7 ways to manage your #coronaphobia



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Jill Newby, UNSW and Aliza Werner-Seidler, UNSW

As we’re slowly moving out of lockdown, many Australians will be feeling anxious about going outside, away from the safety of home, and returning to normal life.

For most people, these coronavirus fears will be temporary.

But for some, being overly afraid of the coronavirus can have serious implications. People might avoid seeking medical care, isolate themselves from others unnecessarily, or be debilitated with fear.

Others have taken to social media under the hashtags #coronaphobia and #coronaparanoia to share their anxieties, some with humour.

If you’re anxious, you’re not alone. Our survey of more than 5,000 Australian adults during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic found one in four were very or extremely worried about contracting COVID-19; about half were worried about their loved ones contracting it.

But how do you know if your fears of coronavirus are out of control? And what can you do about it?




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Here are some signs

Your anxiety may be out of control if you notice:

  • your fears are out of proportion to the actual danger (for instance, you’re young with no underlying health issues but wear a mask and gloves to the park for your daily exercise where it’s easy to social distance)

  • the fear and anxiety is intense and persistent (lasting weeks to months)

  • it’s hard to stop worrying about coronavirus

  • you’re actively avoiding situations (for instance, places, people, activities) even when they’re safe

  • you’re spending a lot of your time monitoring your body for signs and symptoms, or searching the internet about the virus

  • you’ve become overly obsessive about cleaning, washing, and decontaminating.

None of these experiences alone are a problem. But when they occur together, are persistent, and negatively impact your life, it’s time to do something about it.

Are you cleaning the same place over and over?
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Read more:
If Dr Google’s making you sick with worry, there’s help


These seven tips can help:

1. reassure yourself, it’ll get better: for most people, the anxiety will get better as the threat of COVID-19 passes. If anxiety doesn’t go away, it can be treated

2. change your ‘information diet’: spending time reading alarming tales of the horrors of COVID-19 will probably increase anxiety, not reduce it. Instead, try spending time focusing on positive information, stories or activities that take your mind off your fears

3. think logically about the risk: coronavirus has led to tragedy for many families, and we acknowledge the risk and consequences of contracting coronavirus differs from person to person. However, keep in mind over 90% of people infected with coronavirus in Australia have already recovered. The number of cases is also still extremely low, with 7,072 confirmed cases to date out of about 25 million people

4. reduce the focus on your body: when we pay too much attention to our bodies, it can make us notice things we wouldn’t normally notice, which then makes us more anxious. Take your mind off your body by focusing on other things, such as positive, enjoyable activities

5. take things slowly, at your own pace: it’s OK to slowly ease back into doing things you used to do. Take a step-by-step approach, doing one activity at a time, so you feel safe, while slowly building up your confidence

6. channel your anxiety into action: it can help to focus on what’s under your control. Taking active steps to look after your mental health, by sleeping well, exercising, doing fun or relaxing activities, and staying socially connected can make an enormous difference to your mental health

7. get help from professionals, not Dr Google: try an evidence-based online program for health anxiety, seek advice from your GP, or a psychologist who specialises in anxiety.

Here’s what you can do to ease your anxiety about the coronavirus (Australian Academy of Science)

How about children?

Most children will be pleased to get back into their familiar routine and to re-engage with their peers and friends.

Australian research conducted with adolescents at the height of the pandemic found young people were most worried the impact of the restrictions on their education and friendships (more so than the health risk).

However, for some children, the transition back to preschool or school will be more stressful.

For younger kids, some initial separation anxiety from the family members they have been spending a lot of time with is to be expected and will typically resolve quickly.




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8 tips on what to tell your kids about coronavirus


A small proportion of children may be excessively worried about leaving the safety of home and in these cases, these tips may help:

1. have an honest and open discussion with your child: ask your child to share exactly what they are worried about. Address their concerns rationally and devise a plan with them about how they can start to face their fears in a manageable way

2. model brave behaviour: children pick up on our anxiety and fears, but also on our behaviour. Model brave behaviours to demonstrate that it is now OK to go outside, and it is safe. You can start with a walk in the park on the weekend together and then transition to attending school. Importantly, if you are feeling overly anxious about the relaxation in restrictions, it is important to address your own anxiety first, before attempting to address your child’s

3. get professional help: if your child remains overly anxious about going outside and this doesn’t resolve over a few weeks, seek professional support. The best place to start is with a GP or psychologist who specialises in anxiety.


Coronavirus mental health resources are available online. Help for adults is also available from THIS WAY UP, myCompass and
MindSpot. Help for kids and adolescents is available from BRAVE-Online, ReachOut, Kids Helpline and headspace.
The Conversation

Jill Newby, Associate Professor and MRFF Career Development Fellow, UNSW and Aliza Werner-Seidler, UNSW Scientia Fellow, Senior Research Fellow in Mental Health & Clinical Psychologist, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

While we wait for a coronavirus vaccine, eating well, exercising and managing stress can boost your immune system



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Julia J Rucklidge, University of Canterbury and Grant Schofield, Auckland University of Technology

Social distancing may remain necessary during the 18 months or more we’ll have to wait for a coronavirus vaccine.

This can feel like we have little control, but there are several evidence-based protective measures we can take in the interim to ensure we are as healthy as possible to fight off infection and prevent mental health problems that escalate with uncertainty and stress.




