Thursday, May 28, 2009

Caring For Your Skin - Age Spots

The latest skincare science and new hero ingredients are working hard to help you keep your youthful glow. Nothing in the name of beauty is ever easy, but scan the skincare shelves in shops today and you'll notice more products than ever targeting problems such as age spots, uneven patches, dullness - or simply put, skin that has lost its radiance.

"Uneven tone on your face can age you twice as much as the lines around your eyes," says Paul Matts, research fellow with Olay skin care. In fact, skin tome can add or subtract as many as 12 years to or from people's perception of your age, according to Matts and a team of biologists. Add to that the Global Truth in Beauty Survey published in 2007 by Clinique , in which women around the world, from Asians to Australians, ranked uneven tone higher than lines as their biggest skincare challenge - and you could say patchy skin is the new wrinkle.

Environment & lifestyle
We know that drinking plenty of water and having a balanced diet can help skin tone, but when we cannot stop the march of time. "most women atart seeing tonal changes in their skin by their early 30s," says dermatologist Jean-Francois Trenblay, the medical director of an aesthetic medical institute in Canada. If you are a sun worshipper, smoker or city dweller (where pollution is high) or are chronically stressed, you may notice dilated blood vessels, brown spots and dullness (which result from loss of collagen) even earlier than that, according to Tremblay. Collagen adds structure to the face, but when free radicals caused by a lifetime of exposure to sunlight and pollution break it down, it stops reflecting light, making skin look dull.

Here's what happens when you go outside without sunscreen: UV rays initially dry the skin but eventually they change the DNA of your pigment cells, causing them to overproduce melanin (brown spots) by middle age. Too much sunshine can turn today's tan into a web of spider veins and rosy patches across your cheeks and nose by the time you're in your 50s and 60s.
Pollutants can cause damage too. When airborne particulates penetrate sensitive skin, they may dilate tiny blood vessels in the face and set off an inflammatory reaction, making skin itchy and red.

Hormones can also do a number on your skin. Pregnant women may experience increased pigmentation in areas where they've sustained sun damage, or they may develop melasma, also called the 'pregnancy mask' due to the patchy, dark pigmentation that shows up on the cheeks, forehead and chin. Meanwhile, post-menopausal women experience low sebum production after their oestrogen level drop, which can make skin dry and sallow.

Skin fixers
Thankfully, scientists and skincare companies are scrambling to meet the demands of consumers for whom healthy-looking skin and even pigmentation is a top priority.

For flushing that is persistent, but not as sever as rosacea, skincare companies, including Dermalogica and Aveeno, use ingredients such as soy and white tea. These extracts are gentle and effective at keeping inflammation and redness at bay, while daily use of a sunscreen with SPF15 or higher has been shown to keep capillary walls strong and leak-free.

"I also tell my patients with reactive skin to avoid all axfoliants and at-home microdermabrasion kits," says Tremblay. "They will only irritate skin further."

So long as your skin isn't reactive, exfoliation is still the best way to keep your skin looking fresh. Try Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant (a gentle scrub with a skin-brightening complex of rice bran, salicylic acid, grapefruit, green tea and licorice). For those who prefer a visit to the dermatologist, prescription retinoid creams helps stimulate collagen production and improve the complexion. These creams contain retinioc acid, a vitamin A derivative.

The latest creams designed to help with age spots contain ingredients that block the formation of melanin, the pigment responsible for age spots, before they appear.

In 2006, Procter & Gamble unveiled the Olay Definity skincare line with N-acetyl glucosamine and niacinamide (vitamin M3), two ingredients that work together to help normalise pigment overproduction in UV-damaged skin cells.

Today, many companies have incorporated melanin blockers into their age-spot treatments, daily moisturisers and night-time skin care. Products in Vichy's Bi-White line contain procystein, a molecule that is purported to stop skin-damaging free radicals in their tracks and reduce melanin production by almost 25 percent.

Meanwhile, Estee Lauder, Shiseido, Dior and RoC are all making full use of a range of other ingredients, including stabilised vitamin C, licorice and mulberry extract, that are said to prevent the appearance of age spots.

"Mild age spots are best treated with a prescription retinoid cream," says Tremblay, But "the most highly pigmented spots disappear with fractional lasers like The Pixel. It's safe on all skin tones - white, black, Asian and Middle Eastern - and that's a significant advancement.

