New drug drive law: Are you up to date?

From 2nd March 2015, a new drug drive law will be in effect in the UK, which include certain prescription medications as well as illegal drugs.

The prescription medications included in the new law are:

  • Clonazepam
  • Diazepam
  • Flunitrazepam
  • Lorazepam
  • Oxazepam
  • Temazepam
  • Methadone
  • Morphine

The limits for the amount of these drugs you can have in your system exceed normal prescribed doses, so if you are prescribed any of the above medications, as long as you take it as prescribed and your driving is not impaired then will not be breaking the law and there is no need to worry.

If you are unsure about the effects of your medication or how the new legislation may affect you, do not stop taking your medication but speak to your pharmacist or make an appointment with your doctor.

There will also be a medical defence if a driver has been taking medication as directed and is found to be over the limit, but not impaired.

THINK! advises drivers who are taking prescribed medication at high doses to carry evidence with them, such as prescriptions slips, when driving in order to minimise any inconvenience should they be asked to take a test by the police. You could be prosecuted if you drive with certain levels of these drugs in your body and you haven’t been prescribed them.

The law doesn’t cover Northern Ireland and Scotland but you could still be arrested if you’re unfit to drive.

Penalties for drug driving
If you’re convicted of drug driving you’ll get:

  • A minimum 1 year driving ban
  • A fine of up to £5,000
  • Up to a year in prison
  • A criminal record

Your driving licence will also show you’ve been convicted for drug driving, which will last for 11 years.

The penalty for causing death by dangerous driving under the influence of drugs is a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

A conviction for drug driving also means:

  • Your car insurance costs will increase significantly
  • If you drive for work, your employer will see your conviction on your licence
  • You may have trouble travelling to countries like the USA

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Snoring: How to get a restful night sleep without visiting your doctor

National Stop Snoring Week 2014Snoring is caused by the vibration of soft tissue in your head and neck as you breathe in and out during sleep. Some people snore fairly quietly and infrequently, perhaps only when they have a cold, but some snore every night and are loud enough to be heard in the next room. If the latter describes you, then it can affect the sleep of you and your loved ones, but don’t worry, there are a number of things you can try without the need to visit your doctor. If your symptoms are mild, there’s a good chance one or more of the following will help to provide much needed relief:

  • If you are overweight, try losing those extra pounds. This will improve your overall health too.
  • Give up smoking, if applicable. Again, you’ll feel much better overall.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol, especially in the few hours before you go to bed.
  • Exercise regularly. This can help strengthen neck muscles, which may help  prevent the airways in your neck and mouth from narrowing
  • If your snoring is worse when you are sleeping on your back, try to sleep on your side.

If none of these help, you can try the following over the counter snoring remedies:

  • Nasal strips and sprays: These open your nasal passages to improve airflow and help you breathe better – ideal if your snoring is due to a cold.
  • Throat sprays, rinses and lozenges: These lubricate the soft tissue at the back of the throat to help prevent snoring.
  • Accupressure rings: These use the ancient Chinese practice of acupressure to help you stop snoring.
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Joining the fight against antibiotic resistance

Get_Well_Soon_Without_AntibioticsWhat are antibiotics?
Antibiotics are medicines that can kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria to cure bacterial infections (such as pneumococcal pneumonia or staphylococcal bloodstream infections). Not all antibiotics are active against all bacteria. There are more than 15 different classes of antibiotics that differ in their chemical structure and their action against bacteria. An antibiotic may be effective against only one or multiple types of bacteria.

What is antibiotic resistance?
Antibiotic resistance is the inability for an antibiotic to kill or stop the growth of a particular bacteria. Some bacteria are naturally resistant to certain antibiotics, however the growing concern is acquired resistance, which is when bacteria that are normally susceptible to antibiotics become resistant as a result of genetic changes.

Why is antibiotic resistance a problem?
Resistant bacteria survive in the body despite you taking the antibiotic. They continue to multiply causing longer illness or even death. Infections caused by resistant bacteria may require more care as well as alternative and more expensive antibiotics, which may have more severe side effects.

Multidrug-resistant bacteria can cause a wide range of infections including urinary tract infection, pneumonia, skin infection, diarrhoea, bloodstream infection. Patients in hospitals are at risk for infections unrelated to the reason for admission, including bloodstream and surgical site infections like MRSA.

