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Wed, 1st October 2014

I go on a forty minute "health kick" walk each day, mainly as part of a general fitness programme, to keep healthy and live longer. I know heaps of readers do the same. For those who have never heard of this spine tingling new idea, here are a few of the benefits.

You meet people, most doing it for the same reason or as part of the home-work-home syndrome. You get to know a few. Occasionally one may have a three minute chat. The weather, the footy, politics, the guy down the road, the birds in the trees (or the neighbors garden). You watch neighbor and their gardens, a bit less with water issues, but many still bucketing it out each day, recycling same and produce beautiful flowers and shrubs.

You pass fat people, thin people, happy and pleasant ones and ugly ones, and they probably think the same. Being a doctor, one automatically mentally diagnoses people. You can see a whopping big skin cancer on a persons nose, ear or forehead, or their colour probably indicates too much grog, prostate cancer, anaemia or thyroid disease, and in others diabetes, overweight and heart disease. It leaps out. It is not really hard.

Occasionally (if you know them a bit) you might casually suggest they see their doctor sometime. Sure as eggs, a month later they are back, with a scar on the ear, or obvious intervention on the nose! Then there is the inevitable guy who way lays you for the "kerbside consultation" - free advice on the run. I do not mind and am happy to talk for a few minutes on their issues.

Then there is the dog position. In winter they sleep in, so walking earlier is best. Summer they are up and about early, so ideally in the cool of the day. Some are friendly, others are not. If there is a sudden burning sensation around the ankle, look quick and maybe a dog is hanging to your leg. Some cling on. Others simply wait for you next day, and rush out like crazy. It is best to re-route your walking pattern rather than face the outcome. A dog psychologist told me to look at them indirectly and speak reassuringly. But that is not easy. Take the cowards way out.

At road signals, watch the drivers waiting for green. Most pick their faces, jump with the radio thudding music, scream at the guy in front, or passersby. An interesting insight into body language and bottled up road rage. Don't talk to them, for you'll get an earful of profanity.

You can watch birds nesting in hollow limbs in roadside trees, inhale the carbon monoxide of passing trucks, and be thankful you're not in Bangkok where you can't even see the cars for smog. Try and avoid busy roads. Be thankful you are alive and your legs can still carry you.



I went to NZ recently on the west coast and was bitten by "sand flies". It is a week since I returned to Australia, but the bites have actually increased in size and are irritable.


Your skin is still suffering from the bites and rebelling. Apply cold face cloths for a few minutes every hour or two. This shrinks blood vessels and often brings soothing relief. See the pharmacist for a tube of weak strength hydrocortisone cream. This reduces irritation. Do not scratch for this increases risks of infection. It should heal rapidly. Drink lots of water.

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I know I must drink plenty of water each day, but being desk bound I forget and am often not thirsty. How do I remind myself?


Simple. Have a one litre jug of water on your desk with a glass which must be kept filled (But make sure you don't knock it over your computer and files). This constant reminder will guarantee you drink at least 1 to 1.5 L a day. It is not hard.

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What are the symptoms of bird flu?


Initially there is a high fever (up to 38 deg C or more), influenza like symptoms in general, headaches, muscle pains, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, cough with sputum, sore throat, running nose. This may develop into rapid breathing and with difficulty. Urgent medical assessment is essential. Tamiflu and Relenza are claimed to help, but amatadine and rimantadine may also help. The death rate can be very high, within a few days. Risks increase traveling to countries where there are infected poultry.

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I try and follow the advice to drink lots of water. At bedtime I drink at least 250 mLs. Which of course means I am jumping up a few times each night. Is this crazy?


Water is wonderful, and what's up with some exercises during the night. Of course it does not matter. If you seem to be passing excessive amounts, have a blood sugar check for diabetes (must be under 5.5), or a prostate check if you're a guy.

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I have an inherent urge to use pegs of one colour with certain clothes, and another colour for other clothes. If I don't, I feel uncomfortable and worry about it for hours, and have to go and change it all around. Am I going nutty?


This is a mild form of obsessive compulsive disorder, and most of us have this to a certain degree. Note how people twitch, scratch their neck or rub the nose, even on telly. If it gets all too much, see the doctor, for medication called SSRI for a few months could make it all vanish.

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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.

Waiting to hear from you Dr James Wright.