

Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) – may help reduce ADHD and Aspergers syndrome in the newborn. (tested in humans)

Lactobacillus reuteri – may help with behaviour issues (tested in animals)

 

CONCLUSION

All that said…scientists are still dumbfounded as to whether probiotics can definitely help [human] kids or not. First it’s an ethical question…if you knew your child was sick and needed treatment..would you sign them up to a clinical study where they might only get placebo tablets vs the real thing? I know I wouldn’t. So evidence is lacking. Our knowledge therefore is also lacking. Making informed decisions therefore is guesswork at best.

BLOGGER’S TAKE

So what’s a parent to do? Considering that most probiotics on the market are generally safe, my take on it is that you can trial and error your child on different brands for say 1-2 months, keep a bowel motion diary (many on iPhone/Android App stores) and stay in touch with your doctor. Exceptions to this advice would be and not limited to: those with weak immune systems e.g. HIV-AIDS, auto-immune conditions like lupus, organ transplant patients, patients with large sections of their gut removed through surgery, and/or patients with heart issues.

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Brainy Kids

crying little boy
Autism can affect a child’s verbal and non-verbal communication with family and friends.

Your kid is the best thing that’s ever happened to you. But what happens when you’ve been told they have autism?

March is Brain Awareness Month and I thought I’d choose a topic close to my heart and that being autism. Because I once worked at a compounding pharmacy making specialized vitamins for them and saw first-hand how tough the condition is to treat-not to mention the hardships for the mums + dads.

Working in the pharmacy you will never spot the autistic child-they’re usually at home, afraid to venture out into the bright, noisy world of a pharmacy let alone a shopping centre. What you will see is a young parent, bright faced but with dark circles around searching eyes.

I don’t say this lightly but they’re almost always looking for the next silver bullet for the son/daughters eczema or fungal rash. Strange you may think..what’s a skin condition got to do with autism. Actually, your skin is the largest, external, organ of your body and it does a marvellous thing called inflammation-say what? Basically it acts like a traffic light. Signalling whatever chemical imbalance is going on inside the body. Red=Severe inflammation/allergy to toxin/compromised immunity; Orange=Mild and so forth. In autism, kids often have severe intolerances to certain foods-chicken nuggets, biscuits, chips-yet also the ones they love best! So it becomes a vicious cycle. The skin simply relays internal problems as an external alarm.

So what of these foods? Well you’ve heard the saying: You are what you eat. Food for thought. These kids can massively benefit from having a close check up of their dietary habits. Operative word being habits. As parents you can sometimes feel like treating your kids to a snack here and there or you’re in a rush and the local take-out is the quickest option. Unfortunately theses fragile tummies cop the assault and as a direct consequence, so does their brain. Memory, cognition, speech centres…these all become ‘inflammed’ and can slow down your child’s learning and development. Every child takes a different approach, but I’ve found the diet has always been the core protocol. Make it a habit not to get junk food from the supermarket for starters and not to fuel your kids on these types of foods-but let me stop there. Else you’ll think I’m preaching. I am. But it’s your responsibility =p

Start with a good doctor-by that I mean the numerous ones trained specifically in the area of Austism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Some of the pseudonyms for these experts are: holistic doctors/integrative doctors/paediatricians/biomedical doctors/naturopaths/chiropractors along with their allied professionals: nutritionists, speech therapists, cognitive therapists, dietitians, movement therapist, psychologist and of course pharmacist!

With the right guidance of a professional your child can improve. There is hope.

PS. As of writing I’m aware of the NDIS-National Disability Insurance Scheme-which includes funding for children with autism. There’s a lot of red tape to cut through but I hear the results can quite good in the end. In Sydney it will be rolling out in July 2017 so best prepare by looking at: www.ndis.gov.au