Medical Special - Back Pain

"Owww!…my back hurts!". How many of us wish we never have to utter those words again? Rest up for a couple of days while taking some ibuprofen or naproxen sodium to ease swelling and relieve the pain. Also try the fast-acting solutions below - especially ice and heat - for immediate relief. The slowly get moving again. When your back is feeling moderately better, do some stretching and strengthening exercises - every day without fail - and in four to six weeks your back should be back in action.

Ice first, heat later
* As a pain reliever, ice works really well. It temporarily blocks pain signals and helps to reduce swelling. Several times a day, place an icepack wrapped in a towel on the painful area for up to 20 minutes. Alternatively, you can use a bag of frozen peas. During the first few days of home treatment, apply the ice pack as often as necessary. Later, you may still want to use ice after exercise or any physical activity.

* After about 48 hours, switch to moist heat to stimulate blood flow and reduce painful spasms. Dip a towel in very warm water, wring it out, then flatten and fold it. Lie on your stomach with pillows under your hips and ankles. Place the towel across the painful area, cover the towel with plastic wrap. Leave it for up to 20 minutes. You can repeat this three or four times a day for several days.

Rub in some relief
* Ask a partner or close friend to massage the aching area. If you want to use a cream or ointment sold as a back rub, then do so, but with care - these topical creams tend to cause skin irritation after a few applications. For a simple back massage aid, stuff several tennis balls into a long sock, tie the end of the sock and ask someone to roll it up and down your back.

* Rub on an old-fashion liniment. Choose a cream containing methyl, diethylamine or glycol salicylate. All are similar and have pain-relieving properties. Examples include Mersal and Deep Heat. (Caution: Do not use a liniment if you are also using heating pads or list compresses on the area). The creams, known as counter-irritants, stimulate nerve endings in the skin, distracting you from deeper pain. When you use these creams, you're also giving yourself a massage - and the hands-on pressure combined with the surface action provides a double benefit. Or try a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory gel such as Voltaren Emugel or Feldene gel. These topical treatments penetrate the skin to reduce inflammation in the deeper tissues.

* Prevent stiffness with peppermint oil. Massaging a sore back with this blend helps stimulate circulation and speed healing. Combine 10 drops of peppermint essential oil with 30ml almond oil in a dark glass bottle. Shake well before applying, then use a little to rub into the affected area twice a day.

* Your doctor may be prepared to prescribe a cream that contains capsaicin - the heat producing substance in hot chilies. Applied to your skin, capsaicin depletes nerve endings of a neurochemical called substance P, which researches have found is essential for transmitting pain sensations to the brain. When there's less substance P in circulation, pain is reduced. It may take several weeks to feel the full effect. Stop using it if you begin to feel any skin irritation.

Try these herbal soothers
* Take up to 500mg of bromelain three time a day on an empty stomach. Derived from pineapples, this enzyme promotes circulation, reduces swelling and helps your body to reabsorb the by-products of inflammation. (Caution: Because bromelain is a blood thinner, it should be avoided by anyone taking anticoagulant drugs, such as warfarin).

* Try taking valerian tablets or capsules. Some scientists claim that the herb's active ingredients interact with receptors in the brain to cause a sedating effect. Although sedatives are not generally recommended, valerian is much milder than any pharmaceutical product. (Valerian can also be made into a tea, but the smell is so strong - reminiscent of overused gym socks - that supplements are an easier alternative).

* Arnica gel or ointment helps to ease muscle pain and soreness. Homeopaths claim it has anti-inflammatory properties and that it helps speed recovery from illness. Massage into sore area 2-3 times daily. (Caution: Do not apply arnica to broken skin).

Fast relief from the doctor.
Doctors used to prescribe muscle relaxants for quick relief, but these drugs are rarely prescribed anymore. They tend to make people tired and contribute to poor muscle tone and coordination, which is just the opposite of what you really need for back pain relief. These days, if your visit to your doctor or hospital to be treated for intense pain, you are more likely to be given a short course of powerful pain-killers or anti-inflammatory drugs, to stop muscle spasm and relief the pain.

