Health A-Z

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Abuse and safety

Abuse is defined as any action that intentionally harms or injures another person. Abuse is never OK: everyone has the right to feel safe and to live free from fear.

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Acne

Acne is a skin problem that usually starts in your teens. Your skin becomes greasy, skin pores become blocked and you develop whiteheads, blackheads, pimples or cysts. Acne usually gets better with time, though may take some years to resolve. A few people, however, may have problems into their 30s and 40s, and those with severe acne may be left with some scars (early treatment may help prevent this).

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Acute pain

Pain can be acute (onset within hours or days) or chronic (lasting weeks, months or years). It's important to recognise which type of pain you have, as well as understand what can be done to help.

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Allergies – tips for children starting school

For children with allergies, starting school takes an extra degree of planning.

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Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease is a form of dementia that causes a gradual decline in a person's ability to remember, understand, communicate and reason.

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Angina

Angina is chest pain that occurs when the blood supply to the muscles of your heart are restricted. This can be due to narrowing of the arteries supplying the heart.

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Antihistamines

Antihistamines are mainly used to treat allergies such as hay fever, hives or urticaria, and itching. They may be used to help reduce feeling sick (nausea) and being sick (vomiting).

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Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal human emotion. However, some people find themselves worrying or feeling anxious so often that it interferes with their day to day life. Anxiety disorders are very common, affecting approximately 15% of the population.

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Arthritis – an introduction

Arthritis literally means ‘inflammation of a joint’ and is common as we get older.

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Arthritis – children

Arthritis in children is an autoimmune illness where, for unknown reasons, the immune system becomes confused and attacks healthy cells rather than invading foreign bodies such as bacteria or viruses.

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Asthma – adults

Asthma is a common lung condition that affects the breathing tubes (airways) that carry air in and out of your lungs. Asthma causes wheeze and cough, and can make it difficult to breathe. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world, affecting up to 1 in 4 children and 1 in 6 adults.

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Asthma – children

Asthma is a condition that causes cough, wheeze and shortness of breath. It is common, with 1 in 7 children in New Zealand taking medication for asthma. With treatment, asthma can be well managed and children can run and play as normal. Many also grow out of it as they get older.

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Asthma - children: self care

The most important part of managing asthma is what you do at home, school, work or play. Yes, it's important to see your doctor/nurse and be on the right medication or inhalers, but it's up to you to find a way to help your child remember to take inhalers every morning and evening (or to remember to do this for them if they are too young to do this themselves).

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Asthma – exercise

Some people with asthma experience symptoms when they exercise; this is called exercise-induced asthma (EIA), which may be made worse by cold, dry conditions and if the person is unfit. EIA can be managed with the right information and help from your doctor, nurse, pharmacist or asthma educator.

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Asthma – pregnancy

Changes to your body during pregnancy may affect your asthma – it may become better or it may worsen, it may even reappear after not having been an issue since childhood. The key is to be aware of your symptoms and know what to do to keep your asthma under control.

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Athlete's foot

Athlete's foot is a common skin infection affecting the feet, caused by tinea (a fungal infection) resulting in scaling and itching.

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Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a condition that affects the heart, causing an irregular heart beat. This is known as a heart rhythm disorder (arrhythmia).

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Back pain

Back pain, most commonly of the lower spine, affects 4 out of 5 people at some stage of their life. Fortunately, there are many things that can be done to recover and prevent pain from returning. Keeping active and maintaining good posture are two key activities that help prevent back pain.

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Bladder control problems – men

Difficulties with passing urine are common as men age. One in 3 men over 50 years of age and nearly all men aged over 85 years experience some difficulty in urinating.

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Bladder control problems – women

Bladder control problems (when you pee unexpectedly) are commen in women and are often a sign that one of the mechanisms which keeps us dry is not working correctly. Most women with urinary leakage find they can overcome it or improve their control, but many do not seek help.

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Blisters

A blister is a fluid filled lump that appears where the skin's outer is repeatedly rubbed or in some other way injured.

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Blood pressure

Your blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries.

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Bowel cancer screening

Between 2017 and 2020, a national bowel screening programme will become available to everyone aged 60 to 74 who is eligible for publicly funded healthcare in New Zealand.

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Breast screening

BreastScreen Aotearoa is a free national breast screening programme for NZ women aged 45–70 years of age that checks women for signs of early breast cancer.

