Durbell Clinics play a major role in the provision of overall healthcare. Our Clinics are open to you, all day, for any additional needs, concerns, vaccinations, assessments, you name it. By keeping an eye out for additional treatments, examinations, services, promotions, etc. you will be able to get the most out of the Durbell Clinic in your community, as and when the need arises.


It is evident from the name that painkillers are substances that treat or diminish pain in the human body. There are different types of painkillers available in the market. How do painkillers work? How should one take them? Are there any side effects?

Painkillers can either be injected into the body, as in the case of morphine for severe pain, or taken orally such as Paracetamol, which can be used to diminish lesser pains. Oral medications are available as capsules, tablets, syrup or drops. Creams and ointments are also used topically for muscular as well as joint pain.

Painkillers can be categorised into three main groups:

  • Paracetamol
  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Opioids

These three different types of painkillers work in different ways. Usually people take painkillers for short periods of time, during which time the medication provides relief from the pain at hand. However, if pain persists one needs to see a medical practitioner in order to identify the reason for the pain and deal with the cause. There are some conditions which demand prolonged use of painkillers and need to be taken under the supervision of a medical practitioner.

How do Painkillers Work?

  1. Paracetamol
    Paracetamol targets the brain and works by stopping the production of pain at the source. It reduces the production of inflammatory substances and chemicals in the brain, which are usually referred to as prostaglandins. These inflammatory chemicals can be found anywhere in the body, but are mostly concentrated in the brain.
  2. NSAIDs
    Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) include aspirin and ibuprofen and have a different mode of action to that of Paracetamol. These medicines also cause the production of prostaglandins, but instead of targeting the brain, they target the prostaglandins present throughout the human body. It makes them very effective, but since they target the prostaglandins in the body instead of the brain, they end up affecting other bodily functions and organs as well.
    For example, if you are treating yourself for a sore knee, the NSAIDs could also have an effect on the lining of your stomach, which in turn could lead to the development of stomach ulcers.
  3. Opioids
    This type of medication targets the receptors in the human body, which are found in the central nervous system and the gut. They are also found in some other important parts of the body. Opioids increase your tolerance to pain, thereby reducing the pain your body is experiencing.

How to take painkillers?

When you are dealing with a condition that involves pain, it is advisable to take your medication regularly at specified intervals for the designated time period. Do not skip doses. If your pain is once off (such as a headache) it may only require a single dose to alleviate the pain. Always be sure to eat something before you take a painkiller, especially with NSAIDs in order to reduce any possible adverse effect on your stomach.

Try to limit the use of painkillers to shorter periods. Using them over long periods of time may have adverse effects. Take painkillers for the purpose of alleviating pain and when the problem has subsided, stop taking them.

There are some instances, such as arthritis, in which you may have to continue the use of painkillers, but consult your medical practitioner first.

Possible Side Effects of Painkillers

Never assume that medications do not have any side effect. Every type of medication has its own set of side effects. Side effects generally only occur when medicines are taken in large doses or for extended periods of time. Sometimes the combinations of two or more different kinds of medicines may also produce undesired effects.

Here are some of the side effects of the painkillers listed below:

  1. Paracetamol
    Generally speaking, Paracetamol is a safe medicine to consume if you follow the instructions and take correct dosages. Side effects may occur due to prolonged use or overdose, which may lead to permanent liver damage or death.
  2. NSAIDs
    NSAIDs do not have any life threatening or harmful side effects if used short term and at low dosages. However, in some cases, you can suffer from:

    1. Stomach ulcers
    2. Bleeding of the gut
    3. Cardiovascular problems
  3. Opioids
    The most well-known side effects of this medicine are:

    1. Nausea
    2. Vomiting
    3. Constipation
    4. A dry mouth
    5. Confusion
    6. Drowsiness
    7. Due to the nature in which these reduce pain, it is possible for people to become dependent on Opioids


Nothing could be worse than waking up with a throbbing headache and a sore throat, particularly when you have a pile of work to get through, children to take care of and clients to see. If you find that winter with its cold weather, contagious sniffles and long, gloomy nights is a disheartening experience, then you are most certainly not alone. By being proactive this winter, it will not only lift your mood, but also ensure you deal with the dreaded bugs effectively.

In most instances, sore throats are caused by viral infections. Other symptoms that usually accompany a sore throat include a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing and coughs as well as mild fever.

If your sore throat is viral, antibiotics won’t help. In most instances, sore throats are not serious and often pass after a couple of days.


Choose natural immune-boosting herbs and spices to give you that kick-start to fight flu symptoms before they even start.

Spice up your meals during the cold winter months by using more garlic, ginger and turmeric as well as cayenne pepper – not only are these spices and herbs powerful antioxidants, but they are also excellent digestive aids and brilliant immune boosters.