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5 ways nutrition could help your immune system fight off the coronavirus


Coronavirus and underlying medical conditions

There is recent evidence that some younger people suffer strokes after contracting the virus, but the majority of people who end up hospitalised, in intensive care or dying from COVID-19 have an underlying medical condition. One study showed 89% of those hospitalised in the US had at least one.

These underlying medical conditions include high blood pressure, high blood sugar (especially type 2 diabetes), excessive weight and lung conditions. An analysis of data from the UK National Health Service shows that of the first 2,204 COVID-19 patients admitted to intensive care units, 72.7% were either overweight or obese.

All of these health issues have been associated with our lifestyle including poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, excessive alcohol and high stress.

It’s obvious we have created a society where being active, eating healthily, drinking less and keeping our stress under control is difficult. Perhaps it’s time to push back. This may be important for major conditions like heart disease and diabetes as well as the added threat we face from emerging infectious diseases.

One study shows only 12% of Americans are in optimal metabolic health, which means their blood pressure, blood glucose, weight and cholesterol are within a healthy range. This rate is likely similar in many Western countries.

There is now a body of evidence linking our unhealthy lifestyle with viral, especially respiratory diseases. High blood sugar reduces and impairs immune function. Excessive body fat is known to disrupt immune regulation and lead to chronic inflammation. Insulin resistance and pre-diabetes can delay and weaken the immune response to respiratory viruses.




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Regular exercise has long-term benefits for immunity – it’s important to stay active


Improving immunity through lifestyle choices

If we are going to restrict and change our lifestyles for 12 to 18 months while we wait for a vaccine, and if we want to protect ourselves better now and in the future, we could address these lifestyle factors. They not only affect our recovery from viruses and respiratory infections, but are also the biggest cost to the quality of life in most countries.

Optimising the health of the nation must be at the forefront. And this is long overdue. There has been a substantial under-investment by most developed countries in preventive medicine to reduce chronic diseases and improve both longevity and quality of life through healthy lifestyles.

Healthy organisms are naturally resistant to infections. This is true in plants, animals and people. Maintaining optimal health is our best defences against a pandemic until a vaccine is available.

We identify three modifiable risk factors:

1. Diet

Research shows better nourished people are less likely to develop both mental and physical problems. Certain nutrients, such as vitamins C and D and zinc have been identified as essential for improving immunity across the lifespan. A better diet is associated with a lower chance of developing mental health problems in both children and adults. Low levels of specific nutrients, such as vitamin D, have been recognised as risk factors for COVID-19. These nutrients are easy (and cheap) to replenish.

What does it mean to be better nourished? Eating real whole foods – fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish and healthy fats and reducing the intake of ultra-processed foods.

2. Exercise

Being physically fit adds years to your life – and quality of life. High cardiorespiratory (lung and heart) fitness is also associated with less respiratory illness, and better survival from such illnesses.

How do you get fit? Set aside time and prioritise walking at a minimum, and more vigorous activity if possible, every day. Ideally, you would get outside and be with important others. The more the better, as long as you are not overdoing it for your individual fitness level.

3. Stress

Stress impairs our immunity. It disrupts the regulation of the cortisol response which can suppress immune function. Chronic stress can decrease the body’s lymphocytes (white blood cells that help fight off infection). The lower your lymphocyte count, the more at risk you are of catching a virus.

How do we lower stress? Meditation, yoga, mindfulness, cognitive-behaviour therapy, optimising sleep and eating well can all help in mitigating the negative impact of stress on our lives. Taking additional nutrients, such as the B vitamins, and the full breadth of minerals like magnesium, iron and zinc, during times of stress has a positive impact on overall stress levels.




Read more:
Sleep won’t cure the coronavirus but it can help our bodies fight it


Modifying lifestyle factors won’t eliminate COVID-19 but it can reduce the risk of death and help people to recover. And these factors can be in our control if we and our governments take the initiative.The Conversation

Julia J Rucklidge, Professor of Psychology, University of Canterbury and Grant Schofield, Professor of Public Health and Director of the Human Potential Centre, Auckland University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Drought, fire and flood: how outer urban areas can manage the emergency while reducing future risks



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Elisa Palazzo, UNSW; Annette Bardsley, University of Adelaide, and David Sanderson, UNSW

First the drought, then bushfires and then flash floods: a chain of extreme events hit Australia hard in recent months. The coronavirus pandemic has only temporarily shifted our attention towards a new emergency, adding yet another risk.

We knew from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that the risk of extreme events was rising. What we perhaps didn’t realise was the high probability of different extreme events hitting one after the other in the same regions. Especially in the fringes of Australian cities, residents are facing new levels of environmental risk, especially from bushfires and floods.




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But this cycle of devastation is not inevitable if we understand the connections between events and do something about them.

Measures to slow climate change are in the hands of policymakers. But, at the adaptation level, we can still do many things to reduce the impacts of extreme events on our cities.

We can start by increasing our capacity to see these phenomena as one problem to be tackled locally, rather than distinct problems to be addressed centrally. Solutions should be holistic, community-centred and focused on people’s practices and shared responsibilities.

Respond to emergency

We can draw lessons from humanitarian responses to large disasters, including both national and international cases. A recent review of disaster responses in urban areas found several factors are critical for more successful recovery.

One is to prioritise the needs of people themselves. This requires genuine, collaborative engagement. People who have been through a bushfire or flood are not “helpless victims”. They are survivors who need to be supported and listened to, not dictated to, in terms of what they may or may not need.