Why is antibiotic resistance a growing problem ?
The situation is getting worse with the emergence of new bacterial strains resistant to several antibiotics at the same time (known as multidrug-resistant bacteria). Such bacteria may eventually become resistant to all existing antibiotics and we cannot be sure that always be able to find new antibiotics. Without antibiotics, we could return to the “pre-antibiotic era”, when organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy, intensive care and other medical procedures would no longer be possible. Bacterial diseases would spread and could no longer be treated, causing death.

What can I do?
While antibiotic resistance cannot be prevented entirely, we can all do our part to slow it down, buying time to develop new types of antibiotics.

Only use antibiotics when it’s appropriate to do so. We now know that most coughs and colds get better just as quickly without antibiotics. Your doctor will only prescribe them if you need them, for  example for a kidney infection or pneumonia. Antibiotics may be life-saving for infections such as meningitis. By not using them unnecessarily, they are more likely to work when we need them.

If you are prescribed antibiotics, make sure that you take the full course as directed by your doctor, even if you feel better before the course is complete. If you do not finish your treatment, some bacteria may be left to develop resistance.

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Should I get the flu jab?

VaccinationThe flu vaccine is a great way to protect against the most common strains of flu. Contrary to popular opinion, the flu vaccine cannot give you flu as it doesn’t contain the active virus needed to do this.

The flu vaccine is available free on the NHS to people who are at a higher risk of developing complications, and those that work with them:

  • Pregnant women.
  • Children aged two and three.
  • Children aged 2-18 with a long-term health condition.
  • Adults aged 65 or older.
  • People with a serious medical condition.
  • Healthcare workers or carers.
  • People living in a residential or nursing home.

If you are in one of these groups, you should seriously consider getting your vaccination as complications of flu can be very serious, or even deadly. Even if you have had a vaccination previously, you should get yourself vaccinated every year as the vaccine changes to protect against the most common strains of flu in that year.

The flu vaccine is available from October each year. It is better to get it at the start of the flu season, however you can still get it done later if there are stocks still available.

If you would like the flu jab but are not eligible for it free on the NHS, check with your local pharmacy as most pharmacies offer the flu vaccination for a small charge.

Side effects

As with all vaccinations and medications, there is a small risk of side effects, although with the flu jab, this is unusual. You may, however, experience mild fever and slight muscle aches for a day or so. If you have a sore arm after the vaccination, these tips may help to ease the pain:

  • Continue to move your arm regularly – don’t let it get stiff and sore
  • Use a heat pack or warm compress on the area
  • Use an ice pack on the area if it becomes hot and sore – do not apply ice directly to your skin, wrap it in a towel first
  • Take a painkiller, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Do not give aspirin to children under 16 years.

Serious allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) to flu vaccines are very rare. Health care staff giving vaccinations are fully trained to deal with anaphylaxis and, with prompt treatment, individuals make a quick and complete recovery.

Contact a pharmacist or your GP if you experience severe side effects that are not improving over time.

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Treating cold and flu

Beechams Flu Plus Caplets 16sMost healthy people can fight off cold and flu by resting, drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and taking over the counter medications to relieve the symptoms.

Colds and flu are viral infections, so antibiotics won’t help.

A cold will generally last for about a week in adults and older children, or up to two weeks in younger children. Colds are contagious during the first three days, so it is best to stay home and rest up. There is no need to visit your doctor unless your cold hasn’t improved in about a week, in which case it could be allergies, or a bacterial or sinus infection. A nagging cough could also be a sign of asthma.

Flu symptoms peak after two to three days and you should begin to feel much better after about a week, although you may feel tired for much longer. You should see a doctor if you have flu-like symptoms and you:

  • Are 65 or over.
  • Are pregnant.
  • Have a long-term medical condition such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney or neurological disease.
  • Have a weakened immune system.

This is because flu can be more serious for you, and your doctor may want to prescribe antiviral medication. This can lessen the symptoms of flu and shorten its duration, but treatment needs to start soon after flu symptoms have begun to be effective.

What type of cold and flu medication do I need?