  • Use an antiseptic gargle or throat spray, or gargle with warm salty water to help reduce swelling and pain.
  • Sucking lozenges or ice lollies will relieve the soreness of throats.
  • Avoid smoking or environments that are smoky.
  • Drink warm liquids or eat cool soft food.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially if you have a fever.


  • Should you fall into a risk group – including those with weakened immune systems from medication or HIV.
  • If you have symptoms that persist and don’t improve through self-care.
  • If you suffer from a continuously sore throat, swollen glands and fever, and you’re between the ages of 15 and 25. It could be glandular fever – a viral infectious disease that can persist for up to six weeks.
  • Visit your nearest emergency facility if you experience severe pain, have difficulty breathing and swallowing. If your voice becomes inaudible or if you begin to drool, or you make a high-pitched sound as you breathe.


Over the counter painkillers such as Paracetamol will assist with sore throats and reduce high fevers. Never exceed the recommended dosage as prescribed. Take note that children under the age of sixteen should not take aspirin.


Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is more than just a skin condition. It’s an indication that there’s a problem with your immune system. Eczema is said to be one of the main signs of allergy during the first days of life, with almost three out of every four children with early eczema developing asthma or hay fever later on.

The beneficial bacteria in your gut have been found to help prevent allergies. They train your immune system to distinguish between friend and foe substances and to respond appropriately. This may be one reason why they also appear to reduce eczema. Researchers have found that infants receiving probiotic supplements are half as likely to develop skin conditions.

At birth the human gastrointestinal tract is sterile. Babies get their first ‘inoculation’ of gut flora from the birth canal during childbirth. In the first days, months and years of life, a rapid colonisation of bacteria occurs until a stable indigenous gut microflora is established. Breastfeeding protects babies and assists in providing healthy gut flora, which is why it’s so crucial to your child’s health. No infant formulas can match this natural process.

The greatest benefit from probiotics, at least in terms of eczema, happens very early on in life. The preventive effect appears to be established within the first three months after birth, although it seems to be sustained during the first two years to a lesser extent.

This means that it’s essential for your baby to receive plenty of beneficial bacteria from the start, continuing through childhood and into adulthood.

Eczema appearing in adulthood is far less common and with each individual the rashes differ. Eczema may vary from very mild to severe, particularly with those individuals suffering from a dry, sensitive skin.

Eczema is extremely itchy and sufferers often scratch their skin until they draw blood, further aggravating the condition. When this happens, more inflammation and itching occur. This is called the itch-scratch cycle.

The areas that are effected are often dry, thickened or scaly. In fair-skinned individuals, these areas may at first appear red an often turn brown. In darker skinned individuals, eczema will usually affect pigmentation, making the area that is affected either darker or lighter.

In infants the condition can be quite alarming. The itchy rash can produce a nasty discharge that may lead to crusting, usually on the scalp and face, but the rash and parches can by anywhere on the body.

Eczema is not contagious and therefore does not spread from person to person. In many instances, eczema is manageable, but there is no cure.

The word eczema originates from the Greek, which means effervesce or to bubble over.


‘Prevention is better than cure’ holds true when it comes to eczema. Regular moisturising is important for dry skin, especially during the dry, cold winter months. It prevents skin from cracking, which may lead to eczema and psoriasis. Substances such as washing powders, creams, cosmetics or even certain fabrics rubbing against the delicate skin may cause flare ups. Extreme temperatures also play a part in causing eczema. Severely cold weather can be very harsh on the skin, as well as excessively hot weather, where we tend to perspire more than usual.

Animals can also trigger allergic reactions, as can stress, colds and upper respiratory infections. Foods that are triggers should also be avoided.


Ask a pediatrician, dermatologist, healthcare professional or pharmacist to assist with a diagnosis. This is especially important in the case of babies and young children.

Many individuals who have eczema also have other allergies. Your general practitioner may want to conduct allergy testing to ascertain what the irritants and triggers are.


Most of the creams prescribed for eczema are applied when the skin is damp, as this helps it retain as much moisture as possible. It’s important to moisturise correctly with well-formulated creams to relieve and prevent the dryness and itching which can lead to infection. Corticosteroids are often prescribed to lessen the inflammation.

Should the affected area become infected, antibiotic creams are used to deal with the infection and in severe cases, oral antibiotics may be used.

Severe itching can by soothed and reduced by using antihistamines or coal tar treatments. Phototherapy, where ultraviolet light is directed onto the affected area, can also bear positive results. Sunlight itself often has an amazing healing effect on eczema and regular exposure may just do the trick.

Topical immunomodulators are prescribed for the treatment of mild to moderate eczema. These are skin creams that work by altering the immune system’s response to allergens.

While there’s no cure for eczema, it can be managed effectively, either by avoiding certain situations and products or with medical treatment. Ask your general practitioner or pharmacist about the best treatment going forward.

What is drug addiction?

Addiction is a chronic disease characterised by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs. These brain changes can be persistent, which is why drug addiction is considered a “relapsing” disease—people in recovery from drug use disorders are at increased risk for returning to drug use even after years of not taking the drug.

