health

Vaccination – Myths that put children at risk

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A report by WHO in February 2016 shows that one out of every five African children are at risk for diseases like tetanus, pertussis, and measles because they  do not receive all of the basic vaccines they need. Widespread fears and myths often prevent communities from embracing vaccination as a life-saving weapon for their children.

 

Here are common myths that place children at risk for deadly diseases.

 

Myth 1: Vaccines have damaging and long-term side effects that aren’t known yet. FALSE

Vaccines are very safe. Vaccine reactions tend to be mild and include a slight fever and a sore arm. Severe side effects are rare.

Myth 2: Vaccines are not necessary because improved hygiene and sanitation will make diseases disappear. FALSE

Improving hygiene, hand washing, and clean water help protect people from infectious disease, but infections can spread no matter how clean we are. Without vaccination, diseases that have become almost extinct worldwide, such as polio and measles, will reappear.

Myth 3: Vaccines cause infertility. FALSE

In northern Nigeria and Uganda for example, there is widespread belief that vaccination in childhood causes infertility when they become adults.  There is no evidence to support this.

Myth 4: Giving a child several vaccines at a time can cause harmful side effects, and overload the child’s immune system. FALSE

Receiving several vaccines at the same time has no  negative effect on a child’s immune system.  Children   are exposed to hundred s of foreign agents   daily in food and the environment that trigger an immune response.

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Myth 5: I don’t put others at risk if I don’t vaccinate my children. FALSE

Worldwide, most outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases are started by unvaccinated children and adults. Not vaccinating your child puts infants and young children with immature immune systems at risk for severe disease.

Myth 6: Vaccines don’t work. FALSE

The scientific evidence clearly shows otherwise. Vaccines save at least 2 million lives a year. The truth is that because of the success of vaccination programs, most of us are fortunate to have never experienced the devastation caused by the diseases vaccines prevent.

Myth 7: Natural immunity from the disease is better than immunity through vaccines. FALSE

Natural immunity from getting an infectious disease will certainly prevent a child from getting the disease again but comes at a huge cost. The child is sick for days, with school absenteeism and lost working days for parents. More important, though is the significant risk of permanent disability such as paralysis, deafness, mental retardation and even death from the disease.

Myth 8: Vaccines cause Autism FALSE

More than 100 studies have shown that there is no link between vaccines and autism.

Myth 9: Vaccines contain mercury, which is dangerous. FALSE

Thimerosal, an organic, mercury-containing preservative is added in tiny amounts to some vaccines that come in multi-dose vials. Scientific evidence does not show that the amount of thimerosal used in vaccines causes any health risk.

Are you concerned about the cost of vaccination? Here’s what you should know:

It’s way more costly to treat a child who is sick with a vaccine-preventable disease. The cost of hospital admission and medicines can be crippling to the average low-income African family. There are also indirect costs, which include lost income from missing work, school, and childcare. You avoid these costs and the heartache of watching your child suffer by vaccinating your child.

 

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The ABCs of health for your child – Part 1

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As parents, our responsibility to nurture our children requires a holistic approach – taking into consideration the whole child. Healthy living for your child requires that you place equal importance on your child’s physical, developmental, emotional and social wellbeing.

Africans, like Asians, are known for placing a lot of emphasis on the academic development of their children. This parental focus on academics is not necessarily a bad thing but can become an obstacle to the overall wellbeing of a child, if other areas of development are ignored.

The ABCs

  • Healthy Nutrition
  • Fitness
  • Dental Health
  • Emotional Health

In addition to well child doctor visits to make sure his overall development is on track, your child should receive all the recommended vaccinations. The ABC’s of child health are the health basics you need to pay careful attention to at home on a daily basis.

Helping Kids Eat Healthy


Good nutrition is essential to good health for all kids whether they’re babies or teenagers.

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Infants

  • Breast milk only until 6 months of age + vitamins
  • Begin Iron-fortified cereals, pureed fruits and vegetables at 6 months
  • Add lean meats and eggs when the above are well tolerated (8 months)
  • Begin table foods at 9 months (avoid small hard foods that can choke the baby)
  • Continue breast milk until 12 months if possible

Toddlers (1 – 3 years)

  • Growth and appetite come in spurts at this age so they’re often picky eaters
  • 4 -5 servings of fruit and vegetables daily for fiber and valuable nutrients
  • Fiber is essential for digestive health and is good for the heart
  • 2 – 3 servings of whole milk daily for calcium
  • Avoid the juice trap – it’s mostly sugar. Give Water! Water! Water!
  • Avoid the junk food trap because you’re desperate for him to eat anything!

