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Checkup Medical Column for Dec 23

AAP logoAAP 22/12/2016 By Sarah Wiedersehn

A weekly round-up of news affecting your health.

HOW TO AVOID LISTERIA POISONING

Listeriosis is a comparatively rare form of foodborne illness, but it can be a very serious disease in pregnant women, people with poor immune systems and the elderly, who will need to avoid certain foods.

A recent listeria oubreak in Victoria led to the death of one person and the hospitalisation of six others.

The symptoms are usually described as 'flu-like', although vomiting and discoloured urine can occur.

Miscarriage can result if a pregnant woman is infected, even if she doesn't show the symptoms. The time from infection to symptoms can be anywhere between 8 to 90 days.

Listeria is widely found in the environment so most raw foods are likely to be contaminated. Listeria is easily killed by heat, although cooked foods can easily become re-contaminated through poor food handling after cooking.

The best way to avoid Listeria is to eat freshly cooked or freshly prepared food.

Try to avoid foods which have a higher risk of Listeria contamination such as:

- cold meats from delicatessen counters and sandwich bars, and packaged, sliced ready-to-eat meats

- cold cooked ready- to-eat chicken

- pre-prepared or pre-packaged fruit or vegetable salads, including those from buffets and salad bars

- chilled seafood such as raw oysters, sashimi and sushi, smoked ready-to-eat seafood and cooked ready-to-eat prawns

- soft, semi-soft and surface-ripened cheeses such as brie, camembert, ricotta, blue and feta

- refrigerated pate or meat spreads

- soft serve ice cream

- unpasteurised dairy products.

FAST ACTION WHEN STROKE STRIKES

Don't ignore stroke symptoms in fear of disrupting the family holiday plans because it could cost you your life, warns the Stroke Foundation.

Stroke Foundation Chief Executive Officer Sharon McGowan says it's tragically common for stroke patients to delay calling an ambulance during the festive season.

"Stroke is a serious medical emergency which requires urgent medical attention. However too many Australians, particularly older people, ignore the signs or symptoms for fear of being a nuisance to their family and friends," Ms McGowan said.

There are life-saving and disability reducing treatments available for stroke, however they are only effective if you get to hospital quickly.

Delaying seeking emergency medical attention can cost a life, warned Ms McGowan.

Stroke Foundation has a simple acronym to help people remember the signs of stroke: FAST.

Face - has their mouth drooped?

Arms - can they raise both of their arms above their head?

Speech - is their speech slurred? Can they understand what you're saying?

Time - Call triple zero (000) immediately. Do not delay.

A person is likely to show at least one of these signs when having a stroke.

BE PSYCHOLOGICALLY PREPARED FOR DISASTER

As the bushfire and cyclone season approaches, psychologists from the Australian Psychological Society's Disaster Reference Group (APSDRG) are urging people not to neglect psychological preparations when readying themselves for threat of natural disaster.

Research shows that people faced with impending disaster can become paralysed by anxiety and stress, which may stop them carrying out their disaster plans.

The good news is that mental preparation helps to overcome these reactions.

Mental preparation involves individuals running through likely disaster scenarios, imagining how they might feel and developing strategies to calm down and talk themselves through a disaster event.

The three main steps to being psychologically prepared:

- Anticipate what it might be like as a disaster approaches, the anxiety you may feel and the physical signs of fear and distress (e.g. racing heart, shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea, headaches)

- Identify uncomfortable or distressing thoughts and feelings that may cause further anxiety (e.g. I can't cope, I'm so afraid, I don't know what to do).

- Manage responses so that the ability to cope remains as effective as possible. This can be achieved by slow breathing and replacing frightening thoughts with more helpful ones.

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