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Nearly half of all antibiotic prescriptions in Qatar’s private clinics are for illnesses that cannot be cured with such drugs, a new report has found.

According to the study, some 45 percent of 75,000 prescriptions studied were for viral infections.

Antibiotics are ineffective against these illnesses.

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The study, which zeroed in on the dangers of antibiotic misuse, was conducted over a 1.5-year period from May 2014 to December 2015.

It was spearheaded by Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC), Qatar University (QU) and the Ministry of Public Health, and recently published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases.

No surprise

The results likely won’t come as a surprise to many residents, as HMC has long warned of a rise in drug-resistant infections in the country.

It has also been urging healthcare providers to curb the improper usage of antibiotics.

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In a statement yesterday, Prof. Abdul-Badi Abou-Samra, Chairman of Internal Medicine for HMC, highlighted the dangers of the practice:

“Antibiotics are one of the most powerful tools we have to fight life-threatening infections. They can successfully combat infections that used to be fatal, like bacterial pneumonia,” he said.

“However, the misuse, including the overuse, of antibiotics promotes antibiotic resistance. If we continue to use them inappropriately, we will undermine our ability to treat patients with deadly infections and diseases.”

Protect yourself

Patients can protect their health by not asking for antibiotics when they come down with common infections caused by viruses, such as coughs, colds or the flu, Abou-Samra said.

He added that if a patient is prescribed an antibiotic, they must be sure to take the entire course.

“Sometimes a patient will start to feel better before all the bacteria have been destroyed and sometimes stop taking their medication.

Depending on the medical condition, antibiotics usually have to be taken for several days or sometimes even weeks before the infection clears up,” he said.

Meanwhile, HMC continues to work on the issue from the healthcare side of things.

In 2015 for example, it established an Antimicrobial Stewardship Program. This was to help ensure antibiotics are only prescribed where clinically necessary, both in hospitals and in medical clinics across Qatar.

But a QU study found that a lack of infectious disease specialists and proper training of healthcare providers was limiting the effectiveness of the program.

Thoughts?

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Qatar residents are getting less sleep during Ramadan than normal but are still going to bed earlier – as well as getting up earlier – than most of their GCC neighbors, according to results from a new survey.

The working hours for businesses, shops and services in Gulf countries significantly change during the Holy month, as many residents choose to take advantage of the non-fasting hours by socializing with family and friends into the wee hours, in addition to engaging in religious activities.

As a result, the average night’s sleep during the first week of Ramadan for people living in Qatar is nearly a half-hour less than usual and totals 6 hours, 11 minutes. However, this is still nearly 30 minutes more shut-eye than that of Oman residents, who clock up only 5 hours 45 minutes of sleep a night during the Holy month.

The survey, by Sweden-based firm Sleep Cycle, studied the sleeping patterns of 2,058 residents living in the six GCC states between June 10 and 24, comparing their night-time habits in the week leading up to Ramadan with those in the first week of the Holy month.

It does not appear to take into account that many people make up for their shorter sleep at night by taking a nap in the afternoons.

Less sleep

The general trend across the Gulf was that residents went to bed later and woke up later during Ramadan, getting less overall sleep at nighttime than they would do otherwise.

However, the differences in bed times and wake-up times for Qatar-based participants was not as extreme as those in other Gulf states.

Ramadan sleep survey

Sleep Cycle

Ramadan sleep survey

The survey found that Qatar respondents went to bed on average 42 minutes later in Ramadan, at 12:01am, which is one of the earliest bedtimes recorded in the survey.

Bahrain residents went to bed first, at 11:42pm on average, while those living in Saudi were the night-owls, going to bed on average more than an hour later at 12:44am – although that is just five minutes later than their bedtime outside of Ramadan.

While Qatar participants in the survey joined their Gulf neighbors in sleeping in during Ramadan, they only slept around 13 minutes later than they would usually do, with an average wake-up time of 8:09am.

Ramadan sleep survey

Sleep Cycle

Ramadan sleep survey

Those in the Emirates woke slightly earlier, at 7:57am, while Saudi respondents slept in the latest, not waking until 10:17am.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the late and shorter nights have taken a toll on the quality of respondents’ sleep during the Holy month. Everyone had a poorer night’s sleep, with those in Qatar scoring a sleep quality of -2.3 percent. Omanis suffered the most, with their sleep quality rating on average -5 percent during Ramadan.

Sleep advice

While it’s well-known that consistent lack of sleep makes people grumpy and irritable, it can also have implications for mental and physical health.