* Ease soreness with aroma therapy. Soak in a hot bath to ease pain. Add Epsom salts to help reduce muscle spasm, plus 3-5 drops of any of the following essential oils: rosemary (to soothe stiffness), lavender (a mild antiseptic), or marjoram (which is warm and relaxing).

Perfect your posture
* Look for the posture that puts the least stress on your back. Stand up straight with your weight evenly balanced on both feet. Tilt your pelvis forward, then back, exaggerating the movement. Then settle into the position that feels most comfortable. Now 'work your way up' your back, focusing on one area at a time. First concentrate on the area near your waist, then your chest and finally your neck and shoulders. Try to feel which position is most comfortable and least stressful. This is the position to maintain when you're standing, walking and beginning or ending any exercise.

* When you're sleeping, lie on (unless you have sciatica). If you're not comfortable on your back, place a pillow under your knees as well as your head to relieve pressure on your lower back. If you prefer to sleep on your side, place a pillow between your legs. If you have sciatica, the recommended position is on your stomach.

* If you like to sit up in bed to read or watch television, buy a large foam wedge that supports your upper body in a comfortable position. For added comfort - and to keep your neck in the proper position - use a foam or an inflatable neck support when you are sitting up.

* When you are sitting in an office chair or at home, keep your feet flat on the floor, with your hips slightly higher than your knees. Use a lumbar support behind your lower back. The lumbar roll is a chair's width foam cylinder about 12cm in diameter. You can improvise with a rolled-up towel, but the foam version is lighter, easier to position and usually have straps that attach it to the back of the chair.

* Try and stay out of the car, but if you must drive, place a foam wedge behind your lower back.

* If you're accustomed to walking around with a wallet in your hip pocket, take it out whenever you're sitting. Even though it feels like a small lump, it's big enough to tilt your backside, throwing your spine ever so slightly out of alignment.

* When you're standing at the sink washing dishes, or waiting in a bus queue, raise one foot higher than the other. In the kitchen, keep a low sturdy box or a couple of old books by the sink, and put up a foot while you're standing by these. Waiting in a queue, use a sky or a curb. (Think of the traditional brass vail in a pub or a bar, which serves the same purpose). Periodically change position by putting up the opposite foot. This shifting of weight gives alternating back muscles a chance to relax.

Rise and Shine.
* Each morning before you get out of bed, lie on your back and slowly stretch your arms overhead (being careful to avoid any fast jerk movements). Gently pull your knees to your chest, one at a time. To get up, roll to the edge of your bed, turn on your side, put your knees over the edge, and use one arm to push yourself up as you let your feet swing to the floor. Once you're on your feet, put your hands on your buttocks and lean back very slowly to stretch out your spine.

* Make the mind-body connection. Research indicates that daily relaxation, meditation or guided imagery can reduce pain perception. A Swedish study of people with recurring back pain found that relaxation techniques both reduced pain and increased feelings of well-being.

* Explore postural therapies. If back pain is a recurring problem, you need to learn how to keep your spine and pelvis supple (and supporting muscles strong). Treatments that help restore function and improve posture include Feldenkrais and the Alexander techniques. There is also much evidence to support the notion that the maintenance of strong abdominal muscles is a key to a pain-free back..

Get the scoop
* The Pilates exercises system is an excellent example of a program designed to help achieve core stability, which in turn supports back function. Community Centers and hospitals may have classes on offer. Perhaps the concept which is most important when you are practicing Pilates exercises is that of 'scooping'. The Pilates technique is primarily concerned with the strength and control of your torso, specifically the lateral band of muscles known as the transverse abdominals. These are the muscles that surround your waist from front to back and which, when tensed, pull the abdominal wall back towards the spine. The action of scooping is pulling the muscles of your abdominal wall toward your back in a sucking motion. As you do so, ensure that your upper body does not slouch forward, nor should your hip jut forward: the 'scoop' is a purely muscular action. (Tip: say to yourself; "Navel to spine", and visualize your belly button reversing in a straight line towards your backbone to get the action right). Use this easy, do-anywhere technique to enhance your posture and breathing, tone your tummy and improve your core strength. This in turn stabilizes your back, especially the lower back area, and helps to eliminate back pain and minimize the threat to potential injury.

