Wellbeing Wednesday 24th August 2022

Jane Fowler – Head of Customer Support Services

Hello and welcome to this week’s Wellbeing Wednesday.  I’m in Helensburgh today in our Civic Centre, with a lovely view of the sun shining over the River Clyde and a whole lot of sailing boats out on the water.

This week we are all about doggies! (and also how to avoid biting insects – but dogs first). We had great feedback from you about our cat edition a few weeks ago – all you cat lovers were delighted! So how could we leave out you dog lovers? There are so many health benefits to having a dog – companionship, relaxation and a great excuse to get out and about in our wonderful countryside – and what a stress buster that is! We see quite a few photos on #abplace2b of people with their dogs round and about Argyll and Bute (not so many with their cats…).  And going out walking with your dog can lead to meeting new people. Whilst I don’t have a dog myself, I have it on good authority (thanks Rachel MacVicar!) that dogs can be real rascals….but when they’re caught in the act of some mischief they’ll look so guilty you can’t help but forgive them. And they have such a positive attitude – they’ll greet you like you’ve been gone for a century even if you’ve just been away for 5 minutes. So here’s to our four legged friends!

We have some information on biting insects as well – whilst midges and ticks are around for much of the year in Argyll and Bute, we’re coming into the season of sleepy, tired wasps that are craving sugar, so we have some hints and tips for you to avoid getting bitten or stung.

Finally – no progress on the reading front this week, but still keeping my screen time down – this weekend by going out and about. Saturday was a trip to Oban 10s rugby tournament – great day out and well done to the ladies’ team (my daughter plays) and to Mid-Argyll, who fielded their first senior team for years.  And on Sunday we went down to the Campbeltown Music Festival and back via a swim at Westport – a grand day out and the Wee Toon was looking fantastic.  Will definitely be back next year!  Music and friends – food for the soul.

See you next week!

National Dog Day is on Friday 26th August and this week we are looking at how owning a dog can boost your Health and Wellbeing

We are a nation of dog lovers and our dogs provide us with so much in life, acting as our motivational partner, sofa snuggle buddy and even a non-judgmental shoulder to cry on when we are sad. 

Their empathy, loyalty, affection and dependable nature truly shows why they are often referred to as ‘man’s best friend’. Our age old friendship with dogs is certainly second to none but are we aware of the full range of benefits they offer us as pets?

Health benefits of owning a Dog

There are numerous health and wellbeing benefits that owning a dog can offer us including:

  • Lower cholesterol
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improved mood
  • Reduced stress
  • Mindfulness
  • Exercise and fresh air
  • Companionship and emotional support
  • Help with depression and anxiety disorders

 

An outdoor explorer

One of the main benefits of owning a dog is keeping fit. Being, on the whole, energetic animals, dogs encourage us to get up on our feet and out of the door.

The benefits of fresh air and exercise to our health are significant, especially for many of us who have office jobs and often can’t find the time for a walk outside. Regular walks in the fresh air can improve blood pressure and heart rate, boost our mood and calm us down if we feel anxious or stressed.

So, if you’re stuck in a bit of an exercise rut and need that motivation to lace up your trainers, you can’t get a much better exercise buddy than a dog. Come rain or shine, hail or snow, dogs need to be walked, giving you no excuse to stay indoors.

Their enthusiasm and infectious enjoyment of walking also rubs off on us – why not copy your dog whilst walking, put your phone and headphones in your pocket and simply enjoy being in nature, noticing different sounds, smells and sights as you go. This mindfulness will help you to de-stress, relax and focus on the good things in life.

A Sympathetic Ear

Although we are unable to communicate with dogs in a shared language, they make their feelings known in other ways.

Dogs just seem to know when we aren’t feeling our best and will often lick or nudge us with their noses, in a way that seems as though they are doing their best to cheer us up. Many people report that their dogs have helped them through particularly tough times in life, providing licks and cuddles, encouraging them to leave the house for fresh air, or simply by being there and offering silent support.

Dogs have been shown to help those suffering from depression or anxiety, and those who find social situations difficult. If you find it hard to talk to people, dogs are a fantastic icebreaker with people being more likely to approach and engage with dog owners – or if the dog takes matters into their own paws, they approach people of their own accord, encouraging their owner to socialise more.

For those who have depression or anxiety, the bond with a pet can really help their mental health. Spending time with dogs has been shown to lower anxiety and blood pressure, and increase our levels of serotonin and dopamine, meaning that we feel happier and more relaxed. Further, many people who have depression feel aimless or hopeless and may struggle to structure their day-to-day life. Therefore, owning a dog gives them a purpose and a feeling that something is depending on them, for food, water, love and care.

Although dogs cannot exactly offer advice in the way that family, friends, or a therapist can, they will never judge you and will offer their unconditional love no matter what you may be going through in life.

What is a Therapy Dog?

As the health and wellbeing benefits of dogs were realised, therapy dogs have become increasingly more common. Therapy dogs are also known as (PAT) dogs can come in all shapes and sizes.

