Archive for January 20th, 2014


Sales of energy-boosting drinks almost trebled last year. But do they live up to their healthy image? Most energy drinks provide a combination of fast and slow-acting sugars and uplifting ingredients such as caffeine and herbs. But experts are concerned the stimulants are too potent.

Red Bull, a popular energy drinks with trendy young clubbers and sports enthusiasts, is under investigation in Sweden after reports that three people died after drinking it. The recommendation from the Swedish authorities is that you should not mix it with alcohol or drink it after exercise because too much caffeine may lead to thickening of the arteries in susceptible people.

Trendy energy drinks should not be confused with specialist sports drinks. Most of these are labelled isotonic – they have the same concentration of dissolved particles as body fluids, are easily absorbed and increase the rate at which water is delivered to the body. But even these are not necessary for the average gym user.

‘If you only want to replace fluid lost in sweat during exercise of a short duration, water or fruit juice does the job equally well,’ says Professor Ron Maughan, nutrition adviser to Britain’s Olympic team.

So what is the best way to boost your energy from a can?

We assess the good (and bad) points of the top-selling revitalisers and give each a health rating out of five.

Red Bull

Claims: ‘Vitalises body and mind, stimulates metabolism, increases endurance and improves concentration.’

Contains: Taurine, caffeine, B vitamins.

Verdict: Equivalent of a strong cup of filter coffee. Banned in Canada because caffeine levels deemed too high, sold only in pharmacies in Norway, Denmark and France. British Advertising Standards Authority rejected claims it boosts concentration, reaction time and endurance as up to four cans needed to enhance physical or mental performance in set tasks.
Health rating: 1/5

Liptovan B3

Claims: ‘World’s original energy drink since 1962.’

Contains: Royal jelly, taurine and multi-vitamins ‘for a natural lift’.

Verdict: Taurine, a non- essential amino acid from ox bile, is important in the metabolising of fats. Supposedly helps fight fatigue by interfering with brain’s production of the sleep-inducing chemical, serotonin. Like too much caffeine, it can raise heart rate, putting susceptible people at risk. Contains no more caffeine than cup of coffee. Better off with fresh orange juice, which contains energy-boosting carbohydrate.

Health rating: 2/5

Lucozade Solstis

Claims: ‘The combination of fast-acting glucose and caffeine is designed to boost alertness quickly.’

Contains: Guarana, taurine, caffeine and ‘vital energy-releasing vitamins’.

Verdict: Contains not much more caffeine than a cup of coffee. Still, a high overall intake of caffeine will stimulate the heart and central nervous system, and can sometimes cause palpitations in susceptible people.

In high doses, caffeine acts as a diuretic so a drink could promote dehydration rather than prevent it. Solstis was one of the drinks criticised by Dr Graham Chadwick of Dundee University’s dental school.

He carried out tests to see if energy drinks are a greater threat to teeth than ordinary soft drinks. The acidic properties of Red Bull and Lucozade’s Solstis, says Chadwick, can erode the enamel coating that protects the sensitive inner layer of dentine inside the tooth.

Health rating: 1/5


Claims: Boosts mental as well as physical power during exercise.

Contains: Activator complex, which includes caffeine, vitamin C, taurine.
Verdict: Isotonic drink which, it is claimed, will boost your reaction time and powers of thinking as well as your endurance while you play sport, due to a ‘unique mix of stimulating and energy-boosting ingredients’.

Independent one-hour test showed athletes drinking Isostar with activator complex scored 20 pc better on concentration skills than those who drank other isotonic drinks.

Like many other sports drinks, its carbohydrate sources are sucrose and maltodextrins. It is also available as a powder. The downside is that it contains caffeine, which is unnecessary in a sports drink.

Health rating: 4/5

Purdey’s Active Body{5}

Claims: ‘Provides a sustained energy boost at work or play.’

Contains: Fruit juices and ‘botanical extracts’ (ginseng, bayberry bark, prickly ash bark), vitamins.

Verdict: Very sweet-tasting drink with apple juice concentrate and added sugars.You would get no more of an energy jolt with this than from a can of cola. Far healthier to stick to fruit juice and a bagel.

According to nutrition scientist Claire McEvilly, of the British Nutrition Foundation, there is no scientific evidence that bayberry bark and prickly ash bark have any effect on energy levels. ‘It is unwise to consume herbs if you are on medication,’ she says. Contains no stimulants such as caffeine, so not on high risk list.
Health rating: 3/5

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Energy drinks warning for children

Energy drinks should be banned from schools because they are as damaging to young people as drugs, says a top Government advisor.

John Vincent, co-founder of food chain Leon who’s been tasked with advising on school meals, told the BBC that many children replaced their breakfast with an energy drink.