The roots of the sciatica nerve lie near the base of your spine. They pass through a tunnel in your pelvic called the sciatic notch, then come together like separate lanes merging in highways - the two large sciatic nerves that lead all the way down your legs. When the sciatic nerves are pinched - by pressure from a herniated disc, for instance - sensations of pain, tingling or numbness may extend all the way from your buttocks to your legs, feet and toes.

About half the people who have sciatica achieve good results from most of the treatments recommended for lower back pain. If you have sciatica and don't get relief with these treatments, however, you should keep your doctor informed. And contact your doctor straightaway if your foot is dragging or if you stumble when you walk, or, if you start to have trouble controlling your bladder and bowels. You may need urgent treatment in hospital and possibly surgery.

Tried and true
In days gone by, mustard poultice was a favorite remedy for sore backs and aching joints. Like capsaicin and other counter-irritants, mustard delivers a warm, tingling sensation that can distract you from deeper pain. To make a poultice, mix one part powdered mustard with two parts flour, adding water until you have a paste. Spread it on an old tea towel, then fold the cloth over and apply it like a compress to your skin; the mustard paste will seep through. Mustard can burn if left on for too long, so remove it if you feel skin discomfort. Don't use a mustard poultice more than three times a day. (Caution: Protect the skin with petroleum jelly when using a mustard poultice).

Should I call a doctor?
Before you try any home remedies or exercises, see a doctor to find out whether you have a common type of lower back pain or a medical problem that requires specialist treatment. A good physiotherapist or chiropractor can help to stop the back spasm by applying traction and gentle manipulation. Also see your doctor if pain comes on suddenly, radiates down your legs to your knee or foot, or if it is accompanied by fever, stomach cramps, chest pain or labored breathing. Doctors often view back pain as a wake-up call, and many recommend an exercise program to stabilize and strengthen the spine to help prevent future problems.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Who Will Win The Subaru Impreza?

According to the answers received during the survey carried out here a few weeks ago, it seemed that some believed the winner will come from within this department. There are some others who think that it will not be one of us but someone from within the institution.

None believed that a member of the public would win it.
Well, I think the chances of someone from the department winning it could just have skyrocketed because of the recent arrangement by Beng Ho to have everyone go through the hand-washing assessment conducted by TTSH's CSI agents.

Let's hope our dream come true. We await with bated breath the day we hear of the good news that one of us has won it! Keep your fingers crossed and hold your breath.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Proud Mommy Safawati

Congratulations to Safawati and Abang for the new addition to their family. We are trying to get more information from her. Until then, we will respect her privacy until we have the green light from her to furnish and publish the details.

Safawati, if you are reading us - it's over to you.

Congrats! and may the joy you experience today remains with you for always.

Take care and get well quick!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

$5M TOTO Result

Further Update: 27/05/2009:
Well folks, we did not win anything in Monday's TOTO draw as well as Wednesday's 4D draw.
Better luck next time and thanks for trying. Cheers!

Latest Update 25/05/2009:
This is what we are going to do with the $80 we won.
1. $40 will be used to purchase TOTO tickets for today's draw - 25/05/2009.
2. $20 ($10 big & $10 small) to bet on number 2280, and another $20 ($10 big & $10 small) on 8022.

The number '22' is the date the $5M draw was held, and, '80' is the amount we won, hence, 2280. Reverse the amount won and draw date and we get the reverse, 8022.

We shall proceed with this arrangement unless there are disagreements.

Numbers were given out this afternoon during lunch time - Good Luck!

At first check, I believe we have won $80. There were numerous 3 number misses. Will re-check tickets once more later.

IT is confirmed. We have won $80 - with numerous near misses. The payout is $2.20 per person with a balance of $3 to spare.

The winning tickets are all Ordinary Quickpick types with one ticket winning $20 and 2 tickets winning $30 each - for a total of $80.

There were 11 ordinary tickets with 3 winning numbers, missing out on the minimun 4 numbers required to win the smallest cash prize of $20 each.

There were 6 system seven tickets missing out on the same minimum and missing the chance to win between $60 and $90 for each ticket.

Group the two groups of misses together and we have actually missed out approximately $800 worth of cash winnnings.

This has been the best result so far in all our years of pooling our chances to strike the big one. We are not quite there yet - but definitely getting closer.

