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Wed, 31st December 2014
 

Many mothers are terrified at the vision of deadly meningococcal infection striking their children. Traumatic media stories regularly scare the living hell out of them, and the constant fear of "my little one" is forever in mind - and rightly so. At present meningococcal infection is the leading cause of childhood mortality in the western world - it is global disaster. However, probably more terrifying is the fact that up to 50 per cent of us carry the germ around normally in the back part of the throat! It is a germ known only in humans.

ALL CARRY GERMS

Why the germ should suddenly invade the body is unknown. There may be a genetic predisposition some believe. Most patients are under 4 years. Although called "meningitis", the most serious form is a septicaemia, meaning the germ enters the blood stream and circulates widely. This is the horror picture. Only a small number of cases of true infection of the meninges the brain lining occur.

SYMPTOMS

Early symptoms include fever, often sudden and high, vomiting, aching muscles, and symptoms of septic shock. The germ releases potent toxins from its outer coating which can rapidly affect the heart, so the need for prompt treatment. The classical tell tale symptom is a positive "tumbler test". Place a glass over the rash and press. Usually the colour vanishes, but it remains with the infection, a simple do-it-yourself diagnostic check.

TEST

The red mark may be as small as 2 mm across - there may be more than one. If this is so, urgent medical management is essential and may be life saving. Alternately, some children suffer headache, fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, drowsiness, stiff neck and find light hurts the eyes and fever, plus the non blanching rash. This is when the brain is affected, much less common situation. The infection often occurs as a medical emergency. Get to an ER as quickly as possible. Here intravenous antibiotics may be given and are life sparing. Special "PCR" tests also confirm accurate diagnosis, but management is usually started urgently.

INTENSIVE CARE

Intensive care is usually carried out. Majority of children survive, but up to 8 per cent may die from the septic shock and its complications. Some have hearing loss and neuromuscular disorders later. Today, the disease is preventable with vaccination, and this has resulted in a dramatic decline in some forms. Immunisation should never be ignored by parents.

 
UNCOMFORTABLE FEELINGS

Q: 

Why does a person sometimes "feel uncomfortable" when something a bit unusual occurs, or there may be a perceived danger lurking?

A: 

This is natures inbuilt sixth sense called "intuition". The brain quickly picks up vibes from other objects which reflect back into our conscious thoughts as something negative or "ill". Some don't like being in dark streets at night. Others feel uncomfortable with strangers, specially outside the home. "Doing something wrong" both in childhood as well as adulthood may cause similar sensations. Some call it ones "conscience". Some relate it to a higher power. However, even the pet dog looks miserable when you give him "that certain look".

 
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SMALL BATTERIES

Q: 

My mum wears a hearing aid. However, she takes it out many times during the day, and says she is "saving the batteries".

A: 

Batteries are not expensive, and many get them on a reduced or free basis. It is more likely that it causes irritation in the ear canal, rather than being miserly. Also, many do not like the occasional whistle that most inevitably emit, and tend to drive some crazy. It is claimed that about 75 per cent of hearing aids sit nonchalantly in the dressing table draw. Even though many cost $6K or more a set.

 
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FISHY TRANCE

Q: 

Is it possible to go into a hypnotic trance simply by idly sitting and watching fish swim around the indoor fish bowl?

A: 

The answer is yes. Letting the mind go blank, "letting everything go", can lull the senses into the sub-conscious or hypnotic state. Unchallenged (say be sudden noise or interruption) this will gradually drift into normal physiological sleep. Many find this is surprisingly refreshing when they awaken, for short cat naps are now an accepted way of getting a fresh start to the day, whatever the hour.

 
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SUNSCREENS

Q: 

I have tried different forms of sunscreens from very thick texture to very thin and watery, the latter being much cheaper. But are they identical in protective power?

A: 

Today there is an enormous range of skin protective sunscreens, SPF30 being the ideal. Texture is unimportant, from creams, through to milk, lotion, ointment, gel or lipstick. All are claimed to protect against the UVA and B sun rays. However, many are soluble, and rapidly wash off in water, making re-application essential. Also, reapplying often is also necessary. Avoiding the hot direct sun is advisable whatever method is used. Skin cancer will affect about 90 per cent of Australians in time, and kill 1,000 annually.

 
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HEARTBEAT

Q: 

I am 36, mother of three, non-smoker with good health, but note a hard heart beat and occasional shortness of breath. It slows if I focus on breathing. I am not anxious or stressed.

A: 

Awareness of the heart beat is common, sometimes called "palpitations" if very noticeable. Without any overt symptoms of heart disease it does not sound ominous, but a check by the family GP is worthwhile. Blood pressure, may be an evaluation for diabetes, cholesterol and other blood parameters, as well as cardiac check is recommended. Strong tea, coffee and cola drinks are notorious cardiac stimulants.

 
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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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