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Elementary school age (4 – 10 years)

  • Eat most nutritious foods from all 5 food groups
  • 4 -5 servings of fruit and vegetables daily for fiber and valuable nutrients
  • 2 – 3 servings of low fat milk daily for calcium
  • Avoid the sugar trap – juice, soft drinks, candy, cookies, cakes, starchy foods
  • Watch out for fats and salty foods
  • Water! Water! Water!

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Preteens and Teens (11 – 18 years)

  • More calcium needed at this age for bone mass
  • Menstruating girls need more iron, boys need more protein for muscle mass
  • 4 -5 servings of fruit and vegetables daily for fiber and valuable nutrients
  • 2 – 3 servings of low fat milk daily for calcium
  • Avoid the sugar trap – juice, soft drinks, candy, cookies, cakes, starchy foods
  • Watch out for fats and salty foods
  • Water! Water! Water!

In the next blog post we’ll review fitness, emotional and dental health for your child.

Sexually Transmitted Infections – Dangers of stigmatization

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Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) or STDs, also known as venereal diseases, are infections or diseases that are passed from one person to another through sexual contact – usually spread by having vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Bacteria, viruses, or parasites that are on the skin or mucus membranes of the genital area or are present in semen, vaginal secretions, saliva or blood, can be transmitted from one person to another.

What are the symptoms of STIs?

Many STIs have only mild symptoms or none at all. Symptoms in women could easily be mistaken for a urinary tract infection or common yeast infection. Usual symptoms of STIs include burning sensation during urination, itching, swelling or sore in the genital area, pelvic pain/painful intercourse and vaginal/penile discharge. Sometimes women may have a change in color, odor and/or thickness of their usual vaginal secretions.

 

 

The stigma of STIs

Research conducted in Kenya and Nigeria showed interesting findings. Men were more likely than women to seek treatment for STIs. Women tend to bear the bulk of the stigma attached to STIs, with infections often being seen as a sign of promiscuity. As a result, women may choose not to confide in anyone, even if they have an unusual discharge or a sore.

 

The majority of young women who reported at least one STI symptom were married and may have been infected by their husband. Married women, out of fear of possible repercussions, may choose to treat their STIs themselves rather than risk going to a public health facility that might share their information with their husband. In fact, many women who experience such STI symptoms as vaginal discharge and genital itching do not regard them as serious or as the result of sexual intercourse and, therefore, do not believe that they need to be treated.

 

Stigma-related violence or the fear of violence and other stigma prevents many people from seeking testing (especially HIV testing), returning for their results, or getting treatment, possibly turning what could be a manageable illness into a death sentence and continuing the spread of STIs.

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Testing

If you suspect you have an STI, it’s important to get tested. The sooner you know, the sooner you get treated and the less likely you are to spread the infection. Testing can be done at health centers, general hospitals, family planning clinics, state teaching hospitals, private health facilities and designated HIV test centers.

 

Anyone who tests positive for any STI should get tested for HIV and other STIs and follow up with testing for partners. Doctors often recommend treatment for you and your partner but keep in mind that the STI may have been contracted from a former sexual partner.

Anyone who tests positive for HIV should:

  • Get screening and treatment for other diseases like Tuberculosis, Malaria and other STIs
  • Follow up with testing for partners and children

It is troubling that recent estimates report that only 51% of people with HIV know their HIV status. HIV testing can be done confidentially or anonymously.

 

Treating STIs

Bacterial and parasitic infections, such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis can be treated and cured with antibiotics.

Viral STIs such as Genital Herpes (HSV-2), HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B & C cannot be cured. They can be managed with medications to help reduce the signs and symptoms of the illness related to the infection as well as its complications.

  • For all of these sexually transmitted diseases, it is important to note that EARLY DETECTION is the key to a good outcome.

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How can you prevent STIs?