As for the online survey on whether we will strike the big one . . .

a. 75% believed we would strike the $5M jackpot,
b. 25% believed we would either strike the top or second prize, and,
c. 25% believed we would strike one of the smaller prizes.

Group C has gotten it right.

The tickets will be placed at the pantry for those who want to have a look at them. The winning tickets will be encashed and we'll see what to do with the $80 we have won. Stay tuned.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Medical Special - ASTHMA

For sever asthma attacks the kind of tightness, wheezing and shortness of breath that can be frightening - most people do as their doctor recommends. Often, that means quick action with a prescribed inhaler. If this is what you do, and it works, don't give up. If you use a preventive inhaler, you should continue to use it as prescribed, as this will cut down your risk of having an asthma attack. There is no cure for asthma, but there are lots of ways to reduce or even eliminate the symptoms. Certain simple lifestyle changes can help most asthma sufferers to breathe more easily.

What's wrong.
An asthma attack can occur when a irritant - usually a common substance like smoke, cold or dry air, pollen, mould or dust mites - meets a pair of sensitive lungs. Hormonal fluctuations, stress and anger can also trigger an attack. Sometimes there is no apparent cause.

Your difficulty in breathing occur because the bronchioles (air passages in the lungs) go into spasms. This can cause coughing and tightness in the chest. The spasms trigger the release of histamine and other chemicals that cause inflammation and the production of airway-clogging mucus.

Ease breathing during an attack.

* When an asthma attack occurs, try to stay calm. Panic can make your symptoms worse. This visualization trick may help. Close your eyes. As you inhale, see your lungs expand and fill with white light and feel your breathing become easier. Repeat the exercise twice more, then open your eyes.

* In an emergency, drink a strong cup of coffee, two 275ml cans of cola or a Red Bull (all of which are high in caffeine). Caffeine is chemically related to theophylline, a medication for asthma. It helps to open the airways.

Combat constriction with supplements.

* Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine have been using the herb ginkgo to treat asthma for centuries. One recent study suggests that this herb interferes with a protein in the blood that contributes to airway spasm. If you want to try it, buy supplements containing a standardized extract of ginkgo flavones, and take according to the manufacturer's instructions.

* Magnesium may make you feel better. Research suggests that magnesium relaxes the airways and reduces cardiovascular risk. The dose is 300mg a day for men and 270mg for women.

Counter inflammation.

* Omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish such as tuna, salmon and trout, work much like a class of asthma drugs called leukotriene inhibitors. These drugs stop the action of the body compounds that cause inflammation in the airways. (Talk to your doctor if your are taking anticoagulant drugs).

* Evening primrose oil is rich in an essential fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is converted by the body into anti-inflammatory substances. Take 1000mg three times a day (with meals, to enhance absorption).

* Bioflavonoids - compounds that give fruits and vegetables their bright colours - have powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties. Quercetin is one of the best-known bioflavonoids and inhibits the release of histamine. take 500mg of quercetin three times a day, 20 minutes before meals.

* Tumeric, the yellow spice commonly used to flavour Indian curries, is a powerful anti-inflammatory. The compound it contains inhibit the release of COX-2 prosraglandis, hormone-like substances involved in inflammation. Mix 1 teaspoon of tumeric powder - found in supermarkets - in a cup of warm milk and drink it up to three times a day. Tumeric capsules and tablets are also available from health food shops.

Keep a record

* Make a note of everything you eat for a month, along with your asthma symptoms. Although food allergies are rarely associated with asthma, occasionally there is a connection. Check your records against your symptoms to see if anything you're eating increases the frequency or severity of your attacks.

* If you take asthma medication, get a peak-flow meter, available from pharmacies or on prescription from your doctor. This device measures the speed at which air leaves your lungs - an indication of how well you're breathing. By reading your peak-flow at certain times, you can tell how well a medication or remedy is working. You can also use it during an asthma attack to determine its severity and decide whether you need to seek immediate medical attention.

The power of prevention.

* Don't smoke, and stay away from people who do. Tobacco smoke irritates the airways.

* Don't huddle around a fireplace or wood-burning stove.

* In cold weather, wrap a scarf around your nose and mouth to help warm up chilly air before you inhale it.

