The Truth about Immunisation

What is immunisation?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a vaccine is a biological preparation which improves one's immunity to a particular disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent resembling the disease-causing microorganism. It is often made from weakened or dead forms of the microbe, its toxins or one of its surface proteins. This agent, when injected into a person, stimulates the body's immune system to recognize the agent as foreign, destroy it, and 'remember' it. That way, if that person is subsequently exposed to the disease, the immune system can more easily recognize and destroy these microorganisms.

A vaccine is administered via a vaccination. The person being vaccinated is now immunised against a disease. Without the vaccination, the disease could make that person seriously ill, if not be potentially lethal.

Because vaccinations have done such a good job of keeping people, especially children, healthy, it could be argued that the current generation has forgotten how serious those diseases actually are.

What happened before vaccinations?

Measles, polio, whooping cough, diphtheria and many other illnesses that vaccinations now prevent used to ravage the world. For example, each year, between 1936 and 1945 in the United States alone, 767 000 people, most of whom could have been children, caught diphtheria, paralytic polio, measles, and whooping cough. Four thousand children died every year from whooping cough alone. The difference that vaccinations made is clear when one considers that in 2014, only 13 children died.

With Polio, also known as poliomyelitis, 1 in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis. Up to 10% of these children die.

How did vaccinations help?

Before 1988, an estimated 350 000 cases of Polio were reported each year. In 2017, there were only twenty-two. Thanks to vaccinations, these number have decreased over time. Without a vaccination, this contagious disease could spring up again; some estimations are that the number of infected people could rise rapidly once more to 200 000 a year in only 10 years.

It is also thanks to vaccinations that smallpox has been eradicated worldwide. Before vaccinations for smallpox were developed, it caused tens of millions of deaths.

How do we know vaccinations work?

After vaccinations began to be administered the number of people who contracted a deadly illness plummeted, as did the number of deaths. Since people have begun refusing vaccinations, there have been new outbreaks of diseases - most recently, chicken pox. Another worldwide epidemic putting millions of people and children at risk can be avoided - but only with the help of vaccinations.

What difference does it make if I refuse a vaccination?

Your refusal to be vaccinated may easily result in the deaths of other people. You, or your child, may contract a preventable disease - remember they are all highly contagious. You won't know you are sick for a few days. If you come into contact, during that time with other people who have not been vaccinated, whether by choice, or because they are too young to be vaccinated, or they can't be vaccinated as they have a poor immune system, or a damaged immune system due to another illness they have contracted, like multiple sclerosis, these people will get sick. Some of them may die.

The autism debate

There has been a lot of debate recently concerning immunisation and autism. There is no credible evidence, despite the intense medical research which has investigated the claim, that immunisation causes autism.

The rumor began with a small study, of only 40 patients, published by a physician. The study was very small with just over 40 patients. The article was later found to be fraudulent. It was retracted by the journal that published it. Several other studies proved the findings to be wrong and the physician's medical licence was revoked.

The latest research, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, is based on a study of about 95 000 children with older siblings, some of whom had autism spectrum disorder (ASD). According to Dr Bryan King from the University of Washington and the Seattle Children's Hospital in the US, "The only conclusion that can be drawn from the study is that there is no signal to suggest a relationship between MMR and the development of autism in children." He adds that a dozen studies have now shown that the age of onset of ASD does not differ between vaccinated and unvaccinated children.

The confusion comes in because children are vaccinated at around the same time that autism is diagnosed. But they are not related.

Contact a healthcare professional at your nearest Lenmed Hospital. We will be happy to give you the information you need, in order to make an informed decision about your own health and that of your children.