It is common for a person to relapse, but relapse does not mean that treatment does not work. As with other chronic health conditions, treatment should be ongoing and should be adjusted based on how the patient responds. Treatment plans need to be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs.

What happens to the brain when a person takes drugs?

Most drugs affect the brain’s “reward circuit” by flooding it with the chemical messenger dopamine. This reward system controls the body’s ability to feel pleasure and motivates a person to repeat behaviors needed to thrive, such as eating and spending time with loved ones. This overstimulation of the reward circuit causes the intensely pleasurable “high” that can lead people to take a drug again and again.

As a person continues to use drugs, the brain adjusts to the excess dopamine by making less of it and/or reducing the ability of cells in the reward circuit to respond to it. This reduces the high that the person feels compared to the high they felt when first taking the drug—an effect known as tolerance. They might take more of the drug, trying to achieve the same dopamine high. It can also cause them to get less pleasure from other things they once enjoyed, like food or social activities.

Long-term use also causes changes in other brain chemical systems and circuits as well, affecting functions that include:

  • learning
  • judgment
  • decision-making
  • stress
  • memory
  • behaviour

Despite being aware of these harmful outcomes, many people who use drugs continue to take them, which is the nature of addiction.

Why do some people become addicted to drugs while others don’t?

No one factor can predict if a person will become addicted to drugs. A combination of factors influences risk for addiction. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance that taking drugs can lead to addiction. For example:

  • Biology. The genes that people are born with account for about half of a person’s risk for addiction. Gender, ethnicity, and the presence of other mental disorders may also influence risk for drug use and addiction.
  • Environment. A person’s environment includes many different influences, from family and friends to economic status and general quality of life. Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, early exposure to drugs, stress, and parental guidance can greatly affect a person’s likelihood of drug use and addiction.
  • Development. Genetic and environmental factors interact with critical developmental stages in a person’s life to affect addiction risk. Although taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction, the earlier that drug use begins, the more likely it will progress to addiction. This is particularly problematic for teens. Because areas in their brains that control decision-making, judgment, and self-control are still developing, teens may be especially prone to risky behaviors, including trying drugs.

Can drug addiction be cured or prevented?

As with most other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, treatment for drug addiction generally is not a cure. However, addiction is treatable and can be successfully managed. People who are recovering from an addiction will be at risk for relapse for years and possibly for their whole lives. Research shows that combining addiction treatment medicines with behavioral therapy ensures the best chance of success for most patients. Treatment approaches tailored to each patient’s drug use patterns and any co-occurring medical, mental, and social problems can lead to continued recovery.

More good news is that drug use and addiction are preventable. Results from NIDA-funded research have shown that prevention programs involving families, schools, communities, and the media are effective for preventing or reducing drug use and addiction. Although personal events and cultural factors affect drug use trends, when young people view drug use as harmful, they tend to decrease their drug taking. Therefore, education and outreach are key in helping people understand the possible risks of drug use. Teachers, parents, and health care providers have crucial roles in educating young people and preventing drug use and addiction.

Points to Remember

  • Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterised by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences.
  • Brain changes that occur over time with drug use challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs. This is why drug addiction is also a relapsing disease.
  • Relapse is the return to drug use after an attempt to stop. Relapse indicates the need for more or different treatment.
  • Most drugs affect the brain’s reward circuit by flooding it with the chemical messenger dopamine. This overstimulation of the reward circuit causes the intensely pleasurable “high” that leads people to take a drug again and again.
  • Over time, the brain adjusts to the excess dopamine, which reduces the high that the person feels compared to the high they felt when first taking the drug—an effect known as tolerance. They might take more of the drug, trying to achieve the same dopamine high.
  • No single factor can predict whether a person will become addicted to drugs. A combination of genetic, environmental, and developmental factors influences risk for addiction. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance that taking drugs can lead to addiction.
  • Drug addiction is treatable and can be successfully managed.
  • More good news is that drug use and addiction are preventable. Teachers, parents, and health care providers have crucial roles in educating young people and preventing drug use and addiction.


Most minor burns will heal on their own, and home treatment is usually all that is needed to relieve your symptoms and promote healing. But if you suspect you may have a more severe injury, use first-aid measures while you arrange for an evaluation by your doctor.

