Constipation is a common complaint. It occurs when bowel motions become harder or drier than normal and are difficult to pass or when you are having fewer bowel movements than your regular pattern.

Bowel habit is very much an individual pattern and there is a large amount of variance. For some people, a daily bowel movement is normal for others it may be every couple of days. Bowel habit is dependent on many factors including, diet, exercise, age and gender.

Haven pharmacists have put together some valuable information for you about the symptoms of constipation, how to treat it and when it is advisable to speak to your pharmacist or GP. Your local Haven pharmacist is always on hand to discuss any health concern you may have, drop in any time.

What Are the Symptoms of Constipation?

If you answer ‘yes’ to the following questions you may be constipated:

  • Do you often have fewer than three bowel movements in a week?
  • Are your stools often hard and dry, or small and hard?
  • Are you experiencing pain when passing stools?
  • Do you experience blood in your stools?

Symptoms of constipation include:

  • Straining with possible pain and difficulty passing
  • Stomach discomfort and bloating
  • Hard stools – specks of bright blood
  • Children may be irritable and have a decreased appetite
  • Less frequent bowel movements than your usual

With recurring constipation, the regular straining may cause people to develop haemorrhoids (piles).

What Causes Constipation?

Lack of fibre

  • Fibre is necessary to maintain a healthy bowel habit. The fibre helps lubricate the bowel by absorbing water and keeping the stool soft and easy to pass. Eating refined foods or processed foods can also lead to a low fibre diet and result in constipation

Lack of fluids

  • If you are dehydrated you will find it more difficult to pass stools as they are drier and harder. Babies are also at risk of constipation when they transfer to a solid diet or if they receive poorly prepared formula.

Lack of exercise

  • Immobility is a major cause of constipation (especially in the elderly). Sedentary lifestyles or changes in mobility due to illness or injury can result in a change in bowel habit. Even sitting for long periods of time such as flying long haul flights can result in constipation.


  • Medicine-induced constipation can be caused by the following: antidepressants, anti-Parkinson’s drugs, antipsychotics antihypertensive’s, pain killers (codeine), iron, epilepsy medicines, diuretics and antacids containing aluminium and calcium.


  • Hormonal changes in pregnancy can cause constipation. This is especially common in the third trimester.

Emotional distress

  • Worry, stress and depression can often cause constipation. For many people their digestive system is heavily influenced by their emotional states and in situations of high anxiety gut motility can be significantly altered.


  • Some medical conditions such as depression, bowel cancers, haemorrhoids (piles), diabetes and hypothyroidism can cause constipation.

Potty training

  • Children can become constipated during potty training due to anxiety and stress. In this time of change it is important to be supportive to your child and not put too much pressure on them to pass a bowel movement

How Can You Prevent Constipation?

Increase your fibre intake

  • The recommended intake of fibre is 30g per day. This can be found in whole grain cereals, breads, pasta and brown rice. Nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables are also a dietary necessity for a healthy bowel habit.

Increase your fluid intake

  • The recommended daily fluid intake is 1.5 litre or 6-8 glasses of water. Increase the water intake of breast fed and bottle fed babies for a short time until the constipation is gone

Increase your exercise

  • Regular exercise is important for a healthy body and a healthy digestive system. For the elderly or unwell this may be gentle exercise such as regular walking.

Don’t delay your bowel movements

  • By responding to “the call of nature” and trying to go to the toilet around the same time every day you can try to regulate your bowel motions – but it’s important to avoid straining.

Avoid caffeine – why?

  • Coffee can actually make stools harder to pass because it is a diuretic, so it draws liquid out of stools. If you are constipated, avoid coffee and other diuretics such as alcohol and caffeinated tea and cola.

What is the Treatment for Constipation?


Laxatives can be habit forming if taken regularly. Therefore, they should only be taken for short-term relief of constipation. Ask your Haven Pharmacist for advice on what is best for you. Laxatives should not be used for weight loss purposes and abuse can result in serious medical problems.

When Should You See a Doctor About Your Constipation?

  • If you see blood in stool – tarry, dark red or black
  • If you have constipation for seven days or longer – for no obvious cause
  • If your constipation coincides with weight and appetite loss
  • If you have pain on passing causing you to suppress reflex
  • If you are aged over 40 years old with sudden change in bowel habits -with no obvious cause
  • If you suspect depression


Everything You Need to Know About Cold Sores

Many of us will never experience a cold sore, but for those of us who develop them regularly, trust us – you are not missing out! The good news is, our Haven pharmacists have put together all of the information you need about cold sores, where they come from, how they spread and how to treat them. If you are concerned over the size of your cold sore, or the length of time it has been present for, call into any Haven Pharmacy where our expert staff will be happy to offer you advice and guidance.