 

The only fail-safe way to prevent an STI is SEXUAL ABSTINENCE!

 

If you do have sex, lower your risk of getting an STI with the following steps:

  • Limit your number of sex partners – Your risk of getting STIs increases with the number of partners you have
  •  Be monogamous – Having sex with just one partner can reduce your risk for STIs
  • Get vaccinated – There are vaccines to protect against HPV and Hepatitis B.
  • Use a Barrier Contraceptive – Condoms are the best way to prevent STIs when you have sex.
    • Oral contraceptives and implanted devices, do NOT protect from STIs
  • Get tested – Be sure you and your partner are tested for STIs. Talk to each other about the test results before having sex
  • Avoid douching – It removes some of the normal bacteria in the vagina that protects you from infection. This may increase your risk of getting STIs.
  • Do not abuse alcohol or drugs – Drinking too much alcohol or using drugs increases risky behavior and may put you at risk of sexual assault and possible exposure to STIs

 

These steps work best when used together. No single step can protect you from every single type of STI.

 

 

Is there Stroke in your family? By Dr Biodun Ogungbo

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Stroke is sudden weakness of an arm, or leg, sudden blindness, sudden confusion, sudden problems with speaking, difficulty walking, sudden severe headaches, sudden collapse and death. Stroke is due to blockage of a blood vessel carrying blood to the brain, leading to injury or death of that part of the brain. Stroke also occurs when a blood vessel bursts open inside the brain. This is why it occurs ‘suddenly’ as the tap carrying food to the brain gets turned off! In both situations, the brain does not get the food and oxygen it requires.

Stroke: Time is brain

Stroke, is an emergency and requires immediate action to prevent brain damage and death. Stroke causes injury because vital nutrients are not delivered to the brain; and so brain tissue dies. This happens in real  strokes, but there are also minor strokes, partial strokes in which the brain does not die or become permanently injured. These people recover almost perfect function. But, see below.

Stroke: Big or small

 

Minor strokes, mini-strokes, small strokes and transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) are one and the same. TIAs are common events characterized by stroke symptoms that completely resolve. They were previously thought to be benign but research over the past decade has revealed the high risk of further strokes in these patients. Having a TIA is a risk factor for having a major stroke.

 

TIAs and strokes cause the same symptoms, such as paralysis (opposite side of body from the affected part of the brain) or sudden weakness or numbness. A TIA may also cause sudden dimming or loss of vision slurred speech and mental confusion. But unlike a stroke, the symptoms of a TIA can resolve within a few minutes or 24 hours. Brain injury may still occur in a TIA lasting only a few minutes, therefore it should not be ignored by patients, relatives or doctors. Small stroke is a warning from God!

 

Stroke is common in Nigeria

 

Every Nigerian knows someone within their family, on their street, at their place of work, village or town who has suffered a stroke. Stroke is next door and coming to a street near you! It is the most popular horror movie in life. That someone hale and hearty could suddenly go blind, deaf, become mute, have weakness on one side and die without prior warning is your worst nightmare. Stroke is a devastating illness, which maims and kills Nigerians daily.

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Is there stroke in your family?

Has a member of your family suffered a stroke? Mine have, in large numbers. Many people in my family have suffered devastating strokes and I am trying everyday to prevent stroke in myself. I run, jog, do sports, exercise and watch what I eat on a daily basis. Any indulgence, eating the biggest meat in the pot, the most amount of food, fat or oily food etc is frowned at in my family.

 

The risk of further strokes in higher in families with a history of stroke. If your father, brother or sister has had a stroke, be very careful. Similarly, history of hypertension, diabetes and heart attacks are important as risk factors for stroke in the family.

 

Can you afford a stroke?

 

We are not managing stroke well at all. We do not have the emergency numbers and ambulance services to deliver patients to hospitals within an hour of a stroke, so doctors can at least try to reopen the blocked vessels in the brain. We do not have the clot bursting drugs for removing the obstruction. Brain scans and other required tests cost an arm and a leg (pun intended). We do not have the means to investigate and treat acute stroke without asking for money.

 

So, if you come to one of Nigeria’s premier hospitals without as much as N100, 000 (One hundred thousand Naira), you may not get the immediate life saving care you need. Many come with just prayers and a breath expecting miracles.