Immediate first aid for burns:

  • First, stop the burning to prevent a more severe burn.
    • Heat burns (thermal burns): Smother any flames by covering them with a blanket or water. If your clothing catches fire, do not run: stop, drop and roll on the ground to smother the flames.
    • Cold temperature burns: Try first aid measures to warm the areas. Small areas of your body (ears, face, nose, fingers and toes) that are really cold or frozen can be warmed by blowing warm air on them, tucking them inside your clothing or putting them in warm water.
    • Liquid scald burns (thermal burns): Run cool tap water over the burn for 10 to 20 minutes. Do not use ice.
    • Electrical burns: After the person has been separated from the electrical source, check for breathing and a heartbeat.
    • Chemical burns: Natural foods such as chili peppers which contain a substance irritating to the skin, can cause a burning sensation. When a chemical burn occurs, find out what chemical caused the burn.
    • Tar or hot plastic burns: Immediately run cold water over the hot tar or hot plastic to cool the tar or plastic.
  • Then look for other injuries. The burn may not be the only injury.
    • Remove any jewelry or clothing at the site of the burn. If clothing is stuck to the burn, do not remove it. Carefully cut around the stuck fabric to remove loose fabric. Remove all jewelry, because it may be hard to remove it later if swelling occurs.

Prepare for an evaluation by a doctor:

  • Cover the burn with a clean, dry cloth to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Do not put any salve or medicine on the area so your doctor can properly assess your burn.
  • Do not put ice or butter on the burned area as these measures don’t help and can damage the skin tissue.

Home treatment for minor burns:

  • Use cool cloths on burned areas.
  • Take frequent cool showers or baths.
  • Apply soothing lotions that contain Aloe Vera to burned areas to relieve pain and swelling. Applying 0.5% hydrocortisone cream to the burned area also may help. Note: Do not use the cream on children younger than age 2 unless your doctor tells you to. Do not use in the rectal or vaginal area of children younger than age 12 unless your doctor tells you to.
  • There isn’t much you can do to stop skin from peeling after a sunburn as it’s part of the healing process. Lotion may help relieve the itching.
  • Other home treatment measures such as chamomile, may help relieve your sunburn symptoms.


Everything you need to know about the Flu Vaccine and Its Side Effects

A simple vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from the flu. It may sound like a minor illness, but it can cause enormous problems for some people and even be deadly.

When should I get it?

The best time to get a flu shot is as soon as it’s available. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to be effective, so the earlier you get it, the higher your odds of staying well.

What types of vaccine can I get?

There are several:

  • The traditional flu shot is an injection into your arm muscle. It’s made from pieces of inactive flu viruses.
  • An egg-free flu shot is an option for people over the age of 18 who have severe egg allergies.
  • The high-dose flu shot is for people aged 65 and older. They may need a stronger dose to get the same protection.
  • An intradermal flu shot uses a tiny needle that only goes skin deep. It’s for people aged 18 to 64.

Some vaccines protect against more than one flu virus strain. Trivalent vaccines work against three strains and quadrivalent vaccines fight four types of flu. The traditional flu shot comes in both forms and the high-dose only in the trivalent form.

How does it work?

The shots prompt your body to get ready to fight an infection from the flu virus. It helps you create tools, called antibodies, to fight the virus when you’re exposed to it. Doctors tweak the vaccines each season and select strains based on the ones they think are most likely to show up that year.

The vaccine itself doesn’t cause the flu but it takes about two weeks to start working. Some people get it, then catch the virus before their body is ready to fight it. It’s human nature to see a link between the two events, but the flu shot can’t cause the flu or make you more likely to get it. You can also get sick even if you get the vaccine, but your illness will most likely be milder.

Who should get it?

We recommend that everyone 6 months and older get immunised against the flu unless there’s a medical reason not to. The vaccine is especially important for people who are at high risk of serious complications if they get the flu, including:

  • Kids younger than 5, but in particular those under the age of 2.
  • The elderly – 65 or older.
  • Pregnant women.
  • People who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.
  • Adults and kids with diseases of the lungs (like asthma), heart, kidneys, liver, blood, or metabolism (like diabetes).
  • Anyone under the age of 19 who gets long-term aspirin therapy.

Should I talk to my Doctor first?

Ask your doctor first if:

  • You’ve had an allergic reaction to a flu shot in the past.
  • You’re very ill. If you have a mild illness, it’s usually okay to get vaccinated, but talk to your doctor first.

What are the side effects?

You might have a mild fever and feel tired or achy after you get the shot. Some people also have soreness, redness, or swelling where the needle went in. These problems aren’t serious and won’t last long.

Serious side effects are rare. If you do get them, it should be within a few minutes to a few hours after you get the shot. Get emergency help right away if you have trouble breathing, hives, feel weak or dizzy, or have a fast heartbeat after you get it.

Side effects in children can include:

  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever

Side effects in adults can include:

  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Sore throat


1. Eat Well

Good eye health starts with the food on your plate. Nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc, and vitamins C and E might help ward off age-related vision problems like macular degeneration and cataracts. To get them, fill your plate with:

  • Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and collards.
  • Salmon, tuna and other oily fish.
  • Eggs, nuts, beans and other nonmeat protein sources.
  • Oranges and other citrus fruits or juices.
  • Oysters and pork.

A well-balanced diet also helps you stay at a healthy weight. That lowers your odds of obesity and related diseases like type 2 diabetes, which is the leading cause of blindness in adults.