What are Cold Sores?

Cold sores are mostly a benign viral infection that cause sores to form around the nose and mouth. Generally, the virus lays dormant in the body. However, in times of stress or illness the virus may be triggered and red blisters which can develop into weeping sores may appear.

What Causes Cold Sores?

The herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) causes cold sores. HSV-1 is very common. When exposed to the virus for the first time most people will become infected however only 10% will develop cold sores. The sores appear 2-20 days after initial infection and last for about 10-14 days.

How are Cold Sores Spread?

Most people are infected by the virus as infants. It is spread by close contact, kissing or sharing cups, cutlery, face cloths or towels with friends and family members.

People with the virus may spread the sores from their mouths to their eyes by touching their mouth and then touching their eyes. It is important to contact your doctor immediately if your eye becomes red and sore. The virus may also spread to the sex organs or any part of the body where there is broken skin.

Who is at Risk?

Usually, cold sores are only a minor nuisance, however babies and people with skin conditions such as eczema may become quite ill with the herpes virus.

What are the Symptoms of Cold Sores?

  1. First you will feel a tingling, burning, itchy sensation where the sore is about to appear. This is the sign to start treatment.
  2. Then a red and swollen patch will appear which will blister into a cold sore over a 24-hour period. Sores can, at this point, be painful, and sometimes make talking and eating difficult. At this point the treatment will reduce healing time.
  3. Without treatment, the sores become painful and begin to weep and crack.
  4. In roughly a week the sores begin to crust and scab over. The scab will fall off soon without scarring.
  5. The cold sore should heal completely within 10 to 14 days since it first began. However, the virus can be spread from the time of tingling until the crust has dried into a scab.


What is the Treatment for Cold Sores?

  • Most cold sores heal by themselves in 10-14 days.
  • Cold sore treatments, available over the counter from your local Haven Pharmacy, will include anti-viral medications, aesthetics, antiseptics or natural herbal remedies. These remedies will encourage healing, relieve pain or if caught in time help to prevent the cold sore from developing.
  • Talk to the pharmacist to find the most appropriate treatment for you. It is important to tell the pharmacist if you are pregnant or breast feeding.
  • The best time to treat a cold sore is before it happens. This is at the initial phase when the tingling symptoms occur. Applying an anti-viral cream to the affected area will help to prevent the cold sore developing further.
  • Directions for the anti-viral products may differ, however most will require the cream to be applied 5 times a day- roughly every 2 hours.
  • For blisters that have broken out, you can keep the cold sore clean by bathing it with warm water and patting it dry with tissue paper or a cotton bud. Washing hands before applying treatment is very important.
  • Washing hands after using the cold sore cream and avoiding re-using the same finger to get more cream out of the tube can prevent contamination of the medicine.
  • Using a lip moisturising cream can help with dry cracking lips that may result in further infection.


Why Do Cold Sores Keep Coming Back?

After the initial attack, the virus gets into the nerves at the part of the area the cold sore appeared. The virus lies dormant here until the next attack is triggered. Triggers include stress, tiredness, menstruation, pregnancy, strong sunlight or sunburn. A cold sore may also break out if you are feeling run down or have another illness

It’s important to manage your cold sore and understand the triggers. If you are at a stressful period of your life manage your stress by exercising or relaxation techniques, boost your immune system with healthy eating or adding a multivitamin. Also avoid dangerous sun exposure and protect your skin using sunscreens (SPF30+)

How Can You Prevent Cold Sores Spreading to Others?

  • Avoiding transfer of the virus to others means avoiding skin contact . Kissing, touching or picking the cold sore should be avoided especially when it has blistered and is weeping.
  • Use your own towel, eating utensils and don’t allow others drink out of your drinks.
  • Use your own lip balms, wipe lipstick testers and preferably use them on your hand.
  • Don’t touch the cold sore unless necessary for treatment and always wash your hands afterwards.

When Should You See a Doctor About Your Cold Sores?

  • If your cold sore spreads from your lips to other areas of the face, or if cold sores appear on other parts of your body.
  • If your cold sore has lasted longer than three weeks.
  • If you are experiencing a very severe cold sore or repeated attacks of cold sores.




Everything You Need to Know About the Common Cold

Ever wonder why the symptoms of a cold tend to vary greatly? That’s because the common cold is caused by any one of more than two hundred viruses!

