Dealing with brittle nails

* My nails have become very brittle recently. Is there anything I can take to strengthen them?

I am going through the menopause and this may be the cause.

>>There can be a number of reasons for brittle nails, and for women who are experiencing the menopause this may be due to an oestrogen deficiency. Oestrogen regulates skin and nail growth, and, as the level of oestrogen falls, nails may become less flexible and more prone to breaking or splitting.

The commonest cause of brittle nails is external damage.

This can be due to prolonged exposure to water, detergents or gels, trauma from typing, as a result of incorrect nail care, or due to fungal nail infections, all of which damage the cell structure of the nails.

Other possible causes include skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema, poor diet, poor blood supply to the fingers, and low levels of thyroid hormone.

Show your GP any changes in the nails.

He/she can check for a fungal nail infection or if there is any underlying cause of the brittle nails.

In the meantime, try the following general suggestions:

* Avoid using nail varnish. If you must use it, make sure that you use a protective base coat and avoid nail-polish removers that contain acetone.

* Always wear rubber gloves for any work involving water.

*Avoid damaging the cuticles when manicuring your nails.

* Frequently apply an emollient hand cream frequently throughout.

* Only ever use the gentlest of nail brushes to clean your nails.

* Don’t bite your nails.

* Protect your nails when doing physical work, such as gardening, by wearing gloves.

* Make sure you eat plenty of fish, daily, and green vegetables. I am sure your GP will be able to reassure you.

I am a 35-year-old woman. Should I get the flu vaccine? I had a bad dose of flu two years ago and don’t want it to happen again.

I got an email today, from my employer, who will provide it for staff.

>>Seasonal flu (influenza) symptoms, as you have discovered, can be very unpleasant.

The flu season lasts from October to the end of April in the Northern hemisphere and it can be serious, especially for young children and the elderly. Flu is highly infectious and the symptoms can come on very suddenly.

These include fever, headache, a sore throat and muscle aches. A person who has the virus can spread the flu for 1-2 days before they develop symptoms, and for three to five days after they develop symptoms.

Every year, the flu virus changes and each winter a different strain causes outbreaks, so the flu vaccine also has to change.

This is the reason that a new flu vaccine is given each year, ideally from September to October.

The vaccine mimics the real flu, so that your immune system produces antibodies to the flu virus; this happens 10-14 days after receiving the vaccine. Then, if you come into contact with the real virus, the antibodies will be ready and will attack the virus immediately.

Vaccination prevents the flu in 70%-90% of people, depending on their age and health status. Vaccination is recommended for people who are particularly at risk, including those aged 65 and over, those with certain long-term medical conditions, and carers and healthcare workers. However, anyone can benefit from the vaccine, after which some people experience soreness at the site of the injection, for a day or two, and some people feel as though they have a mild flu.

This is because their immune system has been activated by the vaccine.

People who have had a bad reaction to a vaccine, in the past, should talk to their GP before getting it.

An increasing number of employers now provide the flu vaccine for their staff, so that they are healthy staff over the winter.

I hope that you have a healthy winter.


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