2. Quit Smoking

It makes you more likely to get cataracts, damage to your optic nerve, and macular degeneration. If you’ve tried to kick the habit before only to start again, keep at it. The more times you try to quit, the more likely you are to succeed. Ask your doctor for help.

3. Wear Sunglasses

The right pair of shades will help protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Too much UV exposure boosts your chances of cataracts and macular degeneration. Choose a pair that blocks 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Wraparound lenses help protect your eyes from the side. Polarized lenses reduce glare while you drive. If you wear contact lenses, some offer UV protection. It’s still a good idea to wear sunglasses for an extra layer.

4. Use Safety Eyewear

If you use hazardous or airborne materials on the job or at home, wear safety glasses or protective goggles. Sports like ice hockey, racquetball and lacrosse can also lead to eye injury. Wear eye protection. Helmets with protective face masks or sports goggles with polycarbonate lenses will shield your eyes.

5. Look Away From the Computer Screen

Staring at a computer or phone screen for too long can cause:

  • Eyestrain
  • Blurry vision
  • Trouble focusing at a distance
  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches
  • Neck, back, and shoulder pain

To protect your eyes:

  • Make sure your glasses or contacts prescription are up to date and good for looking at a computer screen.
  • If your eye strain won’t go away, talk to your doctor about computer glasses.
  • Move the screen so your eyes are level with the top of the monitor. That lets you look slightly down at the screen.
  • Try to avoid glare from windows and lights. Use an anti-glare screen if needed.
  • Choose a comfortable, supportive chair. Position it so that your feet are flat on the floor.
  • If your eyes are dry, blink more.
  • Rest your eyes every 20 minutes. Look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Get up at least every 2 hours and take a 15-minute break.

6. Visit Your Eye Doctor Regularly

Everyone needs a regular eye exam, even young children. It helps protect your sight and lets you see your best. Eye exams can also find diseases, like glaucoma, that have no symptoms. It’s important to spot them early on when they’re easier to treat.

Depending on your eye health needs, you can see one of two types of doctors:

  • Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who specialise in eye care. They can provide general eye care, treat eye diseases and perform eye surgery.
  • Optometrists have had 4 years of specialised training after college. They provide general eye care and treat the most common eye diseases. They don’t do eye surgery.

A comprehensive eye exam might include:

  • Talking about your personal and family medical history.
  • Vision tests to see if you’re nearsighted, farsighted, have anastigmatism (a curved cornea that blurs vision), or presbyopia (age-related vision changes).
  • Tests to see how well your eyes work together.
  • Eye pressure and optic nerve tests to check for glaucoma.
  • External and microscopic examination of your eyes before and after dilation.



Whether you’re taking a brief hiatus from baby making or have all the kids you need, our handy guide to birth control will help you find the best fit.

The Pill

The contraceptive pill will prevent you from getting pregnant in 95% of cases and it comes close to providing 99% protection if you take one pill every day as prescribed.

The pill can come in two forms: the combined contraceptive pill (containing the hormones estrogen and progestin) or the mini-pill (only progestin). In the case of the mini-pill, it’s important that you take your pill every day at the same time (you should not be late by more than three hours).

Keep in mind that the pill does not provide any protection against STIs and that a doctor’s prescription is required to buy it.

The Male Condom

Among the different types of contraceptives, the male condom is a strong contender to the title of most common contraception method. It’s easy to use, affordable and offers the best protection against STIs (e.g. gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV).

Condoms are usually made of latex, but if you’re allergic to latex, some brands also specialise in condoms made of polyurethane or lambskin. These two are also compatible with lube (latex condoms are not, unless with water-based lubricant); however lambskin condoms do not provide protection against STIs.

For safety reasons, make sure you use a new condom each time you have sex.

The Female Condom

Just like the male condom, the female condom is one of the few types of contraception that you can buy over-the-counter at pharmacies and grocery stores without a prescription.

It was first introduced twenty years ago and offers 95% effective protection for pregnancy, as well as some protection against STIs. Female condoms are generally more expensive than the male ones but they are less likely to burst. They can be inserted up to eight hours before sex.

The Diaphragm

Continuing with the list of barrier contraception methods, there is the diaphragm which is placed inside the vagina so that it prevents the sperm from getting into the uterus. Despite being a barrier method, it doesn’t protect against STIs.

The diaphragm must be coated with spermicide each time before sex and a doctor needs to show you how to use it (you need a prescription to get one). It is inserted at least six hours before sex and it needs to be removed after 24 hours for cleaning. Depending on the material and type of the diaphragm, it can be reused many times.

The Cervical Cap – Femcap

The cervical cap (sold as Femcap) is a thimble-shaped latex cup, basically like a diaphragm but smaller. It also needs to be used with a spermicide. The cervical cap must remain in the vagina at least 6 hours after sex, but it also has to be taken out within 48 hours after sex.

Because some women get cystitis (bladder infection) from using a diaphragm, the cervical cap is a useful replacement because it has less contact with the vagina (it only covers the cervix).