For more information please contact:
Dr N Maligavhada (Paediatrician/Pulmologist)
BSc (Univen) MBChB (Natal) DCH (SA) FCPaed (SA) Cert.Paed Pulmonology (SA)
Randfontein Private Hospital
+27 (0)11 411 3089 or

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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The Truth about Stress and Exams

By Dr T Govender 

South Africa is a very competitive environment. With a high unemployment rate and limited access to tertiary education, finding a place in a tertiary education facility is difficult. Places are awarded on exam performance. The better the results, the better the opportunity of selection. As a result, exams are a crucial part of the education process. This makes them a significant source of stress for students. And their parents.

What is the difference between stress and anxiety?

Anxiety is considered to be a mental health disorder. An anxious person is plagued by a constant sense of fear, uneasiness and apprehension even when there is no perceived threat. It may be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and is often genetic. This type of anxiety disorder requires treatment from a mental health professional.

Stress is a temporary state of anxiety related to a threat or challenge in the environment. Chronic stress can result in a permanent state of anxiety which can complicate into a myriad of medical and mental health illnesses.

Is exam stress a problem?

Grade twelve results are considered to be the passport to the future. Possible poor study habits throughout the year cause learners and their parents to become very driven, and hyper-focussed, in order to achieve the best outcomes over a short time-frame.

The suicide rate in adolescents is around 10% of those in the general population. This additional exam stress may become a risk factor in a vulnerable teenager. It is imperative that we determine the difference between normal functional stress experienced by learners going through an exam cycle, and the alarm bell sounded by a learner who needs urgent attention from a healthcare professional.

The definition of stress

Stress is a natural response to a challenge or a threat. Cortisol and adrenaline, the stress hormones, are activated which results in a fight or flight response. Stress is not always a negative experience. It is the mechanism with which we adapt to challenges in our environment, whether the challenges are slow-building, long-term stresses or sudden, confrontational ones. These physiological responses can help us improve our performance. Stress can cause you to completely lose control of a situation and be unable to concentrate or it can allow you to remain focused and alert and able to meet the challenge. If used correctly, stress can play a critical role in creating drive and motivation when it comes to study and exams.

Types of stress

There are two types of stress:

Acute episodic stress
This episode of stress is brief and related to a specific event such as writing exams or having too many deadlines or commitments. It is usually self-limiting and passes when the event is over.

Chronic stress
This is a harmful type of stress and lasts for a long time. A child living in a dysfunctional family, struggling with ongoing bullying at school, or an adult with chronic work and financial stress are three examples. Because the body remains in the heightened fight or flight response for a sustained period, the stress itself becomes dangerous. The complications associated with chronic stress include health issues such as worsening hypertension, heart attacks, strokes, gastric ulcers, substance abuse, depression and suicide.

Symptoms of chronic stress

How do you know if you, or your child, has chronic stress? There are four areas in which symptoms reveal themselves.

Cognitive symptoms

  • Difficulty concentrating and short-term memory problems
  • Constant anxiety and a racing of thoughts which are often worse at night and affect sleep
  • Irrational and negative thoughts

Emotional symptoms

  • Irritability and agitation
  • Depressive mood
  • Anxiety state

Physical symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Chest discomfort
  • Irritable bowel (diarrhoea and constipation)
  • Low immunity – resulting in frequent infections

Behavioural symptoms

  • Eating too much or too little
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Social withdrawal
  • Substance abuse

These symptoms may or may not result in healthy solutions being sought by the family. Chronic stress and anxiety often result in cognitive challenges. Children often complain of the inability to focus and parents often have a knee-jerk reaction and seek a stimulant to assist their child to focus. It is often unwise to put the child on a course of drugs containing stimulants such as Ritalin at this point. Ritalin can increase anxiety symptoms in children who are not truly ADHD.

Cannabis oil and children – what you need to know

Cannabis oil has had a surge in popularity after it has been recently legalised for medicinal and domestic purposes. However, it is not legal for use by minors. We would advise extreme caution in giving your child any form of cannabis. Irrefutable proof from several scientific studies has demonstrated that cannabis can cause psychosis in individuals that are genetically susceptible, particularly in the vulnerable brain of a child. Your child may become paranoid and even more anxious on cannabis.