  • Aches, pains and fever: Paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin (adults only) can relieve aches, pains and fever, either on their own or as part of combination cold and flu remedies.
  • Congestion: Try decongestant tablets containing phenylephrine or if necessary pseudoephedrine, or nasal sprays containing xylometazoline or oxymetazoline. Saline sprays/washes are a great, natural alternative, especially in children.
  • Runny nose: An antihistamine such as diphenhydramine can help to dry up nasal secretions, but they may cause drowsiness.
  • Dry cough: Pholcodine or dextro-methorphan are cough suppressants that help by blocking the natural coughing reflex.
  • Chesty cough: Use a cough expectorant such as guaifenesin or ipecacuanha to help prevent the secretions from sticking in the airways, making phlegm and mucus looser and easier to cough up.
  • Coughs in children under 12 years: Give a simple cough syrup containing glycerol, honey or lemon, or a give a warm drink of lemon and honey.

If you are unsure which medication you need or if a particular medicine is suitable for you, talk to your pharmacist who will be happy to help.

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Preventing cold and flu

Catch_It_Bin_It_Kill_ItCold and flu viruses are spread by droplets that are sneezed or coughed out by an infected person. These can be breathed in by another person or transferred to their eyes, nose or fingers.

There is no definite way to prevent catching a cold or flu virus, however basic hygiene will minimise the risk of you catching it, or from spreading it if you are unlucky enough to already have it.

Try to stay away from people who look sick, and avoid sharing utensils or any other personal items, even with people who seem healthy. Wash your hands often with warm water and soap to get rid of any germs you might have picked up during the day, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

It is also important to adopt healthy habits, including getting plenty of sleep, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, exercising, and managing stress to keep cold germs at bay.

To prevent the getting the flu, consider getting the flu jab. If you are eligible for a free flu jab, you will receive a letter from your GP at the start of the flu season. Alternatively, your local pharmacy may offer the flu jab for a small fee.

If you are sick:

  • Try to stay at home to prevent spreading the virus around.
  • Sneeze or cough into a tissue, then throw the tissue away and wash your hands.
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Spot the Difference: Do you know the difference between a cold and the flu?

Cold_and_Flu_VirusAn estimated one third of Britons wrongly think that flu is just a bad cold. Although many symptoms of cold and flu overlap, they are very different so it is essential to understand which illness you have.

Common symptoms of a cold include a runny nose, blocked nose, sore throat, sneezing and coughing, but you may also develop a mild fever, earache, tiredness and headache. Symptoms develop over one or two days and gradually get better after a few days, although some colds can last for up to two weeks.

Flu usually comes on much more quickly than a cold, and common symptoms include fever or chills, muscle aches and pains, sweating, feeling exhausted, dry, chesty cough and sneezing. Flu symptoms appear one to three days after infection and most people recover within a week, although fatigue may last longer (up to two or three weeks). Flu can cause serious respiratory complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia, especially in at-risk groups, including people over 65, people with diabetes, serious heart or chest complaints (including asthma) or serious kidney or liver disease, people with lowered immunity due to disease or medical treatment and those who have had a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).

The table below gives a brief summary of the differences between colds and the flu:

Cold Flu
Fever Sometimes Common: higher than 38°C and lasts 3-4 days
Headache Sometimes Common
General aches & pains Common: mild Common: often severe
Fatigue / weakness Common: quite mild Common: can last up to 2-3 weeks
Stuffy nose Common Sometimes
Sneezing Common Sometimes
Sore throat Common Sometimes
Chest discomfort /cough Common: mild to moderate, often a hacking cough Common: can become severe.
Complications Sinus congestion or earache Bronchitis or pneumonia, which can be life threatening.
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Acne tips takes a look some top skin care tips for those suffering from acne, as well as taking a closer look at some of the acne treatments available.Proper skin care treatment is important when trying to manage the symptoms of acne. takes a look some top skin care tips for those suffering from acne.

Skincare tips

  • Leave acne lesions alone: Never squeeze or pick at blackheads, pimples or other lesions.
  • Keep things away from the face: Keep hands away wherever possible and tie back long hair.
  • Cleanse skin gently: Do not use harsh cleansers, abrasive scrubs or oil-stripping masks, as these are likely to irritate the skin further. Use lukewarm water and a mild cleanser to cleanse the skin twice daily. Skin should also be gently washed after sweating.
  • Applying acne medication: Medication should be applied five to ten minutes after cleansing and before applying any make up.
  • Persevere with acne medication: Acne treatments should always be used as directed and it is important to persevere with medication, as it can take six to eight weeks before results are noticed. Medication should be continued even once skin has cleared, in order to prevent future breakouts.
  • Avoid oil-based and fragranced skin care, hair care and make up products: Choose fragrance free and oil-free skin care, hair care and make up products and buy products labelled as ‘non-comedogenic’ if possible. Make sure all make up is removed before bedtime.
  • Shave carefully: Men with acne should take extra care whilst shaving. It may take some experimentation to see whether an electric or traditional razor is most suitable.
  • Stay out of direct sunlight: Some acne medications (e.g. those containing benzoyl peroxide) can make skin more sensitive to sunlight and therefore more prone to burning and skin damage. Stay in the shade where possible or consult a pharmacist regarding the best sunscreen to use.