Another lesson is to link recovery efforts, rather than have individual agencies provide services separately. For instance, an organisation focusing on housing recovery needs to work closely with organisations that are providing water or sanitation. A coordinated approach is more efficient, less wearying on those needing help, and better reflects the interconnected reality of everyday life.

In the aid world this is known as an “area-based” approach. It prioritises efforts that are driven by people demand rather than by the supply available.

A third lesson is give people money, not goods. Money allows people to decide what they really need, rather than rely on the assumptions of others.

As the bushfires have shown, donations of secondhand goods and clothes often turn into piles of unwanted goods. Disposal then becomes a problem in its own right.




Read more:
How to donate to Australian bushfire relief: give money, watch for scams and think long term


Combining local knowledge and engagement

Planning approaches in outer urban areas should be realigned with our current understanding of bushfire and flood risk. This situation is challenging planners to engage with residents in new ways to ensure local needs are met, especially in relation to disaster resilience.

In areas of high bushfire risk, planning needs to connect equally with the full range of locals. Landscape and biodiversity experts, including Indigenous land managers, and emergency managers should work in association with planning processes that welcome input from residents. This approach is highly likely to reduce risks.

Planners have a vital job to create platforms that enable the interplay of ideas, local values and traditional knowledge. Authentic engagement can increase residents’ awareness of environmental hazards. It can also pave the way for specific actions by authorities to reduce risks, such as those undertaken by Country Fire Service community engagement units in South Australia.




Read more:
Rebuilding from the ashes of disaster: this is what Australia can learn from India


Managing water to build bushfire resilience

Regenerating ecosystems by responding to flood risk can be crucial to increase urban and peri-urban resilience while reducing future drought and bushfire impacts.

Research on flood management suggests rainwater must be always seen as a resource, even in the case of extreme events. Sustainable water management through harvesting, retention and reuse can have long-term positive effects in regenerating micro-climates. It is at the base of any action aimed at comprehensively increasing resilience.




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Design for flooding: how cities can make room for water


In this sense, approaches based on decentralised systems are more effective at countering the risks of drought, fire and flood locally. They consist of small-scale nature-based solutions able to absorb and retain water to reduce flooding. Distributed off-grid systems support water harvesting in rainy seasons and prevent fires during drought by maintaining soil moisture.

Decentralisation also creates opportunities for innovation in the management of urban ecosystems, with responsibility shared among many. Mobile technologies can help communities play an active role in minimising flood impacts at the small scale. Information platforms can also help raise awareness of the links between risks and actions and lead to practical solutions that are within everybody’s reach.

Tailor responses to people and ecosystems

Disrupted ecosystems can make the local impacts of drought, fire and flood worse, but can also play a role in global failures, such as the recent pandemic. It is urgent to define and implement mechanisms to reverse this trend.

Lessons from disaster responses point towards the need to tailor solutions to community needs and local environmental conditions. A few key strategies are emerging:

  • foster networks and coordinated approaches that operate across silos

  • support local and traditional landscape knowledge

  • use information platforms to help people work together to manage risks

  • manage water locally with the support of populations to prevent drought and bushfire.

Recent environmental crises are showing us the way to finally change direction. Safe cities and landscapes can be achieved only by regenerating urban ecosystems while responding to increasing environmental risks through integrated, people-centred actions.The Conversation

Elisa Palazzo, Urbanist and landscape planner – Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Built Environment, UNSW; Annette Bardsley, Researcher, Department of Geography, Environment and Population, University of Adelaide, and David Sanderson, Professor and Inaugural Judith Neilson Chair in Architecture, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How to manage your blood pressure in isolation



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James Sharman, University of Tasmania; Mark Nelson, University of Tasmania, and Markus Schlaich, University of Western Australia

Maintaining healthy blood pressure is important during (and after) the coronavirus pandemic.

With about one in three Australian adults having high blood pressure, many people will be needing to monitor their own blood pressure in isolation.

So it’s a great time to make sure you’re accurately measuring and optimally managing your blood pressure at home.




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Health Check: what do my blood pressure numbers mean?


When it comes to blood pressure, home really is better

Blood pressure measurements taken at home are a better indication of your true blood pressure. They’re also a better indication of your risk of heart attack and stroke than measurements doctors take in their surgeries or in hospital.

Blood pressure readings by doctors are generally even higher than those measured by other health professionals, such as nurses.




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Why we should measure our own blood pressure


This is due to the “white coat” effect, where a doctor’s presence can lead to your blood pressure (and heart rate) rising, something we’ve known about since the 1980s.

So today’s guidelines recommend doctors confirm someone has high blood pressure using methods outside the clinic.

The ideal method while in isolation is to measure your blood pressure using your own device.

How do I measure my blood pressure at home?

Your blood pressure can vary depending on whether you’re talking, exercising or under stress, or if there is a change in the temperature. It can also vary depending on your posture, whether you’ve just eaten, taken medication, drunk a coffee or smoked.

