Sunshine on a cloudy day

By Stephanie Simons,
Head Pharmacist,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire

 

Summer is approaching and as we prepare the barbeque and dig out the swimwear, chances are we’re looking for some good sun protection too. But when it comes to protecting your skin – and your health – sunscreen isn’t just for the beach. It’s for every single day.

All year round, the sun gives out two types of harmful ultraviolet rays which penetrate the skin – even on cloudy days. UVB rays can cause sunburn, while UVA rays have a longer wavelength that damages deep into skin cells. Both types cause DNA damage which, over time, can trigger premature ageing and mutations that lead to skin cancer.

Anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of age, gender or race, and approximately one in five people in the US will develop the condition. However, wearing a sunscreen of SPF 30+ every day can significantly reduce your risk, whilst also preventing sunburn and stopping those fine lines cropping up before they should!

Sunscreen isn’t just for the beach. It’s for every single day.

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and comes in two types: chemical and physical. Physical sunscreens like Blue Lizard and Alba sit on the surface of your skin and contain active ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide which act as a shield, deflecting the sun’s rays. Chemical sunscreens like Coppertone and Banana Boat, on the other hand, penetrate the surface of the skin to form a sponge that absorbs UVA and UVB rays, significantly reducing their harmful impact.

Which one is right for you? The best sunscreen is the one you like most – because this is the one you’re most likely to use. It’s therefore a good idea to try a few brands and see what suits you best.

Chemical sunscreens are often lighter formulas that sit nicely with makeup and suit all skin tones. However, common ingredients like oxybenzone or avobenzone can sometimes cause irritation. Great chemical sunscreens include Neutrogena, Aveeno and Cerave for the face, or Aveeno Body Lotion with SPF for the body.

Physical sunscreens are thicker creams that can leave a white cast on darker skin tones, yet their gentler ingredients are less likely to provoke sensitive skin. It’s also worth noting that chemical sunscreens take 20-30 mins to absorb, so if you’re often in a morning rush, an instantly effective physical sunscreen might be the one for you! Try Blue Lizard Face for the face, or Blue Lizard or Alba Mineral Sunscreen for below the neck.

It’s equally important that you apply the right amount – ideally a thick layer on all skin that will be exposed to the sun (including those areas where clothing may slip, such as shoulder straps). If you’re out and about, remember to reapply during the day, as most sunscreens will protect you for no more than two hours – even less when you sweat or swim. Spray sunscreens like Australian Gold, Coppertone or Banana Boat are always useful for topping up.  

Of course, no sunscreen can protect from 100% of UV rays, but there are additional ways you can protect your skin too. Balance your sun exposure with time in the shade, especially from 10am – 2pm when the sun is at its strongest. If you’re keen to boost your Vitamin D, try a supplement like Nature’s Bounty, Sundown or Now Vitamin D products or a multivitamin, and avoid sunbeds at all costs! Products like Neutrogena or Australian Gold Sunless tanners are here to give you that summer glow without the skin damage.

Skin cancer is highly treatable when caught early, so it’s vital that you keep an eye on your skin – and check your children’s too. If you notice any new or growing moles, itching, bleeding or more general changes, do consult your GP or pharmacist. After the past year, we all deserve some sunshine. Just remember to stay safe too.

Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.

Easing the impact of Covid

By Stephanie Simons,
Head Pharmacist,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire

 

After more than a year, we are finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Covid vaccinations are making their way through the population and, with them, some much needed hope for the future. However, though things are certainly improving, it’s clear there will be no snap back to ‘normal’, especially for those most impacted by the pandemic.

Almost 30 million US citizens have contracted Covid-19 in the past year. Fortunately, the majority have not died from the virus, but many still have to adapt to the lasting symptoms that continue to affect their daily lives.

Long Covid refers to the plight of those with ongoing Covid symptoms. It’s estimated that one in ten still experience symptoms for at least twelve weeks after testing positive, and some for a long while more. Common symptoms include extreme tiredness and fatigue, an inability to concentrate (or ‘brain fog’), a loss of taste, smell, and/or appetite, and mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Others may also experience muscle aches, chest pains, or insomnia.

There is no specific treatment for long Covid, but there are things you can do to help while you wait for the symptoms to pass. Above all, be patient and don’t push yourself into activities you’re not ready for. Short, regular rests will be more effective than sleeping for fewer, longer periods, and you can arrange your schedule around the parts of the day when your energy levels are best. It’s important to keep moving if and when you can, as this will help your muscles rebuild and release endorphins that improve your mood.  