Therapy dogs receive special training, so they can be taken to hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and schools to offer love, companionship and comfort. They can also be trained to care for one specific owner, for example, those who suffer with autism or anxiety.

In order to make a suitable therapy dog, temperament is extremely important. A good PAT dog must be calm, gentle, well-behaved, patient and good with people and other animals. They must also be socialised to enjoy being fussed and petted, which will be the main duty in their role as a therapy dog. Potential therapy dogs must be tested on their character, manners and handling by a professional examiner before being     allowed to work as a PAT dog.

Dogs have even been known to sniff out illness or disease in their owners including cancer and more research is being carried out in this area.  Epilepsy Society and Diabetes UK have trained dogs in seizure alert which is having a huge impact allowing people to live more independently and Deafblind UK have trained dogs to be the ears and eyes of their owners to allow them to carry out their daily tasks safely.

Assistance dogs help adults and children with physical disabilities or illnesses such as dementia, offering practical support such as fetching objects and opening doors, which gives their owner more independence, and emotional support, making their owner feel calmer and more confident.  

We would love to hear about how your dog helps with your health and wellbeing, so please email us over a picture wellbeing@argyll-bute.gov.uk

Avoiding Bites and Stings

While we may not be seeing the high temperatures and summer weather affecting other parts of the country, summer is still with us, just!  One of the less welcome features the summer is the risk of insect bites and stings, which can be painful – and occasionally dangerous. So how can you reduce your risk of being bitten?

Ticks – how to avoid tick bites

Related to spiders, there are many species of tick in the UK, though sheep ticks are the most likely to bite humans. They are around the size of a poppy seed when they bite, so are very hard to see. You might not notice a tick bite as they aren’t usually painful. However, some people will suffer swelling or blistering and itchiness.

Ticks are generally found in any areas with deep or overgrown vegetation, where they have access to animals on which to feed. Although they are common in woodland or heath areas, ticks can also be found in parks or gardens – and by brushing against something they’re on, you can inadvertently help them climb onto your skin.

If you find a tick on your skin, you should remove it as you’re more likely to become infected if the tick is attached to your skin for more than 24 hours. It’s important to remove ticks properly with a tick-removal tool or fine-tipped tweezers to avoid any part of the tick remaining and causing infection.

Reduce your risk of tick bites:

  • Keep to paths and avoid walking through the undergrowth.
  • Wear long-sleeved tops and tuck your trousers into your socks. Light-coloured clothes also make it easier to spot ticks if they’ve found their way onto you.
  • Check yourself and other family members – including pets – for any ticks when returning from a countryside walk. Adults tend to be bitten around the legs while small children are usually bitten above the waist. Lyme Disease Action advises checking children’s hairline and scalp.


Wasps and bees – how to avoid wasp and bee stings

The good news is that in the UK, you are unlikely to get a wasp sting until autumn – that is unless you accidentally put your hand or foot on one and they are defending themselves, or unless you disturb a wasps’ nest. And bees are unlikely to sting unless they are stepped on or disturbed.

However, minimising your exposure to wasps and bees is the best way to not get stung:

Reduce your risk of wasp and bee stings:

  • Keep food and drink covered when outside and, when drinking, use open cups rather than cans or drinks with straws, to make it easier to see if an insect has flown in.
  • Watch what you wear – avoid bright colours or floral prints, which can attract bees; cover exposed skin and always wear shoes when outside so that you don’t stand on a wasp or bee.
  • Some perfumes, scented deodorants and soaps can also attract insects.
  • Never try to move a wasps’ nest – it is unlikely to end well! Call a pest control professional to remove it safely.                                                                                             

Midges

Midges in Scotland are one of the first things many tourists mention when on holiday in Scotland. There are 35 species of midges in Scotland but only 5 species will actually bite you. The highland midge is the one that gets many of us running around in circles and it is the female who will bite you to take blood to enable them to lay eggs.

The midge will only come out during the day if there is cloud cover because they are sensitive to light, and you will generally see them under the shade of a tree. They hate windy conditions and very dry weather and prefer cooler and damp areas. They are in abundance during the Scottish summer months and you are most likely to find them early morning or late in the afternoon so try and avoid these times for walking in midge territory.

What Can I Do To Avoid Midges

The midges seem to prefer dark clothing rather than light colours, If you do have to go among the midges try and cover your exposed skin or wear a midge head net, you can also purchase many repellents to protect yourself from Midges, a good tip is to use Skin So Soft by Avon this has been recommended by many people.

In general:

  • Keep walking; midges tend to hover in one place in the shade
  • Sit in the sunlight and avoid shaded areas
  • Stay in the breeze, Midges like still air
  • Wear Avon skin so soft (secret weapon worn by many workers in Scotland)
  • Avoid early morning and late afternoon for outdoor activities

Please let us know your thoughts and ideas about the items featured in our Wellbeing Wednesdays each week and send us your suggestions for future topics – we love to hear from you.  wellbeing@argyll-bute.gov.uk