So it’s important to measure your blood pressure at home the correct way each time, otherwise your readings might be incorrect or misleading:

  • use a validated device, one that has been rigorously tested for accuracy. Most devices available in Australia have not been validated. You can check if yours is here.
    Use an upper arm device (not a wrist cuff or one you wear on a wristband) with a correct cuff size (within the range indicated on the cuff). If you don’t want to buy a device, you can hire or borrow one from some pharmacies and medical clinics

  • take measures at around the same time, morning and evening, over seven days (five day minimum). Measure before taking medication, food or exercise, and as advised by your doctor (for instance, before visiting the doctor or after a medication change)

  • don’t smoke or drink caffeine 30 minutes before measuring, and don’t measure if you’re uncomfortable, stressed or in pain

  • sit quietly for five minutes before measuring, without talking or distractions from other people or television

  • sit correctly, with feet flat on the floor, legs uncrossed, upper arm bare, arm supported with cuff at heart level, and back supported.


The Conversation, CC BY-ND
  • take two measures, one minute apart

  • record each measure in a paper diary or electronic spreadsheet

  • provide your doctor with your readings, by email or via telehealth, such as videocalling.




Read more:
What can you use a telehealth consult for and when should you physically visit your GP?


What else can I do to manage my blood pressure in lockdown?

While high blood pressure is mainly caused by unhealthy environments, lifestyles and behaviours, you can modify some of these at home to lower your blood pressure, thus lowering the risk of heart disease.

About 30% of high blood pressure relates to eating too much salt, which can be hidden in many foods.

A balanced diet low in salt, high in fruit, vegetables and wholegrains, as well as healthy proteins, can help control blood pressure and improve your overall heart health.

Being at home means you can prepare food from the basic ingredients, avoiding the high salt, fats and sugars found in processed foods.




Read more:
Seven things to eat or avoid to lower your blood pressure


Maintaining a healthy weight and having an active life with regular physical activity and decreased sitting time is good for your blood pressure and overall health.

Leaving the house for exercise is one of the few excuses you have available to you during lockdown.




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For older people and those with chronic health conditions, staying active at home is extra important – here’s how


People who regularly walk for as little as 15 minutes a day are more likely to live longer than people who are inactive. That’s irrespective of age, sex or risk of heart disease.

Limiting how much alcohol you drink and quitting smoking are also important.




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Worried about your drinking during lockdown? These 8 signs might indicate a problem


Still check in with your doctor

If your doctor starts you on medication to lower your blood pressure, this will lower your risk of a heart attack and stroke. So it’s important to stick with your treatment while in isolation, unless instructed to stop.

Don’t avoid a trip to your GP, or a telehealth consultation, should your blood pressure remain high.




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Even in a pandemic, continue with routine health care and don’t ignore a medical emergency


The Conversation


James Sharman, Professor of Medical Research and Deputy Director, Menzies Institute for Medical Research., University of Tasmania; Mark Nelson, Head, Discipline of General Practice, University of Tasmania, and Markus Schlaich, Dobney Chair in Clinical Research and Winthrop Professor, University of Western Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coronavirus: 5 ways to manage your news consumption in times of crisis



Victoria Heath/Unsplash

Mark Pearson, Griffith University

Thousands of employees internationally are already working from home in COVID-19 self-isolation because of their recent travel, related symptoms or immune system vulnerability.

But to do so while habitually checking the news on devices – and allowing 24/7 news channels to play non-stop in the background – might erode your productivity and increase stress and anxiety.

A foundational element of media literacy in the digital era is striking an appropriate balance between news consumption and other activities. Even before the current crises, Australian research demonstrated news avoidance had risen among news consumers from 57% in 2017 to 62% in 2019, driven by a sense of news fatigue.

Self-help expert Rolf Dobelli implores us to stop reading the news. While he advocates going cold turkey and abandoning all packaged news consumption, Dobelli makes exceptions for long-form journalism and documentaries.

So too does philosopher Alain de Botton in The News – A User’s Manual, while proposing more positive news and journalism’s examination of life’s deeper issues, emotions and aesthetics.

In journalism education there has been a move towards “peace journalism”, “mindful journalism”, “constructive journalism” and “solutions journalism”, where the news should not merely report what is wrong but suggest ways to fix it.




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Of course, it would be a mistake to abstain from all news during the COVID-19 pandemic and its unpredictable economic and social consequences.

Often it is best to navigate a middle path, so here are five suggestions on how you can stay in the loop at home while you get your work done – and help maintain your mental health.

1. Switch off

Avoid the 24/7 news channels and feeds unless it is your business to do so, or unless the information is likely to impact you directly.

Try to develop a routine of checking in on the main headlines once, twice or three times a day so you stay informed about the most important events without being sucked into the vortex of click bait and news of incremental changes in the number of coronavirus cases or the ups and downs of the stock markets.

2. Dive deep

Look for long-form journalism and in-depth commentary on the topics that most interest you. Articles by experts (Editor’s note: like those in The Conversation!) include the most important facts you need to know, and are likely to have a constructive angle presenting incisive analysis and a pathway to a solution or best practice.

Spend your time engaging with well-researched and accurate stories.
Eugene Zhyvchik/Unsplash

On radio and television, look for big picture current affairs programs like the ABC’s AM and 7.30 – or on a lighter and more positive note Ten’s The Project – so you don’t have to be assaulted by a disturbing litany of petrol station hold-ups, motorway chases and celebrity gossip in the packaged morning and evening news.

3. Connect

Use social media wisely – for communicating with family and friends when you might be physically isolated and by following authoritative sources if something in the news is affecting your life directly, such as emergency services during cyclones, fires and floods.

But avoid the suggested and sponsored news feeds with dubious and unfiltered information (often shared as spam by social media illiterates).

Keep your social media commentary civil, empathetic and supportive – mindful of everyone’s mental health during a crisis.