How to manage stress

Doctors do not prescribe long term medication for stress. A patient will only need a more permanent medication solution if the stress results in a physical or mental illness.

There are ways to reduce chronic stress without medication

Thankfully, there are non-medication solutions to reducing chronic stress. Here are a few.

Time management skills and organisation
Teaching your child to study correctly throughout the year means that the period just before exams will be revision and will not carry the weight it would otherwise. During the pre-exam revision time, help your child to prepare in advance, create study timetables and to prioritize. This will give them a sense of accomplishment. Teach them to prepare in small increments and not to become overwhelmed by mammoth tasks. Focus on areas of the curriculum that your child needs to improve on.

A healthy brain needs nutritious food. Children should not skip meals, not only from a nutrition point of view but also as a period of important break time. Mealtimes should be used by the student to engage with the family and verbalise their emotions. A healthy, moderately portioned meal will provide sustenance and not lead to over-eating and sleepiness. Avoid sugary foods that may impair concentration.

Exercise should be given equal priority. There are several studies which show exercise can cause a flood of 'feel good hormones' into the brain. Children should be encouraged to engage in a physical activity in their break time. This activity could simply be putting on music and dancing, going for a walk or taking a cycle around the block.

Meditation, Mindfulness, Relaxation and Controlled Breathing
Several studies have shown improved outcomes by using techniques such as mindfulness. It gives a learner an opportunity to relax and refocus for the next study period. Ideally, your child should take a class to learn the art of mindfulness, but apps are available on smart devices. The classes help the student overcome the distracting worry that 'doing nothing' is a waste of time.

Study Groups
Constructive and supervised study groups allow children to develop a support network with which to share their experiences during examinations. A young learner will realise that she is not isolated in and, in fact, everyone else writing the exam feels the same way. That realisation makes your child realise the exam stress is normal.

There is no doubt exams are an extremely stressful period for parents and children alike. It is important to remember, stress is a normal response and, used correctly, can enhance one's performance. Our ability to cope with stress is determined by our constitution, coping skills and environmental exposure. It is important to keep the channels of communication open to assess your child's adaptation to a stressful situation or environment. Pay attention when your child is asking for help or displaying signs of not coping.

If you have any concerns, please make an appointment with your doctor immediately.

For more information please contact:
Dr T Govender (Specialist Psychiatrist)
Ethekwini Hospital and Heart Centre
+27 (0) 31 581 2721

Dr Theshenthree Govender has been in the medical field for the past 19 years. In addition to Dr Govender's consulting from her practices, she also lectures at UKZN Medical School and is an executive on the local South African Society for Psychiatrists. Dr Govender's interests are psychiatry, biopolar mood disorders, psychotic disorders and neuropsychiatry

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.



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Lenmed Works to Mitigate Infection-Risk in its Hospitals with Bluebird

October 2018: Hospital infection prevention and appropriate antibiotic prescribing is being proactively addressed by the Lenmed Group.

Ideally, infections should never be acquired during a hospital admission. Worldwide, healthcare acquired infections remain a major risk to patient safety, a risk which is exacerbated by the increasing number of bacteria that are now resistant to antibiotics. As explained by the Director-General of Health, Ms Precious Matsoso, "Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a major global public health crisis. In the case of bacterial infections, decades-long overuse of antibiotics has resulted in a tipping point, where the world finds itself on the brink of a 'post-antibiotic' era and we will lose the benefits of these medicines entirely"

The Lenmed Group Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nilesh Patel, says "Because we understand the importance of infection prevention in making our hospitals as safe as possible and after diligently assessing competing products, Lenmed made the decision to implement Bluebird, an organizational tool that has successfully institutionalized the principles outlined by the Ministry of Health at more than 60 hospitals in both the private and public sectors in Southern Africa. We believe that Bluebird will facilitate our multi-disciplinary approach to patient care and help prioritize at-risk patients and improve patient safety. Importantly, Bluebird has been shown to integrate well with our SAP hospital information system and has proven successful across a wide range of healthcare facilities from tertiary referral hospitals to smaller community hospitals.