But he said: “Energy drinks are effectively another form of drugs. The amount of sugar and caffeine in these drinks is effectively allowing drugs into schools. We don’t do that and in our view these drinks should not be a part of school life.

“They have hugely damaging effects on children. It affects their ability to concentrate, how they feel, and they have health effects.”

Some 500ml drinks contain as much as 160ml of caffeine – the equivalent of four colas. And they also contain 12 teaspoons of sugar.

The impact of drinking them is palpable. Children’s health adviser Claire Duggan told the BBC that pupils she had spoken to had reported feeling sick, shaky and dizzy after drinking the cans.

One school in Manchester is so concerned about pupils drinking energy drinks, that they have banned them. 

Although the industry said the drinks were not aimed at children, they were not clearly labelled. Gavin Partington from the British Soft Drinks Association said the drinks ‘are not designed for children’.

But it’s clear that they are being drunk by children.

On BBC’s Newsround website, pupils were asked if energy drinks should be banned in school.

There was mixed reaction. 

Hamnah from Walsall, said: “I think students should be allowed to drink whatever they want but they should only be allowed to drink water in lessons.” 

Osha, from the West Midlands, said: “We’re not allowed energy drinks at our school anyway. I agree with John Vincent, they can damage you concentration.

But Caitlin from Warrington added: “Energy drinks shouldn’t be banned in schools because they keep you awake for the rest of the day, so you’re more likely to pay attention.”

However, Luke from Clevedon countered: “Energy drinks make me aggressive and give me a headache.”

However, Kayleigh from Merseyside said a ban wouldn’t make any difference.

She said: “Energy drinks have already been banned from our school but I don’t think it makes a difference because people drink them outside school anyway.”

In October 2012, we reported the story of 14-year-old Anais Fournier, who collapsed and died after having two cans of a fashionable caffeine-rich drink, billed by the makers as a ‘killer energy brew’.

She suffered a heart attack which her family claims was brought on by ‘caffeine toxicity’ after she drank the Monster Energy drinks.

Now Mr Vincent wants an urgent review into such drinks to assess their impact on the health of young people.

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A little boy is sick in the hospital and his mother prays for his recovery.


His little eyes so sad,
His mouth turned in a frown.
Why does this little boy feel so bad?
What is causing him to be down?

His smile used to be so grand,
But now he hangs onto life by a strand.
He doesn’t deserve this pain,
We all have the right to complain.

His mother stays by his side,
As the doctors remain to reside.
Please she cries, let him find a way out.
Erase our faces of this doubt.

This little boy is so precious,
His happiness is infectious.
His life will be so great,
He will overcome his fearful fate.

© Kelli Schraer

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Toddlers tend to be susceptible to more than their fair share of coughs and colds

So how do you decide if your toddler needs to see the doctor, or if a chat with your health visitor will do? And when should you call an ambulance, or take your toddler to the accident and emergency department (A&E) of your nearest hospital?

When should I take my toddler to a doctor?

See a doctor as soon as you can if your toddler:

  • Gets an object lodged in his nose, ear, mouth or (for girls) vagina. Never try to remove objects yourself.
  • Gets a burn larger than a 50p piece, particularly if the skin is blistering. This includes sunburn.
  • Has a fever that lasts for five days or longer, or is accompanied by other symptoms, such as a rash or crying. Most toddlers recover quickly from fever, but if his symptoms worsen, call the doctor again, as it may be a sign of a serious illness or infection.
  • Has to flare his nostrils to breathe.
  • Cries persistently, or if his cry sounds abnormal and high-pitched.
  • Is not drinking, and/or you are concerned that he is dehydrated.
  • Has blood-streaked vomit or poo.
  • Has an unexplained rash, particularly if it’s accompanied by a fever.
  • Has pain in his eyes, is sensitive to light, has disturbed vision, or intense redness in one or both of his eyes. This could be a sign of a bacterial infection or severe conjunctivitis.
  • Has had a major bump to his head.
  • Has a cough and makes a sound similar to a sea lion when he breathes in. This may be croup.
  • Suddenly starts limping, is unable to bear weight on a limb, or stops using an arm or leg.
  • Has noisy or rapid breathing (wheeze), which may be associated with a cough. You may notice his tummy being sucked in or out with his breathing. This may be a viral infection.
  • Shows one or more possible signs of meningitis. These include: 

    – a fever, combined with vomiting and refusing food and drink 
    – cold hands and feet 
    – skin that is pale, blotchy or turning blue 
    – rapid and unusual patterns of breathing 
    – shivering 
    – a high-pitched, moaning cry 
    – deep drowsiness, unresponsiveness, vacant expression or difficult to wake 
    – floppiness and listlessness, or stiffness with jerky movements 
    – a purple-red rash that doesn’t fade when you press a glass against it 
    – a dislike of bright lights 
    – a stiff neck

If you can’t get in touch with your GP, take your toddler straight to your local A&E department. This is also the case if you’re still worried after you’ve spoken to your doctor. 