4. Interrogate

Ask the key question: “What is the best source of the information I absolutely need to know?”

Go to primary sources where possible. Subscribe to official and authoritative information feeds – for example, daily summaries from the World Health Organisation) and the Commonwealth Department of Health on COVID-19 and your preferred bank’s summary reports on the sharemarket and economic indicators.

5. Be mindful

Bear in mind the well being of any children in your household with the timing and selection of your hard/live news consumption. International research has shown more constructive news stories have fewer negative mental health impacts on children, particularly when combined with the opportunity to discuss the contents with their peers.

It’s important to think about where your children get their news, too.
Shutterstock.com

Finally, you might also use these crises to build your own media literacy – by pausing to reflect carefully upon what news you really need in your family’s life. This might vary markedly according to your work, interests and passions.

For many of us it will mean a much more critical diet of what we call “traditional hard news” – allowing us the time to read and view material that better contributes to the quality of our own lives and to our varied roles as informed citizens.The Conversation

Mark Pearson, Professor of Journalism and Social Media, Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research, Griffith University, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How to manage grass pollen exposure this hay fever season: an expert guide



Spring has sprung, which means it’s hay fever season.
From shutterstock.com

Janet Davies, Queensland University of Technology; Connie Katelaris, South Western Sydney Local Health District, and Danielle Medek, Australian National University

Nearly one in five Australians are affected by hay fever. If you’re one of the unlucky ones, you’ll know how troublesome the symptoms can be.

Grass pollen is the major outdoor trigger of hay fever and allergic asthma. Pollen grains contain a variety of allergens that can trigger allergic reactions in people who are sensitised to pollen.

The good news is, if pollen is a problem for you, there are things you can do to manage your exposure to it. By adopting some simple tips alongside preventative medications, you may find this hay fever season a little more manageable.




Read more:
How do you know if your child has hay fever and how should you treat it?


What causes hay fever?

People who are genetically prone to develop allergies may become sensitised to pollen.

Sensitisation involves development of specific antibodies (called Immunoglobulin E, or IgE) that can bind to the triggering allergen. Repeated exposure to the triggering allergen leads to the activation of inflammatory cells, causing the release of histamine and other mediators. That’s when the symptoms kick in.

An allergic reaction to pollen can lead to hay fever symptoms affecting the upper airways, including itchy, watery eyes, an itchy, inflamed throat, a runny or blocked nose, and sneezing.

Pollen allergy can also lead to what we call allergic asthma – if the allergen components enter deeper into the lungs, this can cause inflammation and symptoms of asthma, like shortness of breath.

While hay fever has long been regarded a trivial condition, it can be a serious chronic disease associated with other problems such as sinusitis, sleep disturbance because of nasal blockage, and asthma, leading to fatigue and poor performance at work or school.

What can you do to reduce exposure to pollen allergens?

The tragic thunderstorm asthma epidemic of November 2016 in Melbourne shocked many and elucidated the potential harm of grass pollen exposure.

Lessons from this event illustrate staying indoors with the windows closed reduces risk of experiencing severe symptoms.

Many people affected by thunderstorm asthma recall being outside prior to the passage of the thunderstorm across the greater Melbourne region during the late evening of November 21, 2016.




Read more:
What’s the link between hay fever and asthma, and how are they treated?


Of course, this was an uncommon event, and the majority of people who get hay fever will not experience this level of illness.

On high pollen days, or after thunderstorms in spring, people who are allergic to pollen should stay inside with windows closed when possible. They should also drive with the car windows closed and the air on a setting where it’s circulating, rather than coming in from outside.

Other actions people can take to reduce allergen exposure are to hang washing inside or use a tumble dryer on high pollen days, avoid activities such as mowing the lawn, wear sunglasses outdoors, and shower after activities likely to involve pollen exposure.

Close to one in five Australians suffer from hay fever.
From shutterstock.com

A national standardised pollen monitoring network

For people with hay fever, knowing when the pollen count is likely to be high can be helpful in managing exposure. There are an increasing number of mobile apps you can use to monitor the pollen count in your area in real time.

A screenshot from pollen monitoring app ‘Melbourne Pollen Count’.
Screenshot

In 2016, the National Health and Medical Research Council funded the AusPollen Partnership. Since its inception, and with the efforts of many researchers, a national standardised pollen monitoring network is being established to help address unmet needs of patients with hay fever and allergic asthma in our community.

The AusPollen Partnership seeded the growth of a number of projects in which pollen monitoring is a key activity; for instance AirRater in Tasmania and VicTAPS in Victoria. Australian pollen monitoring sites now adopt standard protocols to harmonise pollen monitoring processes so data is comparable between locations.

While expanding the pollen monitoring network, we’ve had the opportunity to evaluate how providing people with local, current daily pollen information helps.

In a pilot study, we found people who didn’t have access to local pollen information indicated a desire to have local pollen information, while people who did have access to pollen information reported it was very useful. Respondents used pollen information to plan their daily activities, to minimise pollen exposure and to optimise medication use.




Read more:
Health Check: what are the options for treating hay fever?


Preventative medication has an important role

While minimising exposure to pollen may help reduce symptoms when pollen levels are high, the cornerstone to symptom management and safety during the pollen season is preventative medication like steroid nasal sprays and antihistamines. These can reduce the underlying allergic inflammation and alleviate symptoms of hay fever.