Adults tend to get two to four colds a year but children (especially preschoolers) may have up to eight to ten colds annually. Both adults and children are more susceptible to the common cold in the autumn and winter months when children are in school and people are spending a lot of time indoors.

Haven pharmacists have shared some of their expert advice so that you know what type of cold you have and how best to treat it. Also, we highlight the importance of self-care and dispel some “old wives” tales.

How Do We Catch a Cold?

The cold virus enters your body via your mouth or nose through contact with another carrier who has sneezed or coughed close to you. It can also spread by hand to hand contact with someone who has a cold or by using shared objects such as cutlery, towels, toys or telephones. If you touch your eyes, nose or mouth after such contact or exposure you are likely to acquire a common cold.


 Other “old wives” tales about how you catch a common cold, such as going outdoors with wet hair or getting chilled for example, have never been proven with clinical studies.


What are the Symptoms of a Cold?

These symptoms generally gradually develop over a few hours and occur one to three days after exposure to the virus. They usually last about seven days. Some symptoms, such as a cough, may persist after the worst of a cold is over. Symptoms of a cold include:

  • Runny/blocked nose
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Aches and pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat

Although you may feel hot when you have a cold it is unlikely to be a temperature. The presence of a fever may be an indication of flu rather than a cold.

During the summer months, you may have symptoms like nasal congestion, sneezing and irritated watery eyes but these are likely to be due to allergy or hayfever.


Who is Most at Risk?


  • Children are more likely to get a cold because they haven’t developed resistance to most of the viruses that cause them. They also spend lots of time with other children who aren’t as careful about washing their hands – making it easier for the cold to spread.

Allergy sufferers

  • If you suffer from seasonal allergies (hayfever) or ongoing allergic reactions to dust, moulds or pet hair, which affects your nasal passages, you are more likely to develop a cold than people who do not have allergies.

Those living or working in close quarters

  • Viral and bacterial infections spread easily anywhere people gather – childcare centres, classrooms, hospitals, offices, prisons and military installations.


What are the Complications of the Common Cold?

Children, the elderly (especially those that are frail, malnourished or suffering from other illnesses), asthmatics and smokers have an increased chance of suffering from complications due to the common cold.

Acute ear infection in children

  • The most common complication of common colds in children is an acute ear infection (otitis media), which occurs when bacteria infiltrate the space behind the eardrum. Typical signs and symptoms include earaches and, in some cases, a green or yellow discharge from the nose or the return of a fever following a cold. Children who are too young to verbalise their distress may simply cry or pull on the affected ear.

**Unlike a common cold, ear infections may require treatment with antibiotics. Young children and children with chronic health problems are most likely to need antibiotics to treat an ear infection.**


  • In adults or children, a common cold that doesn’t resolve may lead to sinusitis. Other secondary infections that may develop following a cold include strep throat, chronic bronchitis and pneumonia. These infections need to be treated by a doctor.


When Should You Seek Medical Advice?

A cold generally goes away in about a week, although it may not disappear as quickly as you’d like. If your signs and symptoms last longer than a week, you may have a more serious illness, such as flu or pneumonia.

Seek medical attention if you have:

  • Temperature greater than 102 F (38.9C)
  • High temperature accompanied by achiness and fatigue
  • Temperature accompanied by sweating, chills and a cough with coloured phlegm
  • Symptoms that get worse instead of better

Seek medical attention if your child has any of the following signs or symptoms:

  • Temperature of 103 F or higher, chills or sweating (39.4C)
  • Temperature that lasts more than 72 hours
  • Vomiting or abdominal pain
  • Unusual sleepiness
  • Severe headache
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent crying
  • Ear pain


What is the Best Treatment for the Common Cold?

There is no cure for the common cold. Antibiotics are of no use against cold viruses, and over-the-counter cold preparations won’t cure a cold or make it go away any sooner. However, over-the-counter medications such as decongestants and cough expectorants can relieve some symptoms so make sure you talk to your local Haven Pharmacist for advice.

One of the most important things to do, if you have a cold, is to look after yourself. Follow these self-care tips to make yourself as comfortable as possible:

Drink lots of fluid

  • Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol, caffeine and cigarette smoke, which can cause dehydration and aggravate your symptoms.

Get some rest

  • Consider staying home from work if you have a temperature or a bad cough, or are drowsy from medications. This will give you a chance to rest as well as reduce the chances that you’ll infect others. Wear a mask when you have a cold if you live or work with someone with a chronic disease or compromised immune system.