According to Dr. Darryl Vine, Bluebird is an organizational tool designed from the ground up to incorporate international best practice including the standards published by the American CDC and the Australian ACSQHC and helps optimize patient safety and limit the emergence of resistant pathogens.

A multidisciplinary team (Nurses, Physicians, Microbiologists, Pharmacists and Hospital Managers) is needed for effective infection control and antimicrobial stewardship. Bluebird maximizes the clinical efficiency of this team thus helping a health facility accomplish more. Bluebird's intuitive interface and advanced training programs facilitate smooth on boarding. Comprehensive, patient information is available on an iPad which can be used at the patient's bedside and clinicians, including Doctors, have remote access. Because Bluebird is cloud-based, minimal hospital IT resources are required.

Dr Patel emphasizes the importance of the group's leadership team being able to monitor the entire group's infection prevention and antibiotic stewardship initiatives in real time and the ability to quickly access the management reports needed to inform both group and regional policies. Championing exceptional patient experiences and clinical outcomes is central to Lenmed's vision and Clinical Governance tools like Bluebird, enable us to champion exceptional clinical outcomes through:

• A reduction in avoidable infections,
• More appropriate antibiotic use,
• A reduction in resistant bacteria across the group and ultimately leading to
• A decreased average length of hospital stay.

For any further information, please contact the Lenmed Group Marketing & Communications Manager: Michelle Naidoo on 087 087 0610 or

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What to do with Your Medication

It is important to know what to do with your medication. The first thing to know is what medication you are taking and why you are taking it. If your doctor has not been clear enough, speak to your pharmacist when getting the prescription filled.

Next, you need to understand how important it is to finish the entire course of any medication prescribed by your doctor and to take it as instructed. Do not stop taking it just because you feel better. The entire course is needed to not only surpress the symptoms but clear the disease. If you stop halfway, the cause of the disease will not have been dealt with and your symptoms may easily recur.

While you are on medication, it is vital to keep it out of reach of the inquisitive fingers of children. Children are unable to differentiate between medication and sweets. Their curiosity alone will often drive them to try the 'sweets' they see you taking every day. After all, in their minds the fact that you take it every day means it must be good – the same way they see sweets as 'good'. Medication is prescribed for very specific illnesses and in very specific doses. Your child's system is not strong enough to cope with dosages given to adults and the medication itself may be poisonous to their system. Make sure the medication is both out of reach and stored away safely.

If you have to travel with your medication and you may need it in an emergency, make sure it is within easy reach and that people you are travelling with are aware of your need and can administer the medication to you if you are incapable of doing it yourself. You may require a doctor's letter if you are flying and need to have the medication with you on the airplane. Find out about this before you even book your ticket.

Did you know that a pharmacy will safely dispose of any medication or substance for you? Do not flush it down the toilet as this will poison the water system.

If you come across a packet or bottle with an unknown or known poison in, pack it carefully into a plastic bag and seal it tightly. This will ensure the substance will not spill out on your way to the pharmacy. Having the pharmacy dispose of your leftover or expired medication as well as other possibly poisonous substances will remove the risk of a child or a pet ingesting it accidentally. As the pharmacy follows strict disposal rules, you also protect the environment. Whatever you do, don't take expired medication.

If you are unsure of how to handle or transport unused or expired medication, ask your pharmacist for advice.
We would like to take this opportunity to take thank all our Pharmacists for their continued dedication to the Lenmed Group.

We would like to take this opportunity to take thank all our Pharmacists for their continued dedication to the Lenmed Group.

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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A Broken Heart - How Emotions can Damage Your Heart’s Health

For many years the idea that someone could die of a broken heart was ridiculed. After all, it was just an emotion, not an actual disease. However, broken heart syndrome, a.k.a. stress-induced cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, is now a proven fact. It can strike even if you are healthy.