Before the onset of the pollen season, people who are allergic to pollen and suffer from troublesome symptoms should start using medications daily. Control of underlying allergic inflammation in the upper airways is best achieved with nasal sprays containing a topically active steroid. Non-sedating antihistamine tablets and eye drops provide symptom relief (but don’t alter the underlying inflammation).

Seasonal asthma and/or thunderstorm asthma can occur during the grass pollen season in some people with pollen allergy. Those who experience lower airway symptoms during the grass pollen season such as a cough, tight chest, breathlessness or wheeze, should seek medical attention to consider whether they have undiagnosed asthma.




Read more:
Thunderstorm asthma: who’s at risk and how to manage it


The Conversation


Janet Davies, Professor, Queensland University of Technology; Connie Katelaris, Professor of Immunology and Allergy, UWAS & Head of Unit, South Western Sydney Local Health District, and Danielle Medek, Physician trainee, researcher, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Officials Threaten to Burn Shelters of Expelled Christians


Village heads tell church members they must recant faith or move elsewhere.

DUBLIN, March 16 (CDN) — Officials in southern Laos in the next 48 hours plan to burn temporary shelters built by expelled Christians unless they recant their faith, according to advocacy group Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF).

Authorities including a religious affairs official, the district head, district police and the chief of Katin village in Ta-Oyl district, Saravan province, expelled the 48 Christians at gunpoint on Jan. 18.

Prior to the expulsion, officials raided a worship service, destroyed homes and belongings and demanded that the Christians renounce their faith. (See www.compassdirect.org, “Lao Officials Force Christians from Worship at Gunpoint,” Feb. 8.)

Left to survive in the open, the Christians began to build temporary shelters, and then more permanent homes, on the edge of the jungle, according to HRWLRF. They continued to do so even after deputy district head Khammun, identified only by his surname, arrived at the site on Feb. 9 and ordered them to cease construction.

More officials arrived on Feb. 18 and ordered the Christians to cease building and either renounce their faith or relocate to another area. When the group insisted on retaining their Christian identity, the officials left in frustration.

On Monday (March 15), district head Bounma, identified only by his surname, summoned seven of the believers to his office, HRWLRF reported.

Bounma declared that although the republic’s law and constitution allowed for freedom of religious belief, he would not allow Christian beliefs and practices in areas under his control. If the Katin believers would not give up their faith, he said, they must relocate to a district where Christianity was tolerated.

When the seven Christians asked Bounma to supply them with a written eviction order, he refused.

The Christians later heard through local sources that the chiefs of Katin and neighboring Ta Loong village planned to burn down their temporary shelters and 11 partially-constructed homes erected on land owned by Ta Loong, according to HRWLRF.

These threats have left the Christians in a dilemma, as permission is required to move into another district.

Both adults and children in the group are also suffering from a lack of adequate food and shelter, according to HRWLRF.

“They are without light, food and clean water, except for a small stream nearby,” a spokesman said. Officials also forced them to leave the village with minimal clothing and other items necessary for basic survival.

Village officials have said they will only allow spirit worship in the area. A communist country, Laos is 1.5 percent Christian and 67 percent Buddhist, with the remainder unspecified. Article 6 and Article 30 of the Lao Constitution guarantee the right of Christians and other religious minorities to practice the religion of their choice without discrimination or penalty.

Decree 92, promulgated in July 2002 by the prime minister to “manage and protect” religious activities in Laos, also declares the central government’s intent to “ensure the exercise of the right of Lao people to believe or not to believe.”

Report from Compass Direct News 

Hostilities Flare in BJP-Run Madhya Pradesh, India


Anti-Christian violence, efforts to tarnish church increase in past five years.

NEW DELHI, October 14 (CDN) — Since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in Madhya Pradesh in December 2003, Christians in the state have suffered increased attacks and concerted efforts to tarnish their image, church leaders said.

Before the BJP took office the state recorded two or three attacks against Christians per year, they said, whereas Jabalpur Archbishop Gerald Almeida said that in the past five years 65 baseless charges of forceful conversion – commonly accompanied by mob violence – have been registered in his diocese alone.

“There are some groups who are closely monitoring the Christian movement, and these people are bent on creating problems for the Christians for the past five years,” Almeida told Compass.

The state is not able to control these groups, he added. Indeed, police routinely working with Hindu extremist groups filed an average of more than three unsubstantiated complaints of “coerced” conversions each month in the past five years, according to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Madhya Pradesh (see sidebar below).

In the first eight months of this year, Madhya Pradesh saw the third highest number of attacks against Christians and Christian institutions in the country with 11, behind Karnataka with 43 and Andhra Pradesh with 14, according to Christian advocacy organizations.

The Rev. Anand Muttungal, spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Madhya Pradesh, said growing attacks on Christians were a symptom of fear among Hindu extremists that the Catholic Church’s influence is spreading.

“The Church as an organization is doing very well in many fields,” Muttungal said. “It causes those fundamentalists to worry. It could be one of the main reasons for the continuous attacks on Christians.”

Madhya Pradesh has a Christian population of 170,381, only 0.3 percent of the total in the state, according to the 2001 census. The state’s history of religious intolerance runs deep, with an “anti-conversion” law passed in 1968 that has serves as a pretext for harassing Christians.

Igniting anti-Christian violence shortly after the BJP came to power was an incident in Jhabua district, where the body of a 9-year-old girl called Sujata was found in one of the Christian schools on Jan. 11, 2004. Although a non-Christian confessed to the crime, Hindu extremists used the event to justify various attacks against the Christian community.