The problem with types of contraceptives such as the Femcap or the diaphragm is that their effectiveness –  92 to 95% protection in ideal use – is lower than other types (98-99%) and that they offer only partial protection against STIs (e.g. no HIV protection).

The Intrauterine Device (IUD)

You have the choice between two types of IUDs: hormonal or copper-based devices. Hormonal and copper IUDs are part of the few long-term solutions, meaning that you can keep them inside the vagina for up to five or ten years respectively.

The effectiveness rate for IUDs is above 99%, however they provide no protection against STIs. Note that IUDs can be a form of emergency contraception if the device is inserted within 5 days after unprotected sex. You will nonetheless need to visit a doctor to have it properly inserted and follow the prescription (e.g. a few follow-ups and check-ups for possible infection in the first weeks).

The Contraceptive Implant

The implant is another option among the types of contraceptives that offer long term protection. It lasts for about three years on average. Just like IUDs, the implant does not protect against STIs.

The contraceptive implant contains progestin (progesterone), the same hormone as the contraceptive pill. The hormone is released into your body at a steady, slow pace for three years, producing the same effects as the pill.

The implant is inserted in the arm by a healthcare specialist and must be removed after three years. Since the risk of human mistake is ruled out, the implant has a much higher effectiveness rate than the pill – around 99.99%.

The Contraceptive Sponge

The sponge is a small, round-shaped foam (polyurethane) placed deep inside the vagina. It contains spermicide so that sperm does not get past the foam. You should leave the sponge inside the vagina for at least six hours after sex, but remove it within 24 hours following sexual intercourse (to lessen the risk of toxic shock).

The sponge does not protect past those 24 hours and does not provide any STI protection. It’s sometimes used as a backup for other contraception methods (e.g. when you forgot to take the pill) and you can buy it without a prescription from the pharmacy.


Spermicide is a recurrent ingredient in contraception because it proves very effective when used in combination with other methods (e.g. diaphragm, sponge). In itself spermicide doesn’t always offer the best protection against pregnancy, although this is also due to inconsistent use of the product.

You don’t need a prescription to buy spermicide and it has very few associated side-effects, but keep in mind that it does not protect against STIs.

Contraceptive Injections

This method dates back to the 60s with the invention of artificial progesterone (progestin). One shot of hormones lasts in the body for 8 to 12 weeks (3 months) and has the same effect as the pill.

Injections are about 99% effective, with pregnancy occurring mostly with women who forgot to renew their contraceptive shot in time (i.e. past weeks 11 to 12). Obviously, once the shot is given it cannot be reversed, so you are effectively infertile for the next three months.

Just like the contraceptive pill, contraceptive injections do not protect from STIs.

The Vaginal Ring

The vaginal contraceptive ring is a small, transparent plastic ring that is inserted in the vagina and kept for three weeks. You should then remove it during your periods and replace it with a new one after that.

The ring contains the same hormones as the contraceptive pill (progesterone and estrogen), therefore providing the same kind of effective protection and side effects. You will need your doctor’s prescription to buy the ring.

Just like other hormonal contraception, the vaginal ring does not protect from STIs.

The Contraceptive Patch

The contraceptive patch is exactly the same thing as the contraceptive pill but in the form of a patch. It provides the same effective protection against pregnancy and has the side effects (positive and negative). It does not protect from STIs.

You wear the patch for three weeks, take it off for one week – allowing your menstrual cycle – then you start with a new patch. The patch is an interesting option in as much as you don’t need to think about taking the pill every day.

There is however a risk of skin irritation, and a (rare) chance that the patch accidentally comes off.

Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception exists to stop you getting pregnant if you have had unprotected sex.

This method is for one-off occasions and is not recommended for daily use. It is particularly useful if a condom broke or if you missed one of your contraceptive pills.


A sterilisation is an option available to both men and women.

As far as male contraception is concerned, the technique is called a vasectomy and consists in tying off and cutting the tubes that carry sperm – without the need for a scalpel intervention or stitches. The man can then go home the same day.

This provides no protection against STIs and the effects are for life. In very rare cases (less than 1%), the tubes can grow back, making pregnancy a risk.

As for female sterilisation, this is also a very simple operation after which you can go back home the very same day. You have the choice between surgical and non-surgical types of sterilisation.

Surgical sterilisation (known as tubal litigation) requires very small cuts in the belly to access the Fallopian tubes, cut them and tie them so that they cannot link the ovaries with the uterus any more. The effects are permanent so you must be sure of your choice.

Non-surgical sterilisation consists of placing a coil in each Fallopian tube – through the vagina and uterus – so that scars appear and eventually block each tube completely. The scars may take up to 3 months to completely block the tubes, so you need to use another method of contraception in the meantime.

Both options also offer more than 99% of protection against pregnancy (and none against STIs) because of rare cases where blocked tubes happen to grow back and reconnect (1 in 200 women).