 

Open a stroke account

 

It is vital to prevent stroke. If you don’t, you might as well open an account where you can save money should you suffer a stroke! The minimum deposit is N100, 000 but please save as much as N3, 000, 000. (three million Naira only). Regardless, just because you can afford it, is no excuse to have a stroke! What if you cannot write a cheque or even remember the account password? So, please look after your blood pressure, control diabetes, stop smoking, lose weight, exercise and keep fit.

 

Dr Biodun Ogungbo, Consultant Neurosurgeon in Abuja is a UK General Medical Council Registered Specialist in Neurosurgery and Nigerian Medical and Dental Council registered Surgeon. He has extensive surgical repertoire in elective and emergency surgery. He supports medical education and is active in health advocacy. He is interested in stroke and spine problems and has written extensively about these conditions.

How a little infection can kill you (2) By Dr. Biodun Ogungbo

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The most minor infections can lead to sepsis. Sepsis is an extremely serious condition, due to an overwhelming reaction of the body to infection. The infection causes the body to release chemicals as a defence mechanism. However, the chemicals themselves can cause widespread inflammation, which can then damage the body organs and cause death. Sepsis is a medical emergency.

 

Anyone can get sepsis, but the elderly, young children and those who have diminished immunity as a result of some other medical condition, are particularly at risk.

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How is it treated?

  1. Broad-spectrum antibiotics – these are medicines that kill many types of bacteria.
  2. Oxygen and intravenous fluids

The truth is that a little infection can lead to much misery and death if ignored. A little thing like the flu, common cold, catarrh, mosquito bite, bug bite and even that nail puncture can be the harbinger of misfortune. A man who stepped on a fish bone nearly died 2 weeks later from sepsis through the tiny wound on the sole of his feet! Carelessness can be perilous.

Sometimes, it is self medication, a visit to the local chemist or an unsuspecting medical doctor that makes a little issue assume mammoth proportions. Sometimes, it is ignorance and nonchalance that compounds the problem. Sometimes, it is articles like this that save lives.

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What should you do if you think you have an infection or sepsis?

  • Go to the emergency room immediately if you have any signs or symptoms of an infection or sepsis. THIS IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.
  • It’s important that you say, “I AM CONCERNED ABOUT SEPSIS.”
  • If you are continuing to feel worse or not getting better in the days after any kind of surgery, ask your doctor about sepsis. Sepsis is a common complication of people hospitalized for other reasons.

 

What you can do to prevent sepsis

  • Get yourself and your children vaccinated against pneumonia, and any other infections that could lead to sepsis. Talk to your doctor for more information.
  • Prevent infections that can lead to sepsis by:
    • Cleaning scrapes, cuts and wounds properly
    • Practicing good hygiene (e.g., hand washing, bathing regularly)
  • If you have an infection, look for signs like: fever, chills, rapid breathing and heart rate, rash, confusion, and disorientation.

Guidelines for what to do in case of infection and to prevent sepsis are from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

 

Dr Biodun Ogungbo, Consultant Neurosurgeon in Abuja is a UK General Medical Council Registered Specialist in Neurosurgery and Nigerian Medical and Dental Council registered Surgeon. He has extensive surgical repertoire in elective and emergency surgery. He supports medical education and is active in health advocacy. He is interested in stroke and spine problems and has written extensively about these conditions.

 

Practical steps to a healthy lifestyle

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Your body is a complex, fine tuned machine and like any machine, even the smallest problem can cause it to malfunction. If you use the wrong engine oil or petrol in your car, it will breakdown. If you leave a car sitting in a driveway and never drive it, the battery will die, the parts will rust and it won’t drive.

Practicing a healthy lifestyle is the only way to keep your body functioning at its best. Like a car, you give it the right fuel by eating healthy nutritious foods. By exercising regularly you don’t allow “rust” to set in from inactivity. We all will age, but a body and mind that is well cared for now will carry you into your seventies and eighties still relatively fit and strong. A few years ago, I hurt my back and was taking yoga as part of my rehab regimen. My yoga instructor was 70 years old and one of the fittest and most flexible persons I have ever met.