Abuses became so rampant in 2005 and 2006 that the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) sent a fact-finding team to Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in June 2006. Investigators found that Hindu extremists had frequently invoked the state’s anti-conversion law as a means to incite mobs against Christians and to get Christians arrested without evidence.

Jabalpur Archbishop Almeida cited cases chronicled by the NCM such as the arrest under the anti-conversion law of two local women who were merely distributing gospel tracts in March 2006. Almeida also cited the NCM report on the jailing of four pastors in January 2006 for alleged “forceful conversion” after Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal dragged them to a Hindu temple and forced them to deny Christ.

Catholic Church records show that in 2007, a 70-year-old woman identified only as Mrs. Godwin was arrested along with another woman on charges of forceful conversion; they too were only distributing religious literature, a right they had under the nation’s constitution.

Christian leaders said one aim of such abuses of the state’s anti-conversion law is to tarnish the image of Christians by showing them as lawbreakers. Hate propaganda and spurious allegations against Christians continue unabated in the state, church leaders said.

The customary practice in India and especially in Madhya Pradesh, they said, is for Hindu extremists to raise false allegations on the slimmest of pretexts and get police to make hurried arrests.

Political Machinery

After the NCM report in 2006 first documented the violence, the Madhya Pradesh political machinery’s influence became evident when State Minorities Commission Chairman Anwar Mohammed Khan asserted that reports of Hindu extremists attacking Christians in the state were “baseless.”

Khan told Frontline magazine that extremists had not targeted Christians. The magazine also quoted state Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan as saying the BJP government was greatly concerned about “unethical conversions” – presumably of Hindus to Christianity.

The magazine criticized the state Minorities Commission for speaking “the same language as the Bajrang Dal and the state chief minister,” thereby failing its mandate to defend minorities.

This year the commission tried to increase state control over church activities, unofficially recommending that the government enact a law to set up a board to manage church properties such as schools, colleges, hospitals and charities. The Christian community strongly protested, and the state withdrew the proposal.

Leo Cornelio, archbishop of Bhopal, said the Minorities Commission recommendation “shows beyond doubt that it is disloyal to minorities” and “loyal to the government,” according to the Indian Catholic.

The battle over state control of church properties is not over. Muttungal told Compass that the Minorities Commission has started to collect details of church properties through the Education Department. It is certain, he said, that this will lead to a legal battle involving the Education Department, Minorities Commission and the Catholic Church.

SIDEBAR

Police Collusion Seen in ‘Forced Conversion’ Complaints

NEW DELHI, October 14 (Compass Direct News) – Hindu extremist groups in collusion with the state police filed an average of more than three baseless complaints of “coerced” conversions per month in the past five years – shortly after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power – according to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Madhya Pradesh.

“I have gathered information from all the districts of the state, according to which the number of [forced or fraudulent] conversion complaints against Christians in the last five years is over 180,” the Rev. Anand Muttungal, spokesman for the state’s Catholic body, told Compass.

Muttungal said he asked the Madhya Pradesh State Crime Records Bureau, a body under the state interior ministry that monitors criminal complaints, about the number of forced conversion complaints in the last five years, and the state agency put the number wrongly at fewer than 35.

Muttungal also said most of the complaints were filed by third parties – not the supposed “victims” – who were unable to produce any unlawfully converted people to support their allegations. He added that the complainants were mainly members of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal, youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP).

“In Jabalpur, the complaints were lodged mainly by the Hindu Dharam Sena [Hindu Religion Army],” he said.

Most recently, the leader of the Hindu Dharam Sena on Sept. 27 got police to interrogate, without cause, a Catholic group traveling through Jabalpur. The Rev. Anto Mundamany of the Carmelite of Mary Immaculate order said the inspector-in-charge of the Civil Lines police station and four other policemen came to the Carmel Niketan center, where the group had stopped for dinner. Police interrogated him and the 45 Catholic visitors about their religious identity, he said, to determine whether the visitors were Hindus whom the priests and nuns at the center might be forcibly trying to convert.

Journalists accompanied the police, and the following day local newspapers reported on the incident, portraying the Christians as inherently suspect.

“Although the police left after making sure that all the participants who had arrived for an inter-parish tour were Christians, the newspapers made no mention of that fact,” Mundamany said.

The local daily Dainik Bhaskar reported that Yogesh Agarwal, head of the Hindu Dharam Sena, had informed police about a supposed “conversion plot” by the Catholic order.

“There can be little doubt that the police are party to this disturbing trend,” Muttungal said.

The incidence of anti-Christian attacks is the highest in the state in Jabalpur – local Christians say the city witnessed at least three attacks every month until recently, mainly by Agarwal and his cohorts. Although numerous criminal complaints are pending against Agarwal, he remains at large.

A Christian requesting anonymity said police officers personally act on his complaints against Christian workers.

A June 2006 report by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) found that Hindu nationalist groups in Madhya Pradesh had frequently invoked the state’s anti-conversion law as a pretext to incite mobs against Christians. The NCM report also pointed at police collusion in the attacks.

“The life of Christians has become miserable at the hands of miscreants in connivance with the police,” the NCM said in its report. “There are allegations that when atrocities were committed on Christians, the police remained mere spectators, and in certain cases they did not even register their complaints.”

