Staying Healthy During a Bushfire

The Dandenong Ranges is one of the most beautiful places in the world. And for a few days each year, our decision to live in this hilly, eucalypt forest environment, in summer, brings with it an obvious risk. A sensible, achievable Personal Bushfire Safety Plan is an important tool in a bushfire emergency.

The CFA’s community education facilitators encourage residents to write out their Personal Bushfire Safety Plans; as your doctors, we agree.

The CFA offers a wealth of information and your local brigade or the CFA website should be your starting point. From a medical perspective, we recommend that on every day of Total Fire Ban, patients should plan to have:

  • medical equipment such asthma pumps, special dressings etc with them or readily available
  • all medications and prescriptions with them. Some pharmacies will keep your prescription repeats on file if requested.

Patients should not underestimate the toll that bushfire conditions can take on the body, both physically and emotionally – prior, during and after the emergency. People will understandably be frightened and angry, and their emotional response can overwhelm
the sensible responses that they otherwise have.

So we encourage our patients to consider their medical needs and physical limitations and incorporate them into their Personal Bushfire Safety Plan. To paraphrase a local brigade captain at a recent community bushfire awareness meeting, ‘the best way to avoid being injured in a bushfire is not to be anywhere near a bushfire: Leave in the morning on any high risk day’.

The Hills Medical has a policy that on Code Red days, our premises will be closed and appointments rescheduled.

A few important points to remember when in any stressful situation on a very hot day:

  • Drink plenty of water — a basic guide of your hydration levels is the colour of your urine.The more coloured it is, the more water you need to drink
  • If you are sweating excessively, drink a sports drink to replace some electrolytes
  • Avoid breathing smoke
  • Do not wear dampened clothes if there is radiant heat from fire or embers; it can cause scalding
  • Wear sensible, non-synthetic clothing that covers arms and legs; sturdy shoes; gloves; eye protection — never fight a fire wearing shorts and thongs
  • Make all the preparations necessary beforehand to enact your personal Bushfire Safety Plan so that you aren’t making last minute, possibly dangerous decisions.

Being Active In The Hills

When your doctor suggests that you need to be more active, where do you start?

Living in an environment like ours should be synonymous with activity; a life lived in the fresh air, enjoying the great outdoors. But when it’s foggy or we’re running late, it’s so much easier to jump in the car and drive instead — we can all plead guilty to that. Then there’s the computer and other digital devices which have a lot to answer for in keeping us sedentary.

Like any good habit, an active lifestyle begins with that first step — the important thing is to keep doing it. Pedometers and activity trackers are unrivalled in helping patients keep track of their activity levels and are a great investment in your good health. These little
‘lie detectors’ keep track of how you’re living your life and they automatically upload your efforts onto your computer or phone app, so they don’t listen when you argue with them!

The goal for most people is 10,000 steps every day which is not difficult to achieve, although some patients have reported the shock of discovering that their ‘active lifestyle’ only takes them to 3000 steps or even fewer. A typical one-hour’s walk will accrue approximately 5000 steps.

An excellent website www.10000steps.org.au provides many interesting ways to accumulate steps and offers typical ‘counts’ for a range of activities.

Planning for activity can be as simple as:

  • parking as far away from the supermarket or train station as possible
  • arranging to walk regularly with a friend
  • go to one of our recreation reserves and walk a number of ‘laps’ around the oval
  • get into the routine of taking your dog for a daily walk
  • walking to pick the kids up from school and walking home with them
  • joining a sporting club (we have easy access to tennis, football, netball, badminton, squash, dance and fitness clubs)
  • joining the CFA (junior or senior), SES or other volunteer service group.

A Grand Design For The Hills Medical

The Hills Medical provides specialist services without patients having to leave the mountain

It took 15 months of planning, three months of building works, much mud and hundreds of questions from intrigued patients before the ‘Grand Design’ first floor extension to The Hills Medical was completed.

In 2004, when the ‘Arboreal Hall’ was purchased for the medical practice, the original building was repurposed as the Doctors’ Surgery. Given its historical and local significance, all efforts were made to retain the integrity of the structure and crucial maintenance works were undertaken with meticulous care.

At the same time, the now-familiar architect-designed waiting room, kitchen and reception area were constructed. Fast forward to 2011 and the addition of a first floor was commissioned to provided amenity and to complete the purpose and structure of the ‘new’ building. The upper storey boasts the multi-purpose training room, a kitchen area, administration areas and two more consultation rooms for visiting specialists. ‘We can now provide access to specialist services without patients having to leave the mountain,’ said Dr Graeme Smith. ‘Over the years, many people told me this was a problem for them so we sought to overcome it, and we believe we have.’

