Tuesday 24 April 2018

Rude health... Morning blues

AS he welcomes a new Taoiseach who will represent patients with early-morning symptoms, Maurice Gueret also imparts some raw fishy advice

Image by Eorna Walton
Image by Eorna Walton

Leo the Lark

It will be marvellous to have a new Taoiseach who is going to represent everyone who is up early in the morning. It's a widely held misconception that Leo was only talking about yuppies who are at the gym so early that the fragrance of the previous day's sweat still lingers. Doctor Varadkar would have been thinking of those for whom early-morning starts are part of their medical condition. Patients with asthma and lung diseases caused by smoking know only too well that there is often a dip in their breathing in the early hours of morning. Many awake to rhythmic wheezing, not exotic iPhone alarms. Leo might consider, as per diabetes, conferring a long-term illness status on lung disease, so that these early risers can access free medication. Maybe he was also thinking of the thousands of citizens with depression, for whom early-morning wakening (EMW on the medical chart) can be a cardinal symptom. Then there are those who have been taking short-acting sleeping tablets for too long. They also wake within a few hours of swallowing their hypnotic medication and are up with the larks like caring Leo.

Deadly Animals

The savage death of a woman in Galway following an attack by two bull mastiffs shows man's best friend in a harsher light. New data from the World Health Organisation and other bodies was graphically illustrated recently when a poster was produced showing the World's Deadliest Animals in the calendar year of 2015. Dogs killed almost 17,500 people worldwide in 12 months, compared with 50 deaths from tigers, 100 deaths each from lions and elephants, and 1,000 deaths from crocodiles. There were only 6 fatal shark attacks in one year. Top of the list of deadliest animals to humans are mosquitos, followed by humans ourselves (over half-a-million homicides), snakes and sand flies. Dogs occupy fifth position. Those who legislate for the welfare of both humans and our favourite animals should never forget that.

Stinky Prefabs

I have great empathy for the many Irish children who, through the original sin of their politicians, are educated in prefabs. Much of my own medical education was imparted in one such stinky edifice on the campus of St James's Hospital in Dublin. It was a relatively modern prefabricated structure, but it had all the allure of a sauna in summer and a cool box in winter. The air was poor. Much of the building smelled like a toilet. I'll spare you a description of what the toilet smelled like. Lectures on hot days were particularly ghastly. I hope that the building has long since been demolished. I retain that life-long compassion for all cabin children who are denied bricks-and-mortar education.

Sushi Worms

That old medical prefab came to mind recently when a public health warning was issued about the dangers of sushi. There was very little in the line of raw seafood cuisine in Dublin of the 1980s. But I recall that our prefab in St James's had a great collection of nasty-looking worms in jars that we had to study. You had to know their length, their habits and where they loitered to gain a pass in parasitology. We considered most of them to be creatures of the tropics, and never really expected to encounter them in practice. One such creature was a small roundworm called Anisakis. If it got into your gut, you had anisakiasis and could expect vomiting, severe tummy pains and perhaps a fever, too. Europe is seeing a rise in this parasite of late, with recent cases identified in Portugal and Spain. Uncooked or undercooked fish is the source. Best advice is that if you insist on not cooking your fish through, make sure that all seafood has been deep frozen for at least a week before it gets anywhere near a plate.

Wise Words

Veteran golfer Jack Nicklaus has received a round of applause from the 19th hole for comments implying that the young professionals of today are a mollycoddled lot. The multiple major winner, whose own tournament lost many in the field before it started this year, said that last-minute withdrawals were almost unheard of in his day. Golfers had tons of injuries, he said, but just played through them. Nicklaus implied that the problem stems from today's entourage of fitness trainers, nutritionists and people to cut your toenails. Older consultants say the same sort of thing about hospitals.

Sunday Independent

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Editors Choice

Also in Life