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Wed, 28th May 2014

Exercise will keep you trim and thin. All kinds are fine, but one of the most popular is gardening. People in their thousands revel in their attachment to earth, lovingly rubbing dark clods between the fingers and smelling the aroma of freshly dug soil, but there are a few precautions. Ideally always wear gloves. Soil teems with all kinds of livestock, mostly unseen. Most notorious are microscopic tetanus spores, ready to pounce and come to life.

Rose Thorn

Commonest way is through a finger prick, frequently rose thorns or other sharp objects in the dirt. Buried in the skin, they multiply quickly and may cause severe symptoms. It is totally preventable with regular "tetanus toxoid booster shots" (every decade or so after primary immunisation in childhood). These are often given with a anti-diphtheria injection in adults. Funnel web spiders, Australia's most deadly, love to build nest in dahlia bulbs, so if separating these, they can suddenly grab a finger, and inject their lethal venom. Anti-venom is available at public hospitals. Red Backs commonly nest in dark spots in gardens specially rockeries.

Cuts and Gashes

Cuts and gashes from bits of tin, broken glass, maybe needles or broken wood are common. These may be in any commercial gardening mix, but may cause serious infections. Handle all gardening gear with respect. Forks, spades, hoes, an axe are potentially dangerous if used carelessly. Lawnmowers are still high risk, despite guards to prevent injury. Wear stout boots and always turn off if lifting them, or passing them over the back fence to the neighbour.

Serious Accidents

Don't laugh. Serious accidents have occurred. Lawn Trimmers must be used with caution. Wear goggles to avoid flying debris. Be wary with electrical leads, specially if lawns are wet. Make certain they are well behind you. If bending for extended periods, make sure you move around to avoid straining back, leg muscles and joints.



I often suffer from clogged up nostrils but find this quickly clears by using a cortisone nasal spray. But is it possible to over do it?


Nasal sprays should be used minimally. Although the mist is very fine, small amounts are absorbed by the system. Collectively, this can lead to adverse symptoms, such as fluid retention ("moon face"), stomach inflammation and ulcers and brittle bones! It sounds ominous, but continual use of a medication should be avoided. Many other nasal sprays cause blood vessel constriction (so the passages clear), but these too should not be used for more than a couple of days.

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My parents were always fussy about the top part of the windows being open, even on cold winter nights.


The belief was that impure air tended to rise, along with hot air. This could readily escape through ventilation in the upper part of the room. It makes good sense. Today, although many houses are air-conditioned, germs can recirculate. This is common in large buildings, when colds and other viruses continue to be re-cycled often causing mass infection.

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My nose is incessantly clogged up despite sprays and drops. Specialist looked inside and said "polyps", they need to come out! What does this mean?


Polyps, or mushy little lumps protruding from the roof of the nasal airways cause obstruction, and lead to mouth breathing and a dry mouth. Drops may temporarily shrink them down. They are more common in allergic individuals. Surgical removal usually eliminates them, but any underlying allergy must be managed, otherwise they will inevitably recur. Drink lots of water to remove demon "histamine" from the system.

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I yawn a great deal, specially when sitting through boring lectures at uni. If I look around, heaps of other students are yawning also.


Yawning means the body needs more oxygen, and is a natural reflex. This is often greater in poorly ventilated rooms or theatres, specially on hot and humid days. It is also catching, and there is a psychological reaction by others in the same boat - or the same environment. More oxygen to the brain usually means it works more efficiently. The brain cells object to inadequate oxygen, but usually respond well when their needs are met.

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If I watch telly late at night, specially with lots of facial close-ups, I find it hard to sleep.


This is well known. Face close upshots adversely stimulate the brain, leading to wakefulness and disturbed sleep patterns. Ideally do not watch telly late at night if you wish to sleep soundly. Take a warm relaxing bath. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil, which has a calming effect (called aromatherapy). Massage some into the skin for further relaxing benefits. Reading a book, keeping warm, non caffeine hot drinks are also beneficial.

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This health advice is general in nature. You are advised to seek medical attention from your doctor or health care provider for your own specific symptoms and circumstances.



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Dr James Wright is associated with lovely Vimiera Retirement Village ( in the leafy Sydney (NSW) suburb of Eastwood. It is operated by Mediaid Centre Foundation (, a non-profit Public Benevolent Institution which provides housing for the elderly, as well as providing a large amount of health information.

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