A sleep expert at Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC) has advised Qatar residents to try to establish and keep regular sleeping patterns during Ramadan, to help them readjust after the holy month.

“Due to the unique nature of Ramadan, many people experience frequent and irregular sleeping times during the day because they stay awake during the night to perform acts of worship or some times to socialize,” said Dr. Abul Aziz Al Hashmi, Consultant of Pulmonary Diseases and Sleep Disorders at HMC.

Those who significantly change their normal bedtime and wake-up times can struggle to get back into their old routine after Ramadan, which can increase the risk of developing biological clock disorders such as delayed sleep phase syndrome or melatonin secretion rhythm disorder.

This can result in sleepiness, headache and mood swings, Dr. Al Hashmi said.

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Overeating, particularly eating high calorie, sugary or fatty foods can exacerbate potential sleep disorders.

To avoid the feeling of “jet lag” with a sudden change in schedule after Eid, Dr. Al Hashmi advises residents to gradually re-adjust their sleep and wake-up schedule over several days, ahead of their return to work or school to help re-synchronize the body’s biological clock.

Tips for rebooting the body clock to get it back into the normal sleep routine include exposure to strong light for at least one hour after waking. This does not need to be outdoors, but can be from light coming through a window.

“Light is the most potent agent to synchronize the internal body clock that regulates circadian rhythms and helps in reducing the level of sleep hormone (melatonin) in the blood,” Dr. Al Hashmi added.

Are you getting enough sleep this Ramadan? Thoughts?

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HMC

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Stroke victims in Qatar are more than 20 years younger on average than patients in the US and UK, and far too frequently fail to seek timely medical treatment, healthcare officials have said.

In an effort to better treat residents who suffer from strokes, Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC) has launched a new campaign highlighting the symptoms of a stroke and the importance of quickly seeking help.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off and is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.

It’s also a pressing health concern in Qatar, where stroke victims occupy nearly one in five hospital beds in the medical ward at Hamad General Hospital at any given time, Dr. Ashfaq Shuaib told Doha News.

The average age of a stroke victim in Qatar is 54, which is roughly in line with other GCC countries, Shuaib said. However, it’s much younger than the average age of 77 for stroke patients in the US and UK.

He said the most common risk factors for a stroke – including hypertension, diabetes, smoking and a lack of exercise – are prevalent across Qatar’s population.

As in many developed countries, Qatar’s rapidly increasing wealth has heralded a drop in physical activity and made poor diets more common.

“Affluence is not directly related to (better) healthcare (outcomes),” Shuaib said. “One of the most prevalent issues is diabetes. You can manage your blood pressure better, but if you don’t exercise, that negates it.”

Meanwhile, many of the country’s low-income workers come from countries with high smoking rates, where they may not have had regular contact with medical professionals who could identify issues such as high blood pressure and discuss treatment options.

Breakdown of stroke victims by nationality.

HMC

Breakdown of stroke victims by nationality.

Qatari nationals make up 17 percent of all stroke cases in Qatar, according to Hamad Medical Corp.

While that’s higher than their proportionate share of the population, Qataris tend to be overrepresented in such medical statistics because many expats are of working age and leave the country before illnesses commonly associated with older age – such as stroke, heart disease and cancer – appear.

Treatment

According to medical professionals, a stroke victim treated within 4.5 hours of symptoms appearing is generally seen as having the best chances of making a full recovery.

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Roughly a year ago, that was only happening in 4 percent of cases in Qatar.

However, that’s more than doubled to 9 percent here, in large part because of streamlining treatment, Shuaib said.

For example, paramedics are now trained to diagnose a stroke patient and notify emergency room physicians while they’re on the way to the hospital.

Triage procedures have also been tightened up so that doctors can make an official diagnosis, conduct a CAT scan and discuss treatment options with family members as quickly as possible.

However, health officials said accelerating patient treatment can only go so far in improving outcomes.

“In the bigger scheme of things, we weren’t doing very well because people weren’t coming to the hospital,” Shuaib said, adding that only 51 percent of stroke victims arrive at hospital by ambulance soon after developing symptoms.

That’s one of the reasons that HMC has launched a new public awareness campaign to teach residents the signs that someone is having a stroke – such as drooping facial muscles, arm weakness and difficulty speaking – as well as the importance of acting quickly.

“Unlike a heart attack, where the pain hits you, brain attacks are silent,” Shuaib said, underlining the importance of quickly calling 999 at the onset of symptoms.

“Twenty years ago, there was less hope and fewer treatment options for patients. Now the treatment has becoming very advanced, increasing the odds of recovery.”

Thoughts?