Also ongoing is the mental health crisis the coronavirus has unleashed across the globe. Even for those who’ve never caught Covid, it has been a time of tremendous stress, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. Vaccinations may lessen the worry, seeing family again may ease feelings of isolation – but the overall mental impact could last far longer than the pandemic itself.  

This is particularly true of those who have lost a loved one during this time. More than 500,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the US alone, leaving behind grieving families, friends, colleagues and neighbours. There are very few of us who haven’t been bereaved in some way over the past year and research suggests grief has been suffered more intensely than ever before.

Bereavement can unleash powerful emotions, from anger and sadness to guilt and exhaustion. Due to Covid restrictions, families have often been separated from their loved ones for some time before their deaths, unable to say goodbye or hold funerals to mark the loss. Many have also had to face their grief alone, unable to access the invaluable support of friends and relatives.

Everyone experiences grief differently, yet we can all benefit from taking care of ourselves, even when we don’t feel like it. Eating and sleeping well will give you more energy and improve your mood. Try a sleep aid like Sleep-Eeze, Unisom or ZzzQuil or Melatonin to help to reset your body clock or a multivitamin like Centrum, One-A-Day or Topcare Multivitamins for Adults to help you on your way and accept that some days you will just need to cry and remember the person you’ve lost. It’s all completely normal and part of the process.

Whatever we’re dealing with, it’s important that we all stay connected. Human interaction plays a vital role in our health, so it’s vital that we check in on people, offer support and likewise ask for help when we need it. Your local pharmacy and community health teams are also here to support you, no matter what stage of the pandemic. We can help with everything from the best painkillers to specialist grief counselling – or even just offer a listening ear. If you or a loved one are struggling to cope with physical or mental symptoms, contact your GP as soon as possible.

Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.

 

Feeling sleepy? It could be your red blood cells

By Stephanie Simons,
Head Pharmacist,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire

 

Feeling overly tired? Or a bit short of breath? These symptoms can affect us all at some point or another, and there are many reasons why. A common culprit, however, is anaemia.

Anaemia occurs when there’s a reduction in red blood cells circulating in the body. This prevents organs from getting enough oxygen to function correctly, causing fatigue, shortness of breath and often other symptoms too like pale skin, tinnitus, headaches and hair loss.

At least 6% of the US population has some form of anaemia. While women, young children, and people with long-term diseases are more likely to have the condition, it can affect anyone. The good news is, anaemia can be detected by a simple blood test and, in most cases, easily treated.

The most common form of anaemia is caused by iron deficiency. Iron is needed by your bone marrow to make haemoglobin, the part of the red blood cell that takes oxygen to your organs. This can be tackled with supplements like Ferrograd, Spatone, Floradix or Ferrous Fumarate or stronger doses prescribed by your GP. But first of all, we must identify the cause behind the deficiency.

This can be as simple as your diet. Most people get a steady supply of iron from the food they eat, but many miss out on its key sources. Vegetarians and vegans don’t receive the high doses found in meat, but it’s easy to pack in plant-based sources like pulses, leafy vegetables and fortified breads and cereals. Those who avoid meat may also not ingest enough Vitamin B12, which is essential for building red blood cells. B12 is often added to plant milks like almond, oat or soya, or can be taken as a supplement like Vit. B-12 by Nature’s Bounty or Nature Made. The strengths available range from 250mcg to 2500mcg.

Blood loss can also cause anaemia if the number of red blood cells lost exceeds the amount being produced. Women who experience heavy and/or overly frequent periods often suffer from anaemia due to this depletion in the body’s red blood cells. Anaemia can also indicate gastrointestinal conditions such as ulcers, haemorrhoids, gastritis or cancer which cause internal bleeding, which is why it’s always important to flag symptoms to your GP.

Pregnant women often experience anaemia too, as both mother and baby need higher levels of iron than is usually ingested. While mild anaemia is normal during pregnancy, more severe cases can increase the risk of pre-term delivery, a low birth weight, and blood loss during labour, making it more difficult to fight infection. Expectant mothers should look to increase the iron in their diets and discuss any symptoms with their GPs, who will test for and treat anaemia throughout the pregnancy.

Folic acid (Vitamin B9) plays a key role in red blood cell production, and GPs often prescribe this to pregnant women or suggest a lighter dose made by Nature’s Bounty or Nature Made. A diet rich in leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, beans, and whole grains will also boost your folic acid intake. These are tiring times for us all and a little fatigue is nothing to be alarmed about. But if you are at all concerned that you or a family member may be anaemic, speak to your GP as soon as possible. Pharmacists too are always happy to advise and discuss any possible supplements. Most cases of anaemia are easy to diagnose and to treat as long as we keep an eye out for the signs.

Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.

 

Dodging the detox myths

By Stephanie Simons,
Head Pharmacist,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire

 

January is always a great time to reset and look forward to the year ahead. However, we can sometimes go about this the wrong way. After the holiday season – the champagne, the chocolate, the mince pies… – it’s tempting to turn to dieting and ‘detox’ measures in a bid to get back in shape. But while our intentions are good, these quick-fire measures reap very few results – and some could actually damage your health.

We all indulge over the holidays, and the accumulation of alcohol, sugar and fat can leave us feeling sluggish and a bit heavier than usual. We often look to quick diets to shed those extra holiday pounds, but such methods are simply types of fasting, which can have serious repercussions.

When your body doesn’t get the calories it needs, it starts to build up ketones, chemicals that cause nausea, dizziness and dehydration. You may indeed lose weight, but will be from the loss of water, glycogen (carbohydrate stores) and muscle, a process that weakens your body and your immune system. Such diets can also escalate into eating disorders, leading to years of mental and physical issues.    

Other trends focus on ‘detoxing’ – attempts to purge your body of the ‘toxins’ incurred over the holidays. However, while extreme alcohol use can lead to alcohol poisoning, the average intake of food and drink at Christmas is nowhere near enough to fill us with ‘toxins’. Our bodies, moreover, are resilient. Your liver and kidneys are mighty organs that cleanse detoxify the blood, removing any impurities and keeping the body clean.

Juice ‘cleanses’ are a common culprit. It’s great to pack in more fruit and veg, but this regime denies your body many of the essential vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and fatty acids it needs to function. A juice cleanse also reduces your protein intake, causing your body to take it from other sources, like your muscles, organs and bones. Your body ends up in a much worse state than when you started!

That said, there are still safe and healthy routes to that January boost. Ease up on the sugar and processed foods and add in more fruit and veg, whole grains like brown rice and oats, and plenty of protein. Rather than eradicating food groups, aim for variety instead – and don’t deny yourself the odd treat!

Making small changes to your breakfast habits can make a big difference. For example:

  • Bananas are great source of energy and help you stay fuller for longer so you can resist the biscuits later in the day. Mix them into pancakes, scatter them on your cereal or grab one on the way out the door.
  • Nut butters can increase your protein intake and regulate your blood sugar levels throughout the morning. Spread on toast or dollop on your porridge for an easy, healthy treat.
  • Smoothies can be a nutritious breakfast or an energy boosting snack. Just blend frozen fruit, yogurt, nut butter and/or leafy greens with your milk of choice. You can tailor your smoothie to your individual needs by blending in protein powders like Pure Protein, Sun Warrior or Kos or supplements like Primal Kitchen Collagen powder.  

With some good nights’ sleep, exercise and healthy meals, your body will easily bounce back from last year’s festivities. In the meantime, try some skin-loving body treats like Cerave Hydrating Cleanser, or St. Ives Oatmeal Scrub which can double as a face mask to brighten your day. You’ll soon be feeling better and ready for whatever 2021 has in store!

If you have concerns about your health after the holiday season, do contact your GP or pharmacy as soon as possible.

Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.

Beat the stress this holiday season

By Stephanie Simons,
Head Pharmacist,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire

Tis the season to be jolly and this year – we’ve definitely earned it. But for many this can be a stressful time too and, with the pandemic still casting a shadow over us all, this holiday season could be more challenging than usual.

Stress can be very detrimental to our mental and physical health. More than 40% of adults suffer adverse health effects from stress and nearly three quarters of all GP appointments are stress-related. However, if we can recognise the symptoms, there are ways to ease the strain and enjoy the festivities.

Stress is an evolutionary response. It occurs when a situation triggers your ‘fight or flight’ response, preparing you to defend yourself, or run for it! The hypothalamus causes stress hormones like adrenaline to surge through the body, causing your heart rate to soar, your breath to quicken and your muscles to tense – ready for action. In the case of danger, this gives us the best chance of survival. However, it becomes a problem in modern life when this reaction causes more problems than it solves.

The fortunate among us are rarely faced with life-threatening situations that require ‘fight or flight’. Instead we’re anxious about our jobs or family – or Christmas! If our anxieties continue, so does the stress response, which can have long term effects on our health.  

Ever noticed you come down with a cold when you’re stressed? That’s because it weakens the immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to the bugs circulating during the winter months. Stress can also cause headaches and tension in the neck and shoulders, while the build up of stomach acid can cause or exacerbate heart burn.