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Acne myths: What does and does not make acne worse? takes a look at the myths that surround acne, in order to discover what really does make acne takes a look at the myths that surround acne, in order to discover what really does make acne worse. There are many myths surrounding the condition and belief in these can affect how people view their condition and how they choose to treat it.

Acne Myths

  • Acne is infectious: In actual fact, acne is not contagious and cannot be passed from person-to-person. Although bacteria can play a role in the development of acne, it is bacteria that is normally found on the surface of human skin.
  • Acne is caused by poor hygiene and sweating: While it is important to wash the face twice daily, over washing or using abrasive scrubs can actually irritate the skin, making symptoms worse.
  • Acne is caused by a poor diet: Doctors believe that there is no evidence that what we eat causes acne. Although, it is always best to try and maintain a healthy and well-balanced diet.
  • Squeezing blackheads and pimples will help to get rid of acne: In reality, squeezing or picking at acne lesions can irritate the skin, making the condition worse and can sometimes even result in scarring.
  • Wearing make up causes acne: There is no proof of this, however, it’s a good idea to choose oil-free make up where possible. Hands should also be washed before applying make up and all make up should be removed before bedtime.
  • Sitting in the sun helps to clear acne: Sitting in direct sunlight and using sunbeds or sunlamps will not help to clear acne. In fact, many acne medications can make skin more sensitive to light, meaning a greater risk of sun damage and skin cancer.

What actually makes acne worse?

Hormones and genetics play a part in acne conditions, however there are some factors that can make acne worse:

  • Stress
  • Some medicines (e.g. those containing certain hormones, steroids or lithium.
  • Oil-based skin products (e.g. hair products, make up and suntan oil).
  • Squeezing or picking at acne lesions
  • Friction or pressure caused by collars, helmets, bra straps etc
  • Using abrasive or harsh cleansers and scrubs
  • High humidity
  • Pollution
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What is acne? Causes & Symptoms

Acne is a very common skin condition, with 80% of 11 to 30 year olds affected. Acne is a very common skin condition, with 80% of 11 to 30 year olds affected. Acne is most common in girls aged 14-17 and boys aged 16-9. This is due to the hormonal changes that occur during puberty. The symptoms associated with acne usually disappear once people reach their twenties. Although, acne still affects around 1% of women and 5% of men over the age of 25.

80% of acne cases occur in women, with the large majority of these cases linked to hormonal changes e.g. menstruation or the early stages of pregnancy. It is also possible for acne to run in families. If both parents have had acne, then their children are more likely to develop the condition and it is more likely to be severe.

What causes acne?

As previously mentioned acne is usually linked to hormonal changes. A rise in certain hormones leads to the production of more sebum. Sebum can then mix with dead skin cells to create a sticky substance, this then blocks the skin’s pores. Bacteria, which usually occurs harmlessly on the skin, thrives in excess oil and multiplies. If this bacteria becomes trapped inside one of the blocked pores, then the pore can become red, swollen and inflamed.


Acne occurs most commonly on the face. However, around half of acne suffers get acne on their back and around 15% of suffers get lesions on their chest. There are several different types of lesions:

  • Blackheads: When pores become blocked with sebum and dead skin cells (comedones). If the pore remains open, the blockage remains visible and appears dark in colour.
  • Whiteheads: Pores that are clogged in the same way as blackheads, but are closed. These are slightly raised and appear white or skin-coloured.
  • Papules: Small, raised, red bumps, which are sore to touch.
  • Pustules (pimples): Similar to papules, but have a yellow or white pus-filled centre.
  • Nodules: Larger, painful and often solid lesions that are deeper within the skin.
  • Cysts: Most serious type of legion, which can lead to scarring. These are large pus-filled lumps that look similar to boils.
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