Practice Manager Wendy Bons said that the staff is thrilled with the new facilities and explained how they have ‘named’ the various areas: ‘We have the Harry Potter Cupboard which is our storage cupboard under the stairs, then we have Base Camp which is at bottom of the stairs near reception; then up the stairs, there’s our version of the 1000 Steps that we call the Kokoda Track, and when we get to the first floor, upstairs, we’ve conquered Mount Everest!’

With the sleek lines of the modern interpretive design complementing the original architecture of the historic Arboreal Hall, this is one ‘grand design’ that’s just what the doctor ordered!

Chickenpox — It Isn’t Child’s Play

It’s ba-a-ack! Chickenpox (also known as Varicella) is doing the rounds in Upwey,particularly in schools and kinders in the area. Being one of the most contagious diseases around, it won’t be long before chickenpox starts making things very unpleasant up here in the hills community too.

What can you do to avoid it?

Make an appointment to be immunised against it … today! If you and your children have not been immunised against chickenpox, or if you can’t recall whether you’ve had it or not, book an appointment and discuss it with your doctor.

Children who missed out on their chickenpox vaccination are eligible for a free ‘catch-up’ shot. Adult injections are available too for a cost. The vaccination will give you a lifetime’s immunity. Not only are you likely to avoid being sick in the future, you may avoid serious health complications.

Isn’t it ‘good’ for kids to get Chickenpox?

In a word, NO! And while we’re on the subject, the thinking behind ‘Pox Parties’, so that they can all catch chickenpox together, is seriously flawed. Because it’s so highly contagious, it only takes a minimal sharing of toys, drink bottles and sneezes to infect everyone. And of the unvaccinated people — bearing in mind it isn’t just the kids, everyone else is at risk too — 90% will become infected with nasty rashes, lesions and flu-like symptoms showing inusually 10—21 days. It typically takes at least three weeks to recover.

Isn’t Chickenpox a ‘kids’ illness’?

No it absolutely isn’t. Children who have chickenpox may develop a natural immunity but that’s not always the case. It can reactivate at any time in the future. Unvaccinated children, teenagers, and adults (especially pregnant women) who get chickenpox can have a much more serious time of it. There is the risk of complications in adult chickenpox that can lead to skin infections and scarring, pneumonia, vertigo, meningitis and/or encephalitis.

Chickenpox is definitely not child’s play. It is a serious but vaccine-preventable disease. We hope to see you for your vaccination soon. Book by clicking here.

Information source; accessed 21 April 2015:
Government Health/immunise-varicella

Whooping Cough immunization for all ages

(Because love and good intentions aren’t enough to protect a newborn.)

Right now, there is a sense of urgency in community health sectors around the world because, after years of effective immunization and disease control, Whooping Cough (also known as Pertussis) is coming back with a vengeance.

For decades, the unimmunized among us had a reduced risk of infection thanks to ‘herd protection’. But that is no longer the case. Fewer immunized people have resulted in more people getting Whooping Cough. And that is putting our newborn babies at risk.

Whooping Cough immunization wears off after a few years.

That Whooping Cough injection you received years ago no longer protects you. There is a mistaken belief in the community that adults ‘can’t get Whooping Cough’ and consequently they don’t need immunization… Wrong! Here in Victoria, most cases of Whooping Cough are in adults aged 20 years and above.

Whooping Cough is terrible — and it’s vaccine-preventable.

Whooping Cough is a particularly terrible illness for those most vulnerable. A newborn cannot be immunized until he or she is at least three months old; seeing a little baby struggling through repeated, violent paroxysms of coughing, then ‘whooping’ in a desperate reflex to breathe, is shocking and distressing for everyone, and it’s made all the worse because it is utterly preventable.

Expecting a baby in the family? Get immunized today!

If you are a doting parent or grandparent, a breastfeeding mum, a childcare worker, carer, sibling or babysitter or someone who will come into contact with babies, talk to your doctor about being tested for your immunization status. That annoying cough you’ve got just might be the milder version of Whooping Cough (sometimes called ‘Ninety Day Cough’) which means you could easily infect a baby and not know it. The vaccine combines whooping cough with diphtheria and tetanus protection. This vaccine is effective within a few days and immunity will continue for the next couple of years and then gradually decrease over the next 10 years, when your immunity will have ceased and another immunization will be advisable.