 

To adopt a healthy lifestyle, you should:

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What you put in

Try to eat 3 portion-controlled meals a day that are a good combination of healthy high fiber carbohydrates, lots of fresh vegetables and lean protein. Never have more carbohydrates in a meal than what fits on the palm of one hand – fingers not included. That’s one slice of wheat bread, or 3 to 4 tablespoons of boiled rice only! If you’re unsure of what the right portion is, start by reducing the amount you usually eat by half. Cook with half the amount of oil you normally use and avoid fried foods. If you take 2 cubes of sugar in your tea or coffee, try one instead and cut back on salt too. You’ll get used to the taste over time.

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For breakfast I usually have a small bowl of oatmeal (Quaker oats), which is a high fiber complex carbohydrate, a small piece of smoked fish or one boiled egg. That combination gives me enough energy and keeps me sharp until lunch. Your largest meal should be at breakfast or lunch, not at dinner. A heavy dinner interferes with normal sleep cycle. Don’t ever eat to the point where you feel “stuffed”.

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Use it or lose it

Do you know that well-conditioned athletes who exercise regularly lose half of their cardiovascular conditioning after 3 months of inactivity? A beginner exerciser who has exercised regularly for 2 months will lose all cardiovascular conditioning within 2 months of not working out! Imagine how poor your cardiovascular fitness is, if you are regularly inactive.

 

Activity involves not just exercising at set times but also how much you get up and move around on a daily basis. Try not to be sedentary for more than 30 minutes at a stretch. Imagine yourself burning off whatever carbohydrates and fats you’ve eaten through exercise and activity, leaving only good protein in your system to build and strengthen. At work, get up and walk around your floor every 30 – 45 minutes, take the stairs every chance you get and hand deliver files and papers to other departments yourself. If you have a 45minute lunch break, spend 30 minutes eating and 15 minutes walking.

 

Set a goal to exercise for 30 minutes everyday. I find that if you set a goal for daily exercise you’ll end up exercising at least 3 – 4 times a week. If you are currently inactive, start by walking at a moderate pace for 20 minutes and build up to 30 minutes after 2 weeks. Add strength training twice a week, using weights or your own body resistance. Be sure to stretch gently before and after exercise and drink lots of water.

 

So what are you waiting for? Just do it!

Preventive Healthcare – An Investment For Life

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Suppose someone gave you a hundred million naira, as a gift? Now, imagine that you are offered the chance to make a sound, sure proof investment with that money that will yield another hundred million naira.

 

Sounds like everyone’s dream right? Would you take the offer? Surely that’s a no-brainer – of course we’d all jump at the offer!

 

You already have that gift – it’s called life. It is priceless, worth way more than a hundred million naira! You can take ownership of this gift by not being careless with your health and investing wisely through preventive health care. The goal of preventive health care is to help you live a healthier and happier life by improving your health and preventing disease.

 

Times are tough for just about everybody right now. There are so many financial responsibilities and obligations that your already tight budget cannot manage. There’s a reason though that the expression “health is wealth” exists. Making the time and setting aside the funds for well doctor visits for you and your children are worthy investments that will pay off in the long run. The alternative is what most of us practice now – expensive curative care – where we see the doctor only when we’re really sick. The problem with this kind of health care is that it doesn’t give you the tools to prevent future illness.  It also places you in a situation where you have to pay the doctor and hospital when you can ill afford it but have no choice.

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Adults

Regular well-care doctor visits make it easier to detect diseases like hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and even certain types of cancer early when they are easy to treat and before they lead to serious complications. It’s a good idea to see your doctor when you’re well at least once a year for a thorough examination, any necessary preventive health screenings, and tests. A good time to schedule one is around the time of your birthday. During your well-care visit, you and your doctor will discuss various ways to improve your overall health and prevent disease.

 

Children

For your children, regularly scheduled checkups, often called well-child visits, should begin shortly after birth and continue through the teen years. These visits allow the doctor to keep a close eye on your child’s general health, growth and development. Finding possible problems early gives your child the best chance for proper and successful treatment. Also, any concerns you have about your child can be discussed during these visits. Well-child visits are also an opportunity to ensure that vaccinations are up to date and are given to the child if necessary.

 

Make the sacrifice now and include well care visits for the whole family in your budget. It’s way more important than some of the other things we spend money and time on such as clothes, jewelry, cars and parties.