Adjust your room’s temperature and humidity/steam yourself

  • Keep your room warm, but not overheated. If the air is dry use a vaporiser or humidifier. A cheaper and quite effective method is to boil a kettle several times in a room and place a small bowl of water on top of the radiator (if it is heated). The use of a steam inhalation hydrates the upper respiratory tract and helps loosen phlegm. Menthol and eucalyptus inhalants may also provide relief from the congestion caused by the common cold.

Soothe your throat

  • Gargling with warm salt water several times a day or drinking warm lemon water with honey may help soothe a sore throat and relieve a cough.



What is the Best Prevention for the Common Cold?

No effective vaccine has been developed because so many different viruses can cause a common cold. However, you can take some other precautions to slow the spread of cold viruses:

Take a vitamin C supplement during the winter months

  • Vitamin C is essential to maintaining a healthy immune system. Supplementation during the winter months may help to boost the immune system so the body can fight off cold and flu viruses more effectively.

Wash your hands

  • Clean your hands frequently and teach your children the importance of hand washing.

Keep things clean

  • Keep kitchen and bathroom countertops clean, especially when someone in your family has a cold. Wash your child’s toys after play.

Use tissues

  • Always sneeze and cough into tissues. Discard used tissues right away.

Be a little selfish

  • Don’t share drinking glasses or utensils with other family members. Use your own glass or disposable cups when you or someone else is ill.

Steer clear of colds

  • Avoid close, prolonged contact with anyone who has a cold.

Choose your child-care centre carefully

  • Look for a child-care setting with sound hygiene practices and clear policies about keeping ill children at home.




Childhood Illnesses – Knowing the Symptoms and When to See a Doctor

It’s easy to forget that children are not little adults. Children have not yet developed their body’s natural defences and therefore are far more prone to infections from bacteria and viruses than adults. As a result, children often get sick. Most of the time there is no need to worry, however a child that is unwell must be watched carefully as they can get worse very quickly.

As a parent, it is important to be diligent and understand the warning signs because unlike adult’s, children don’t understand they are poorly. Our Haven pharmacists have put together some useful information about how to recognise when your child is sick and when to see a doctor. Remember, Haven pharmacies are looking after families across Ireland on a daily basis. At Haven, we pride ourselves on the trust and care we invest in the people in our local communities and are here to listen and assist if you ever have any concerns about your family members.

What are the Symptoms of a Sick Child?

Healthy children are usually active and alert whilst a sick child will be more withdrawn than normal. They can be cranky, sleepy, and more in demand of your attention and affection than normal. They often lose their appetite.

General Symptoms

  • General symptoms of a sick child are fever, pain, vomiting and diarrhoea, cough, headache and rash. For specific symptoms of common illness in children have a look at our easy reference table below.

Raised Temperature

  • When a child is running a fever, they will have a raised temperature (above 37°C). This is an indication your child is fighting an infection, either viral or bacterial. Monitor any changes by taking a regular temperature reading with the thermometer.


  • Children’s pain can be from sore ears, teething, headache or injury. Sore throats, runny noses, coughs and headache may also cause distress so it can be helpful to talk to your local Haven Pharmacist about your child’s symptoms.

Vomiting and Diarrhoea

  • Vomiting and diarrhoea are more serious for a child than an adult because they are at higher risk of dehydration due to losing fluids from their bodies. A Haven Pharmacist can help you treat and manage these symptoms or advise referral if necessary.

When Should You See a Doctor About Your Sick Child?

  • If your child still has pain or a fever (39°C or more) after 24 hours
  • Regular vomiting for over 24 hours
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea together
  • More than two very loose, smelly bowel motions in a day
  • Refuses two or more regular daily meals/feeds
  • Rubbing or tugging ear, crying or grizzling, or has runny discharge coming from the ear
  • Ongoing cough or wheeze, breathing more quickly than normal or grunting
  • Difficulty waking the child
  • Seizure or fit
  • Unusually floppy or pale
  • Develops a rash or stiff neck

Common Illnesses in Children That Require a Doctor

Baby Care – Looking After Your Little Ones

Ever feel like there are just so many things to look out for with a new baby that you don’t know where to start? It can be really overwhelming. Firstly, you’re doing a great job! So don’t worry and be kind to yourself. Secondly, our expert pharmacists have gone to the trouble of listing out the most common queries that we would receive from parents in our pharmacies. Remember to talk to your Haven Pharmacist if you are concerned your baby or child may have a health problem.