* Be alert for unusual asthma triggers, such as highly scented foods or the strongly perfumed sample strips bound into magazines, and do what you can do to avoid them. It's also a good idea to open the kitchen window, if possible, when cooking with strong smelling foods such as garlic or onions.

* Try eating smaller, more frequent meals, and don't eat before you go to bed. The upward migration of stomach acids that cause heartburn can also trigger asthma attacks.

* About 5% of people with asthma are allergic to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen. For these people, taking the drugs can trigger an attack. If you are one of them, use an aspirin-free pain reliever such as paracetamol instead.

* Consider the Buteyko method, which is a complementary therapy for controlling the symptoms of asthma and other breathing- related disorders. It is based on the belief that breathing-related disorders result from chronic over-breathing (hyperventilation). It involves very specific breathing exercises as well as dietary and lifestyle changes.

Practice abdominal breathing.

This simple deep-breathing trick can help reduce the severity and frequency of your asthma attacks. When an attack starts, you naturally becomes more anxious as it gets harder to breathe. This produces a 'clenching' response that can further restrict your airways. But if you've practiced this breathing technique ahead of time, you can use it to help yourself breathe more freely.

* Lie on your back on a carpet or mat and place a book on your stomach.
* Inhale gently and deeply, but not by expanding your chest. Instead, expand your abdomen. Keep an eye on the book. If it rises, you're breathing in the right way.
* Just when you think you have reached full capacity, take in a little more air. See if you can raise the book a little further.
* Exhale gradually, slowly counting to five. The more your exhale, the more relaxed you'll feel. then repeat at least five more times.

Should I call the doctor

If you experience asthma symptoms for the first time, you must consult a doctor. Get someone to take you to the nearest hospital A & E if you can't speak without gasping for breath, develop a bluish cast to your face or lips, find it extremely difficult to breathe or become confused or exhausted. If you are already being treated for asthma, you probably have medication that you can take at the onset of an episode. Even so, see your doctor if you noticed that you need to use

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Medical Special - ALLERGIES

Itching, sneezing, sore or irritated eyes, and a runny nose - those are all common symptoms of hay fever and other allergies. Take anti-allergy medication if you want to - but take it before an allergy attack for the best results - or try one of the natural antihistamines suggested below. You'll also want to tackle pollen, dust mites in the home, dander and other microscopic menaces that send your immune system into overdrive.

What's wrong:
Allergic symptoms are signs that the immune system is overreacting to normally harmless substances such as pollen (which causes hay fever), dust, pet dander (tiny flakes of dried saliva, skin and hair from pets) or mould. Usually, the immune system ignores these 'triggers' and focuses on protecting you from real threats, such as viruses or bacteria. But when someone has an allergy, the immune system cannot distinguish some harmless substances from dangerous ones.

Triggers can be ingested (such as wheat and peanuts), absorbed through the skin (such as plants or base metal), inhaled (such as mould or pollen) or received by injection (such as penicillin jab). Sensitivity to allergens tends to be inherited.

Nature's antihistamines:
* Nettle: contains a substance that works as a natural antihistamine. Capsules of thee freeze-dried leaf are available from most health food shops and some supermarkets. Take the capsules according to manufacturer's instructions.

* Ginkgo biloba: has become renowned for its memory-boosting properties, but it can also be an effective allergy fighter. Ginkgo contains substances called ginkgoglides, which can halt the activity of certain allergy-triggering chemicals (platelet activating factor, or PAF). Choose a supplement that is standardized for content of ginkgo flavones (the active ingredient) and take according to manufacturer's instructions.

* Eyebright: is an astringent herb that helps to strengthen mucous membranes and relieve irritability and inflammations, and plantain is rich in a soothing substance called mucilage, which helps soothe sore, dry eyes and relieve sneezing. They can be taken together as a tea or a qualified herbalist can make a tincture of them for you.

* Vitamin C: readily available from supermarkets and pharmacies is known to have a natural antihistamine effect in the body and there is some evidence to suggest that it can help control unpleasant hay fever symptoms. Take up to 500mg a day in tablet or capsule form while symptoms persist, or more if professionally prescribed.

Try something fishy.