Because the symptoms and test results are similar, broken heart syndrome can be misdiagnosed as a heart attack. The only difference between the two is that there are no blocked arteries in broken heart syndrome. For a brief moment, a part of your heart enlarges and its pumping action is impaired, while the rest of heart pumps harder to try and compensate. While it can cause severe, short-term heart muscle failure, it is usually treatable. Only in rare cases can it fatal.

What causes broken heart syndrome?

A broken heart is the result of stress. It is now a confirmed fact that there is a direct link between stress and heart disease. Anger and hostility, even short bursts as in road-rage for example are bad for your heart. But, quieter emotions are just as toxic. Long-term loneliness, a divorce, a break-up or physical separation like death of both a partner or a pet, romantic or work betrayal or rejection, retrenchment, being fired, losing your home, being hijacked, or a physical attack - these are just a few things that can cause depression and result in broken heart syndrome.

We think of stress as a high energy release of emotion but people who seem quiet and reserved are just as much at risk. Bottling things up is never a good idea. But neither is yelling and screaming to 'let it all out'.

Balancing your emotions is vital

Of course, no one is ever going to be able to live a life of no ups or downs in their emotions. The trick is having a life of balanced emotions. Learning to deal with emotions is one of the most important things humans can do. Balancing your emotions by talking your problems through with a trusted friend or counsellor, as well as by regular activity, like walking or jogging is vital. As long as your heart rate rises and you end up sweating, you will be well on your way to working off some of your stress.

People who have good emotional health are aware of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They have learned healthy ways to cope with the stress and problems that are a normal part of life. They feel good about themselves and have healthy relationships.

Why is loneliness considered a form of stress?

It is not so much a case of not having a partner but rather, not having a community that results in stress - so much so that social isolation and low levels of social support can put you at risk of heart disease. But, having said that, humans all need community, whether we like to admit it or not.

The world may be a so-called 'global village' but it takes a community to keep hearts healthy. Few of us still live close to our extended families and see them on a regular basis. Few live in the same neighbourhood in which they grew up and where there are generations of neighbours. Few regularly see people outside of their own age-group. A lot of people work at jobs that have little long-term stability and many do not go regularly to a house of worship.

According to researchers these are all things that matter to a far larger degree than was previously thought. Nowadays, things like spending time with your family and friends are considered luxuries. The truth is, these are necessities if you want to have a healthy heart. They should in fact come before diet and exercise.

How to improve your emotional health

Broken Heart Syndrome can be cured. Discovering and dealing with the causes of sadness, stress, and anxiety in your life can help you manage your emotional health. Here are 6 ways to improve your emotional health.

1. Express your feelings in appropriate ways
Let your loved ones know, in an appropriate fashion, if something is bothering you. Home-rage is not going to help anybody. Bear in mind that your family or friends may not be able to help. If they cannot, then speak to your doctor, a religious advisor or a counsellor.

2. Live a balanced life
Develop an attitude of gratitude. Instead of obsessing over work problems or even problems at school or in the family, focus on the positive things in your life. Some people find using a journal useful to remember the good, happy, positive and peaceful things they enjoy. A positive outlook can improve your quality of life and give your health a boost.

3. Make time and let go
Hanging on to the past and old emotional wounds only adds to your depression and stress. It poisons your present and your future, which means you will arrive at your future already stressed. Not a good idea. Find ways to let go. Make time to be happy. Develop new & happy memories and spend time remembering those instead.

4. Develop resilience
Resilient people cope with stress in healthy ways. Resilience can be learnt and built upon. Ways to do this include having social support - a community, keeping a positive view of yourself, accepting change, and keeping things in perspective. A counsellor or therapist can help you achieve this goal.