Blocked Nose

Saline nasal drops will help clear a blocked nose. If you are finding these difficult to apply – try some capsules containing light aromatic oils and sprinkle on the bed sheets. (Not suitable for children under three months)



Symptoms of Colic include

  1. Excessive Crying
  2. High Pitched Piercing Sound
  3. Clenched Fists
  4. Excessive Gas
  5. Knees Drawn Up to Chest
  6. Red Face
  7. Grimacing/Frowning
  8. Difficult to Comfort

Colic in young babies is not a permanent condition and one they generally grow out of. Colic may be caused by wind or by a temporary reaction to the lactose in milk which can cause bloated stomach or tummy upset.

Talk to your Haven Pharmacist about the products available to help reduce the effects of colic.



Babies should only very rarely be constipated. If your baby is constipated, please contact your Haven pharmacist of GP.

Cradle Cap (Infantile Seborrheic Dermatitis)

Cradle cap is a greasy, yellow, flaky condition on the scalp of recently born babies – which can be easily treated. Your Haven Pharmacist will be able to advise you on treatments containing liquid paraffin in addition to a mild shampoo.


Babies and children are immunized to protect them from certain diseases. Please consult your doctor about the vaccination routine for your baby or child

Nappy Rash

Most babies will suffer from nappy rash at some time. There are many creams or powders that will help to prevent, treat and soothe the condition. It’s important to change the nappy frequently when a baby has nappy rash as the baby’s urine may make the rash worse. In severe cases and when infection is involved, the condition can be distressing and require medical attention. Ask your Haven Pharmacist if in any doubt about the severity of the rash.

Oral Thrush

Oral thrush appears like white patches on the cheeks and tongue.

If a baby is being bottle fed or is using a soother, then make sure to rinse the soother or bottle teat with water. Do not place the teat/soother in your mouth and do not let other children use the teat/soother as thrush can spread easily in this way


If you think your baby may have thrush, ask your Haven Pharmacist for help

Teething and Pain

Paracetamol and ibuprofen can be used to help reduce the pain of teething. Ibuprofen should not be given to children who are asthmatic. It is important to use the correct dosage and not to overdose.

**Please Note: These drugs should not be used routinely. Aspirin should not be given to children under 16.**

Skin Conditions and Rashes

If your baby has an unusual rash or skin condition, make sure to talk to your family Haven pharmacist or your GP.


Worms may be visible in the nappy or in the toilet bowl. Quite often the child will be scratching their bottom and may be grinding their teeth when they are asleep. Talk to your pharmacist about the best advice for worm treatment.


5 Signs of Acne and How to Treat it

Acne Vulgaris is a common skin disease that develop in the pores around hair follicles and oil producing glands. If mainly occurs in adolescence, affecting approximately 80% of teenagers but can also affect people in their 20’s and 30’s.

What Causes Acne?

Acne results from blockages in the hair follicles caused by too much sebum (oil) being produced in the sebaceous glands, usually triggered by hormonal changes. Stress may increase the severity of an attack but there does not appear to be a definitive link between high sugar foods such as chocolate and the appearance of acne. Due to the hormonal changes, acne may be more evident around the time just before a woman’s period.

5 Signs of Acne

  1. Seborrhoea (Increased oil-sebum production)
  2. Pimples
  3. Blackheads
  4. Whiteheads
  5. Pustules and Possible Scarring

How to Treat Acne

The right treatment can reduce the risk of damage to the skin or scarring. Here are some of the treatments that you can use:

  • Medicated washes used twice daily can help to control excessive oil build up as well as killing the bacteria
  • Local treatments including Benzoyl Peroxide can help decrease excessive oiliness by clearing excess skin and reduce the presence of bacteria
  • Antibiotic treatments prescribed by your doctor include both oral medicines and topical preparations

Your Haven pharmacist can advise you on the medication you have been prescribed in terms of optimal usage of the medication and precautions to be aware of.

How to Prevent Acne

  • Cleanse skin morning and night with a mild cleanser (natural ingredients advisable)
  • Use water based moisturisers
  • Keep make up off the face
  • Keep hair clean and off the face
  • Eat healthily, exercise regularly and drink plenty of water
  • Aim to reduce stress
  • Wash hands frequently and try not to touch the face
  • Wear loose clothing if acne is affecting the torso in order to avoid sweating
  • Don’t pick spots, this can lead to unnecessary scarring
  • Follow any prescribed medication for the full course

When Should You See a Doctor About Acne?

  • If acne is severe
  • If months of over-the-counter (non-prescription) treatments haven’t helped
  • If the acne appeared after starting a medication. Some medications can result in acne or similar symptoms
  • If spots are becoming larger and more severe
  • If your acne is affecting your self-esteem

Contact your local Haven Pharmacist for more information about acne