* Omega-3 fatty acids: help to counter inflammatory responses in the body, such as those triggered by allergies. Salmon, sardine, fresh tuna and trout are good sources of these fats. If you prefer the idea of taking fish-oil capsules, take a supplement that provides 1000mg combined EPA/DHA (eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids) a day.

* Flaxseed oil (or linseed oil): is another excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Take 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil a day. You can add it to salad dressings or a glass of juice, or blend it into a smoothie, but avoid heating it.

Try these simple soothers:
* To soothe red, itchy, swollen eyes, simply dampen a face washer with cool water and place it over your eyes as often as you wish. Always use a clean face washer each time to avoid the possibility of introducing infection into your eyes.

* Saline nasal sprays have long been used to clear nasal mucus and can also help your nasal passages stay moisturized. But a recent study has shown that overuse of some nasal sprays can actually damage the cells of your sinuses, so it may be safer to make your own. Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in 250ml of warm water. Fill a bulb syringe, lean over the sink and gently squirt the saline into your nose.

* A quick and easy way to relieve pain and encourage drainage of mucus is by applying a hot compress to your sinuses. Eucalyptus, tea-tree and peppermint essential oils all help to clear congestion and have antiseptic and antiviral properties. Add 2 to 5 drops of the essential oil of your choice into a bowl of steaming hot water, tent your head with a towel and inhale the vapor.

Deal with dust mites.

* Dust mites: minute flesh-eating insects too small to be seen by the naked eye - inhabit your carpets, curtains and beddings. Their faeces can be a significant cause of allergies. To starve mites of the dust they eat - which is mostly made up of old skin cells - cover your mattress, bed base and pillows with covers made specifically to repel allergens.

* Vacuum your carpets regularly. Buy a vacuum cleaner that uses a double bag and a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, which filters out microscopic allergens. If you have a wood or tile floor underneath your carpets, think about getting rid of the carpet altogether. Wear a mask while vacuuming, and then leave the house for a few hours afterwards, if possible.

* Change your sheets once a week and wash them in very hot water - at least 60 degree Celsius - to kill the mites.

* Clear away clutter which can gather dust and harbor dust mites. Remove any soft toys from the bed.

* If you do not have a dehumidifier it's a good idea to get one. Keeping the air in your home dry will significantly reduce the population of dust mites, which die when humidity levels fall below 45 percent.

Reduce reactions to animal allergens.
* Keep your pet out of the bedroom. Allergic reactions can be triggered by animal fur, dead skin, dried saliva and dander - particles from the coats of animals. All of these allergens linger.

* Give your pet a bath one a week. Bathing can remove up to 85% of pet dander. You can use plain water or a proprietary pet shampoo.

Clear the air.

* Studies show that vigorous household cleaning significantly reduces dust, mould, dander and other common allergens. So give your home a thorough clean twice a year. Wash every scrub-able surface with diluted bleach.

* Avoid places where moulds can be found, for example garages, old sheds, barn and rubbish areas or rubbish dumps.

* Laundries and bathroom are havens for moulds, mildew and dust mites, because of damp and humid conditions. Wipe away any obvious mould using a solution of dilutes bleach (make sure the room is adequately ventilated).

When a Kiss is not a Kiss.

* Avoiding known food or drug allergens may sound easy, but sometimes you can be exposed in less-than-obvious ways. Take the case of a young woman who had a life-threatening allergic reaction to shellfish simply when she kissed her boyfriend goodnight. Almost immediately, her lips swelled up, her throat began to close, she started wheezing, hives appeared, she experienced stomach cramping and her blood pressure plummeted. She survived but the lesson is clear: if your partner is severely allergic to a particular food, you must give it up as well. No one knows whether simply brushing your teeth or rinsing your mouth out would do any good, so it's better not to take the chance at all.

Shall I call the doctor?

* If a person's tongue, face, hands or neck swell rapidly, they have difficulty in breathing - with or without wheezing - and rapidly develops urticaria or hives (raised red or white weal), then dial 995 for an ambulance. These are signs that anaphylactic shock, a potentially fatal allergic reaction, for example, to a bee sting, peanuts or shellfish.
Generally, allergy symptoms tend to be merely undesirable and uncomfortable. However, if over-the-counter remedies don't work, or if you can't work out what it is that you're allergic to, then it is advisable to consult a doctor.