5. Calm your mind and body
There are a number of different relaxation methods that can help you move from stress to gratitude. Ask your doctor, counsellor or spiritual advisor for advice on which one would benefit you the most.

6. Take care of yourself
Eating badly, not getting any exercise, bad sleeping habits and substance abuse will send you on a downward spiral into depression. Take care of yourself and your emotions by eating healthy meals, exercising, getting enough sleep and staying away from drugs and alcohol.

If you are feeling that stress or depression is ruling your life and you need help, contact your doctor today. Lenmed can help if you do not have a doctor. Contact your nearest Lenmed Private Hospital for more information.

For more information please contact:
Dr M Sebei (Psychiatrist)
MBBCh(Wits) FCPsych(SA)
Randfontein Private Hospital
+27 (0) 11 411 3024

Mr N Babedi (Clinical Psychologist)
B.A. (SW) (UNIN) B.A. Hons (Psyc) Vista
M.Sc(Clinical Psych) Medunsa
Randfontein Private Hospital
+27 (0) 11 411 3024

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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Happy Family, Healthy Family

Happiness is a result of good mental health. In fact, your health depends on your happiness to a far greater degree than most people realise. Good mental health is essential in maintaining good physical health and your family plays a crucial role in keeping each other mentally and therefore physically happy.

Isn't health simply a matter of diet and exercise?

Although a healthy diet and regular exercise play an important part, there are other contributing factors to having a healthy family. There is a saying, 'families that pray together, stay together'. This is also true of families that live together, eat together, play together and plan together.

Eating in front of the TV does not promote family bonding. Instead, it erroneously teaches your children that communication is not important. Families that turn off the television and eat and talk at the dinner table together every day, develop stronger bonds and mentally healthier children.

Families that prepare food together grow healthier children with a good understanding of what constitutes a healthy diet. They also grow up with a good understanding that all chores in the home are there to be shared and not given to a specific person based on their gender. If a child sees his father making dinner, he will grow up not only knowing how to do it, but willing to do it as well.

How important is doing activities together as a family?

Families that play together are also much healthier. This means playing both indoor games and outdoor sports. Playing together in a family teaches your children how to win and lose well, and how to plan and enjoy activities in a safe environment. It teaches them new skills and healthy ways of entertaining themselves. It also teaches them the value and enjoyment of sport and physical activity. If, as a family, you teach your children skills and the thrill of participating in sport, family hikes, or simply exploring a new place together, your children learn the art of finding their own adventures, of being creative and how to compromise. You also expand their horizons by encouraging them to be curious.

What is a family?

Research shows that healthiest of families are made up of multiple generations. Grandparents are important. Elderly people who live with their families live longer and are healthier. Those who live in old-age homes tend to be ill more often, have slower recovery rates and die sooner. The same is true of people of any age. Singles who live alone, and are unhappy, age faster and are more likely to suffer from loneliness - a major cause of any other illnesses. An unhappy mind is also a mind under stress. And stress, as everyone knows, is dangerous to your health.

Why is family so important to your health?

Everyone in a family benefits from being in the family. There is evidence that this form of community creates happiness in each member despite their financial circumstances. People who are in community heal 78% quicker than those who are not. Mentally healthy people, i.e. happy people, are less likely to fall prey to illness, depression or heart disease.

People in families tend not to succumb to Broken Heart Syndrome as they have a support structure which provides companionship, commitment, consolation, courage and the knowledge that they matter. People who feel they do not matter to anyone or suffer from long-term loneliness are more frequent victims of depression and illness.

For more information please contact:

Dr M Sebei (Psychiatrist)
MBBCh(Wits) FCPsych(SA)
Randfontein Private Hospital
+27 (0) 11 411 3024

Mr Nic Babedi (Clinical Psychologist)
B.A. (SW) (UNIN) B.A. Hons (Psyc) Vista
M.Sc(Clinical Psych) Medunsa
Randfontein Private Hospital
+27 (0) 11 411 3024

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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