The NCM is an independent body created by Parliament in 1993 to monitor and safeguard the rights of minorities.

Muttungal said the Catholic Bishops’ Conference would approach the state high court with the facts it has gathered to prove police involvement in complaints against Christians.

Most complaints against Christians are registered under Section 3 of the Madhya Pradesh “Freedom of Religion Act” of 1968, popularly known as an anti-conversion law. The section states, “No person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any person from one religious faith to another by the use of force or by inducement or by any fraudulent means nor shall any person abet any such conversion.”

Offenses under the anti-conversion law are “cognizable,” meaning police are empowered to register a complaint, investigate and arrest for up to 24 hours, without a warrant, anyone accused of forced conversion.

Police also use Sections 153A and 295A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to arrest Christians. Section 153A refers to “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.” Section 295A concerns “deliberate and malicious acts to outrage religious feelings.” These IPC crimes are also cognizable.

Report from Compass Direct News 

Decline of traditional media


Should the threat to traditional media from the internet really be a cause for concern?

The new social media — blogging, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and YouTube are current faves — revolutionising the publishing world, for better and worse. Let’s look at both the better and the worse in perspective.

The current tsunami of personal choices in communication is slowly draining the profit from mainstream media. These media traditionally depend on huge audiences who all live in one region and mostly want the same things (the football scores, the crossword, the TV Guide, etc.). But that is all available now on the Internet, all around the world, all the time.

One outcome is a death watch on many newspapers, including famous ones like the Boston Globe. As journalist Paul Gillin noted recently: “The newspaper model scales up very well, but it scales down very badly. It costs a newspaper nearly as much to deliver 25,000 copies as it does to deliver 50,000 copies. Readership has been in decline for 30 years and the decline shows no signs of abating. Meanwhile, new competition has sprung up online with a vastly superior cost structure and an interactive format that appeals to the new generation of readers.”

Traditional electronic media are not doing any better. As James Lewin observes in “Television audience plummeting as viewers move online” (May 19, 2008), mainstream broadcasters “will have to come to terms with YouTube, video podcasts and other Internet media or they’ll face the same fate as newspapers.”

Radio audiences have likewise tanked. Overall, the recent decline of traditional media is remarkable.

Some conservative writers insist that mainstream media’s failure is due to its liberal bias. But conservatives have charged that for decades — to no effect. Another charge is that TV is declining because it is increasingly gross or trivial. True enough, but TV’s popularity was unaffected for decades by its experiments with edgy taste.

Let’s look more closely at the structure of the system to better understand current steep declines. Due to the low cost of modern media technology, no clear distinction now exists between a mainstream medium and a non-mainstream one, based on either number of viewers or production cost. Today, anyone can put up a video at YouTube at virtually no cost. Popular videos get hundreds of thousands of views. Podcasting and videocasting are also cheap. A blog can be started for free, within minutes, at Blogger. It may get 10 viewers or 10,000, depending on the level of popular interest. But the viewers control that, not the providers.

The key change is that the traditional media professional is no longer a gatekeeper who can systematically admit or deny information. Consumers program their own print, TV, or radio, and download what they want to their personal devices. They are their own editors, their own filmmakers, their own disc jockeys.

Does that mean more bias or less? It’s hard to say, given that consumers now manage their own level of bias. So they can hear much more biased news — or much less. And, as Podcasting News observes, “Social media is a global phenomenon happening in all markets regardless of wider economic, social and cultural development.”

Understandably, traditional media professionals, alarmed by these developments, have constructed a doctrine of “localism” and, in some cases, called for government to bail them out. That probably won’t help, just as it wouldn’t have helped if the media professionals had called for a government “bailed out” of newspapers when they were threatened by radio, or of radio when it was threatened by TV. Video really did (sort of) kill the radio star, but the radio star certainly won’t be revived by government grants.

Still, the news is not all bad. Yes, new media do sometimes kill old media. For example, no one seriously uses pigeon post to send messages today. But few ever thought birdmail was a great system, just the only one available at the time. However, radio did not kill print, and TV did not kill radio. Nor will the Internet kill older media; it will simply change news delivery. Sometimes in a minor way, but sometimes radically.

Media that work, whether radio, TV, newspapers, books, blogs, or any other, thrive when there is a true need. Today’s challenge is to persuade the consumer to look at alternatives to their own programming decisions.

Denyse O’Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.

The original news article can be viewed at:
http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/decline_of_traditional_media/

Article from MercatorNet.com

CRICKET: World Twenty20 – England Bounce Back


England have bounced back following their shock loss to the Netherlands by winning their match against Pakistan in the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa. England won by 48 runs, having scored 5/185 (Kevin Pieterson 58 from 38 balls & Luke Wright 34 from 16 balls). Pakistan could only manage 7/137 in reply (Younus Khan 46 not out from 31 balls).

 

 

In the other match played, South Africa scored 5/211 (AB De Villiers 79 not out from 34 balls and Jacques Kallis 48 from 31 balls), defeating Scotland by 130 runs. Scotland scored 10/81 (Kyle Coetzer 42 from 32 balls faced) in 15.4 overs. Scotland have now lost both their opening matches and will almost certainly be eliminated from the competition for the Super 8 round.

 

 

Australia must win their upcoming match against Sri Lanka if they are to have any hope of making it through to the round of 8. The pressure is now on the Australian team following the exile of Andrew Symonds following his breaking of team rules and return to Australia.