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Bunion

A bunion is a bony lump that forms at the base of the big toe. Bunions form when your big toe keeps pushing against the next toe. Over time, this can damage the joint and become enlarged and painful.

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Cancer – what is?

Cancer is when certain cells in the body grow and divide in an uncontrolled way. These cells can invade and destroy surrounding tissues.

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Chronic fatigue syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complex illness that affects many systems of the body, particularly the nervous and immune systems. People with CFS experience extreme tiredness that doesn't go away with rest and cannot be explained by other more easily detected causes.

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Coeliac disease

Coeliac disease is a a permanent autoimmune disorder that causes a reaction to gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. This immune reaction makes part of your gut inflamed and can lead to a range of symptoms and nutritional problems.

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Cold or the flu?

Over the shorter, colder days of winter, it's not uncommon to come down with a cold or the flu. A cold is usually a mild illness but the flu can be serious, so it’s good to know the difference.

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Cold sores

Cold sores are small fluid-filled blisters that appear on the skin, usually on the lips, chin, cheeks, or in the nostrils. Some people have no symptoms from the infection; others develop painful and unsightly cold sores that last for a week or more.

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Concussion

A concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury that can occur if you suffer a blow to the head or hit your head after a fall. Concussion results in a short-term loss of normal brain function in response to this head injury.

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Congenital heart disease

Congenital heart disease is the name for heart problems people are born with.

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Constipation

Constipation is when your bowel movements (poos) become hard and lumpy, making them painful or difficult to get out. It is a common problem.

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COPD

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a term for damage to the lungs (pulmonary = lungs) which makes breathing difficult.

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Cough & cold medicines – adults

Easy-to-read medicine information about cold and cough medicines.

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Cough & cold medicines – children

Coughs and colds are common in children, but what medicines can be given?

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Croup

Croup is a viral illness in babies and young children that causes a narrowing of the upper airways, often leading to a 'barking' cough (like a seal), hoarse voice and raspy breath.

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Dental – children's oral health

When it comes to oral care for children, getting off to a good start is essential. Teeth play an important role in jaw development, eating and speech. They need to be healthy and well-cared for from the beginning.

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Dental – tooth decay

Tooth decay is damage that occurs when a combination of bacteria, plaque and acids in our mouth eat away at a tooth. This can lead to a 'hole' in the tooth, known as a cavity or caries.

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Dental – oral health

Teeth have a huge influence on your appearance and overall health. Keep them clean, white and healthy and you have a wonderful asset. Neglect them and your appearance and health both suffer. Daily care, along with a healthy diet and regular visits to your dental practice, will keep your smile in top condition

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Dental – plaque & tartar

Plaque and tartar provide the ideal environment in which bacteria thrive, causing gum disease and tooth decay. Keeping plaque and tartar at bay with good dental hygiene is key to oral health.

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Depression overview

We all have the blues from time to time, but if you have depression, this feeling is stronger, it affects your thinking and behaviour, and lasts from weeks to months. However, no matter how low you feel, there is hope. There are people who can help you and things you can do to get on the road to recovery.

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Dermatitis

Dermatitis is a skin inflammation that causes red, itchy, crusted skin that can become swollen or blistered. Dermatitis affects about 20% of people at some time.

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Diabetes

Diabetes occurs when there is too much glucose, a type of sugar, in the blood. If not controlled, high blood-sugar levels will eventually lead to damage to many parts of the body.

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Diabetes – blood glucose testing

If you have diabetes, you can test your blood glucose levels at home using a blood glucose meter.

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Diabetes – medications

The main aim of treatment for diabetes is to reduce your risk of developing complications by keeping your blood glucose (sugar) levels at reasonable levels.

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Diabetes – prediabetes

Prediabetes is when the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood is higher than normal. This means you are at much higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

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Diabetes – type 1

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the body is unable to produce enough insulin, resulting in insulin deficiency.

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Diabetes – type 2

Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which your body isn't able to use insulin properly, resulting in high blood glucose levels. This can lead to a wide range of health problems if not treated.

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Dry mouth

Dry mouth is a condition where there is not enough saliva in your mouth. Dry mouth can contribute to dental decay, gum disease and infections, so you may need to take extra care of your oral health.

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Ear infection (middle ear)

An ear infection occurs when bacteria or viruses infect the middle ear, causing pain and discomfort. They are common in young children, who should be taken to a doctor.

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Earache

Ear pain or earache is very common in children and can also affect adults. See your doctor if you or a family member – especially a child or baby – has earache.

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