Longer term, the impact is more serious. Chronic stress can break down your emotional defences leading to depression, while excess adrenaline and cortisol can disrupt your sleep. The liver secretes more glucose, heightening your blood sugar levels and increasing your risk of Type 2 diabetes, while the narrowing of blood vessels can lead to high blood pressure – and even heart problems further down the road.

Chances are – this blog itself is making you stressed! But that’s not what we’re here for. The truth is, there are plenty of ways to find calm, even amongst the festive madness.

Serotonin is our happy hormone that can counterbalance stressors like cortisol. You can boost your levels by getting plenty of sunlight (even in the cold) and eating complex carbohydrates like oatmeal. Vitamin C is also known to help reduce stress, so stock up on oranges and broccoli in your next grocery shop or pop by your local pharmacy for a supplement like Berocca, Redoxon or Vitamin B complex formulas.

Exercise is also a great way to combat stress. It releases endorphins that improve your mood, while lowering your blood pressure – and giving you the chance for some alone time if the kids get a bit crazy!

Meditation, mindfulness and yoga are popular practices for calming the mind and body. Take a look online for quick and easy videos that you can slot in between the family Zooms! Aromatherapy products like Nature’s Truth Oils or room sprays can create a calm atmosphere, while soothing drinks like Chamomile or other herbal tea blends can help you wind down on an evening.

Stress can often feel outside of your control, but you do have the power to recognise and tackle the symptoms before they escalate. You can always talk to your pharmacist about how to best ease your stress or visit your GP if you’re at all worried about your health. We’re here for you throughout the holiday season – and always. Happy holidays from Lindo’s Pharmacy!

Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.

Breathe easy this winter

By Stephanie Simons,
Head Pharmacist,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire

 

Asthma is a well-known condition, yet there are still many of us who know very little about it. As this strange year comes to an end and the cold weather draws in, it’s important to get know asthma a bit better and how we can help people to manage it.

A lifelong condition in most cases, asthma causes the airways to react to certain triggers, such as pollution or weather. The muscles surrounding the airways tighten, the lining swells and sticky phlegm can build up – all of which cause the airways to narrow. Common symptoms include coughing, wheezing and breathlessness.

Severe asthma attacks prevent enough oxygen reaching the lungs, and three people die from this every day. However, research shows two thirds of these deaths could be avoided and, with the right treatment, most asthmatics can manage their symptoms and live full lives.

Everyone with asthma is different and requires tailored care to manage their symptoms. Most commonly, asthmatics use inhalers which get medicine directly into their airways so it can work as fast as possible. Patients are usually prescribed two inhalers: a preventative inhaler which is taken regularly to stop symptoms before they begin, and a reliever inhaler which is used if and when symptoms occur.

Another key part of treatment involves avoiding, or else managing, triggers – the circumstances which cause the airways to react. Again, triggers are unique to each asthmatic and can vary from allergies like pollen, to thunderstorms. Winter, however, sees the return of a very common trigger – cold weather.

When we breathe in cold air, especially on leaving a warm environment, it can cause the airways to spasm. While unpleasant for all, this can trigger severe symptoms and difficulty breathing in asthmatics. Experts recommend wearing a scarf over your nose and mouth for a few minutes before leaving the house, which lessens the shock of the cold air. Breathing through the nose instead of the mouth can also warm the air before it reaches the airways.

This year, of course, there is the added risk of Covid-19. Those with any underlying health condition are at greater risk of falling seriously ill from the virus, especially if they are older and/or have a weakened immune system. As a respiratory infection, Covid-19 is particularly dangerous for those with asthma, whose airways are already compromised.

That said, by following the expert guidance, you can give yourself the best chance of staying safe and well. Wash your hands regularly, stay at least two metres apart from those outside your household, and wear a mask in indoor public spaces like supermarkets. Asthmatics should be able to wear masks without difficulty, as oxygen supply isn’t compromised, but if you’re concerned about wearing one, do discuss this with a healthcare professional like your GP.

Your pharmacist is also great resource for navigating these strange times. There’s no need for an appointment and we’re open at times when you often can’t access your GP. If you or a loved one has asthma, we can help get you through the winter by discussing your medications, addressing any side effects, and/or answering any questions you may have. We can also assist with inhaler technique to make sure your medications have the best possible impact. These are difficult times for us all, but with the right guidance and treatment, there’s no reason asthmatics should struggle through the winter months. Emergency services are still operating as usual and, if you are experiencing unusual or distressing symptoms, do contact your GP or pharmacist as soon as possible.

Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.