It’s fine to call a doctor if you are worried about your toddler’s health, or if you are concerned that you’re unable to do enough for your toddler at home. 

Make an appointment to see a doctor if your toddler has any of these symptoms for 24 hours or more:

  • Vomiting, or additional symptoms such as fever or a rash.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Is unusually irritable, fractious and moody for no apparent reason.
  • Pink, watery or sticky eyes, which could be a sign of an eye infection, such as conjunctivitis. Though conjunctivitis can be mild and not require treatment, it needs treating if his eye is very red and has a lot of discharge and crusting. This means it is bacterial and he’ll need eye drops, especially if he attends a nursery.
  • Has a discharge from the ears, eyes, navel, penis or vagina.
  • Has no appetite and misses more than two entire meals. This is worth mentioning to your doctor. Not drinking is more worrying than not eating though, as this requires immediate medical treatment.
  • Has a severe sore throat and has difficulty with swallowing and/or talking.
  • Finds it painful to wee, or wees more or less frequently than usual.
  • Has a cut or graze that oozes pus, and/or the area around it becomes hot, red, tender and swollen.

When should I call an ambulance?

If your toddler is so ill that you think he needs immediate medical treatment, such as if he has severe breathing difficulties, call 999. 

You’ll be asked which emergency service you need and will be put through to an ambulance controller. He will send an ambulance out immediately. He will also help you to assess your toddler’s condition and to give him emergency first aid until the ambulance arrives. 

Call an ambulance if your toddler:

  • Stops breathing.
  • Is unconscious or semi-conscious.
  • Can’t be woken, or if woken, doesn’t stay awake.
  • Has a weak, high-pitched or continuous cry.
  • Looks blue, ashen, mottled or pale.
  • Is having trouble breathing, or is breathing abnormally quickly, particularly if his skin and lips start to develop a bluish tinge. This means he is not getting enough oxygen.
  • Has a fit (convulsion) for the first time, or one that lasts for more than a minute. His eyes may roll back in his head, he may be unresponsive, and his limbs may twitch. Fits are usually caused by a fever (febrile convulsions), but not always.
  • Becomes unwell after swallowing something poisonous or harmful, such as medications meant for adults. Take the bottle or packet to the hospital with you.

If your toddler has a condition or injury that is not life-threatening, but needs immediate treatment, take him straight to A&E. 

Go straight to A&E if your toddler:

  • Has a fever and is lethargic after taking paracetamol or ibuprofen.
  • Is breathing very rapidly or has noisy breathing (is wheezy).
  • Has a cut that is bleeding profusely, or one that is particularly deep and gaping open. To stop bleeding, apply pressure to the cut with a clean cloth and try to keep the affected part raised.
  • Has a serious fall, and you suspect he may have a broken bone or sprain.
  • Swallows something potentially poisonous, even if he seems well.

What if the surgery is closed?

If you phone your GP’s surgery out of hours, you will be directed to a local out-of-hours doctor service. They will able to advise you, or they can organise a visit to a doctor, or an ambulance, if your toddler needs one. 

The government is asking each primary care trust (PCT) to open a GP-led health centre in addition to GP practices. These are open from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week, and offer walk-in services as well as booked appointments. Find a GP-led health centre near you.

What about if I just need some advice?

If you can’t get an appointment with your GP and need some advice, try:

  • An NHS walk-in centre (WiC) or minor injury unit. These centres have long opening hours, and are open at weekends. They deal with minor illnesses and injuries, and you don’t need an appointment. Call in advance to make sure that your nearest centre treats young children, though. Find your nearest NHS WIC or minor injuries unit.
  • NHS Direct (tel: 0845 4647) offers a 24-hour health advice helpline run by nurses. They can advise you about whether or not your toddler needs to see a doctor and can call an ambulance if necessary.
  • Your health visitor can help with any worries you have about your own or your toddler’s wellbeing. She can advise you on feeding your toddlerimmunisationsdevelopment issuessleep and minor health problems, such as constipation.
  • A pharmacist can answer queries about minor ailments, such as nappy rashcoughs and colds, or about any medications your toddler is taking. You can ask which over-the-counter medicines are suitable for your toddler, or whether your toddler should see a doctor. 

    You can walk into any pharmacy and ask to speak to a pharmacist in confidence. Most pharmacies have a private consultation area.


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