Natural Family Planning

Although not a device or a pill, this is still a method of contraception. Natural family planning relies on knowing the menstrual cycle (periods) so that couples avoid having sex when the woman is fertile.

Three techniques (basal body temperature, cervical mucus and rhythm/calendar method) can be used for this, with higher protection rates when all three methods are used in combination. The effectiveness of this type of contraception varies between 75% to 99% (but 85% on average) with the higher uncertainty due to the fact that most women do not have a perfectly regular menstrual cycle.

What if I use no contraception?

In the absence of contraception, over 80% of women will fall pregnant within one year.

Needless to say, abstinence remains the only way to enjoy 100% protection from both pregnancy and STIs.

The use of contraception is widespread. It is used by anyone who wants to have sex, but avoid getting pregnant or contracting a sexually transmitted infection.

Contraception effectiveness

There is no such thing as a contraception method that offers 100% protection against pregnancy or STIs, because there is always a risk (even one in a thousand) that an accident could happen, be it rupture of a condom or human error (e.g. forgetting to take the contraceptive pill).

This makes it all the more important to look at effectiveness rates for different methods. Overall it’s important to take into account that human errors can happen (e.g. more with the pill than with injections), how easy it is to use (e.g. condoms vs. diaphragm), and how good the effectiveness is for every method, in ideal use.

On average, hormonal contraception methods (e.g. the pill) are over 95% effective or more, and the condom is about 99% effective, although other barrier methods such as the diaphragm offer a protection rate of between 80% to 95%.

The more careful and consistent you are, the higher is the contraceptive effectiveness for each method. For example, a careless use of condoms can make the effectiveness rate drop to nearly 85%.

The A to Z of Immunisation

The A to Z of Immunisation

Immunisation or vaccination works by stimulating a person’s immune system to produce antibodies (substances produced by the body to fight disease) without actually infecting the person with the disease. All forms of Immunisation work the same way and involves a vaccine being injected or swallowed. The body then recognises the vaccine as a disease and develops antibodies (proteins that fight infection) against it. Because the vaccine is a weak or dead version of the disease, the person will not contract the illness. Next time the immunised person comes in contact with the disease, the antibodies will recognise and fight it. It is important to be aware, however, that in rare cases vaccination is ineffective and does not result in a person being immunised against the particular disease.

What is a vaccine?

Some vaccines contain a very small dose of a live, non-harmful form of a virus. Some vaccines contain a very small dose of killed bacteria or small parts of bacteria and other vaccines contain a small dose of modified toxin produced by bacteria.

How long does it work?

The normal immune response takes several weeks to work. This means protection from an infection will not occur immediately after immunisation. Some immunisations need to be given several times to build long lasting protection. This is called a booster.

How effective are they?

Some Immunisations give lifelong protection after one dose, while other types will need booster shots. There are a small number of people who will not develop antibodies even after receiving all doses of a vaccine. Generally 85 to 95% of people will be adequately immunised. The remainder can still be protected from the diseases if other people around them are immunised. Remember that while some of these diseases (such as poliomyelitis) have been eradicated, the organisms that cause them are still in the environment. If immunisation levels drop, the incidence of disease will increase again.

What are the known side effects?

Side effects are usually very mild. Often the injected limb will be sore, with a small, red lump at the site. The tetanus vaccination can be particularly painful. Use a cold pack on the site if it becomes troublesome. Sometimes there may also be a mild fever, which can be relieved with paracetamol. Some people may develop a slight rash a couple of weeks later, which is an indication an immune response has occurred. Serious reactions such as febrile convulsions, vomiting or encephalitis are extremely rare.

Side effects and children:

Remember, the risk of serious Immunisation Side Effects is extremely rare. It is not advisable to give your child paracetamol before immunisations. Paracetamol may mask an adverse reaction and there is evidence to suggest that it may also interfere with the way the immunisation works in the body.

Seek medical attention immediately if any of the following occur after Immunisation:

  • High fever (above 38.5 degrees Celsius or 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing.
  • Hives or severe skin rash.
  • Paleness, weakness or drowsiness.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Dizziness or fainting.
  • Swelling of the throat.

Treatment options

Immunisations may not be recommended in certain cases. In some of the situations below, immunisation may still be recommended. Your Doctor will help you establish the risks and benefits for your condition.

  • Pregnant women and those planning to become pregnant within one month. When a vaccine is to be given during pregnancy, it should be delayed until the second or third trimester if possible. Pregnant women should avoid exposure to people with infectious illnesses.
  • People with severely weakened immune systems. This may be due to some types of cancer, chemotherapy treatment, and leukaemia, high doses of steroids, symptomatic HIV/AIDS or transplant surgery.
  • People who are allergic to egg proteins, yeast or neomycin, as some vaccines contain these substances.
  • People with a high-grade fever (higher than 38 degrees Celsius/99 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Children with moderate to severe diarrhoea, middle ear infection or vomiting.

Immunisations are generally considered safe for:

  • People who have mild reactions to previous immunisations.
  • People with neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, epilepsy or convulsions.
  • People who have already had one or more of the infectious illnesses covered by the vaccine.
  • Premature babies.
  • Family history of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • People with asthma, eczema, hay fever or simple allergies.
  • People with a runny nose, mild cold, low-grade fever or other mild illness.
  • People on antibiotics or low doses of steroids.
  • Babies being breast-fed or bottle-fed.
  • Children over the age recommended in the standard immunisation schedule.


The initials AIDS stand for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. It’s a viral infection which, to date, has no known cure. The human body has many different types of white blood cells that circulate around the body. These all have a specific job to do in the body’s natural immune system.

Some white blood cells, T4, act as helper cells. These support other cells of immunity to defend the body against infection. These T4 cells can become infected with the AIDS virus and the virus then kills the T4 cells. As a result, the natural immune system of the body does not do its job properly. The body is easily attacked by even simple infections, allowing more serious secondary infections to take hold.

Patients’ reaction may vary and initially the person may suffer for only a short period from an illness with similar symptoms to that of glandular fever. All this may appear only a few months after the initial infection. Others show no sign of any illness for years. All sorts of symptoms may appear such as diarrhoea, fever – adults, sweating, fatigue and aching joints. The patient may also suffer of sudden weight loss. As the disease progresses and the symptoms become more severe, conditions such as lung disease, skin tumours, severe fungal infections of the mouth and throat, and severe diarrhoea can occur. Patients suffering from AIDS also develop various malignancies, most notably Kaposi’s sarcoma and lymphomas.

The infection cannot be passed on by simply touching a patient or by drinking from the same glass. The virus is thought to die in the air and is destroyed outside the body by soap and household bleach. The infection is passed on by prolonged contact of body fluids, thus the recommendation of a CONDOM for sexual intercourse. For drug addicts, the use of a used syringe contaminated by infected blood is another method of infection. Blood transfusions between 1980 and 1985 were also not fully protected by the antibody test for AIDS. Some people were infected during that period and if you had a blood transfusion at that time, it’s important that you should check with your Doctor.


Never share needles, but if you have to, then as a last resort to clean them. No cleaning method can be guaranteed to do the job so make sure you always have access to new, clean needles. Needle exchange programmes have been set up for this purpose. According to the analysis of HIV surveillance data by the Centres for Disease Control in the USA, 25 percent of AIDS cases reported in 2002 were among injection drug users.

Treatment options

As with all conditions, your Doctor should be consulted to diagnose and treat this condition. In all cases the AIDS patient must be under the constant supervision of a Doctor.
Diet hints

  • The AIDS virus can progress quickly and more severely in a person with nutritional deficiencies. Common nutritional deficiencies in AIDS patients include Vitamin A and C as well as zinc. These nutrients can be found in yellow, orange and red fruits and vegetables, pumpkin seeds and oysters.
  • Avoid all processed foods, saturated fats, alcohol, tea, coffee and simple sugars such as cakes, lollies and soft drinks.
  • Eat lots of raw, fresh fruits and vegetables – 4 to 5 servings a day. Drink fresh fruit juices with no added sugar and include plenty of fibre from whole grains in the diet as well.
  • Eat high quality proteins such as fish, eggs and yoghurt. Fish contains Omega-3 fatty acids and yoghurt contains acidophilus which can help to improve the bowel bacteria. Eat only small quantities of lean meats.
  • Protein supplement powders supply all the necessary amino acids and don’t over burden the immune system.
  • Avoid yeast containing foods such as white breads, alcohol and mushrooms.
  • Introduce garlic wherever possible. It has natural healing and antibiotic properties.


Nutritional supplements are only to be used if the dietary vitamin intake is inadequate.

  • Vitamin C can support immune function and may therefore be beneficial.
  • Vitamin E has been reported to assist in slowing the progression of HIV to AIDS.
  • Vitamin B Complex may be deficient therefore supplementation may assist.
  • Many studies have shown that people with HIV have a greater need for Antioxidants. Coenzyme Q10 is a potent antioxidant and nutrient that can aid in energy production and immunity.
  • Zinc can support immune function.
  • Milk thistle may assist liver function if using pharmaceutical medications for the treatment of HIV/AIDS.
  • Turmeric may be a very useful in the treatment of HIV, as it can assist in stopping the virus at every stage of infection. This herb should be taken in the form of curcumin tablets.

Pharmacist’s advice

Ask your Pharmacist for advice.

  1. Use condoms to help reduce the spread of AIDS via sexual contact. Your Pharmacy stocks a range of condoms.
  2. Acidophilus may help improve digestion and bowel bacteria in some AIDS sufferers.
  3. If your diet is inadequate, consider some nutritional supplements. Vitamin C and vitamin E are often used to boost the immune system in AIDS patients. Selenium has also been used due to its antiviral activity.