Showing posts from 2012

You're Never too Young to Relax

Stressed out five-year-olds are being treated with massages and pedicures in a global trend which has psychologists worried. Auckland based Spa Ayurda has seen an increase in child clients popping in for treatments valued up to $60. And elsewhere around the country, preschoolers are having pamper parties which emulate their mothers', complete with manicures and foot spas. Children get stressed just like adults and need to feel good about their bodies, Spa Ayurda owner Rippan Sandhu told the Sunday Star-Times. "Kids are growing at a super fast speed and their lives are full of activities not just at school, but after school too," Sandhu said. "But they don't know how to express stress. They may throw a tantrum or not eat or sleep properly, fight with their siblings or cry and become withdrawn." Spa Ayurda specialises in the Hindu techniques of wellness massage using medicated oils to remove toxins and stress. The spa has seen a steady increase in

Tis the Season to be Bingeing

There will be more than kissing going on under the mistletoe this year - if supermarket condom sales are anything to go by. Condom and lubricant sales are bumped up by 25 per cent each Christmas, supermarket figures obtained by the Sunday Star-Times show. The increased condom sales seems to go hand in hand with the extra effort we put into our appearance over summer. And alcohol consumption: New Zealanders swill back 136 per cent more sparkling wine and 40 per cent more light beer over summer. We also down 44 per cent more cider. A quarter of New Zealanders over-indulge on alcohol, which has a range of consequences, National Addiction Centre director, professor Doug Sellman said. "Using condoms while drunk is like driving while drunk - the risk of accident substantially increases," Sellman said. Then there's the hangover. Pain relief tablet sales jump by 20 per cent, and digestive care product sales reach their annual peak at 20 per cent around Christmas. I

Kiwis Eating the Easy Option

The days of the local fish and chippie could be numbered as more Kiwis turn towards big name burger brands and ethnic flavours. Sales data obtained by the Sunday Star-Times show every man, women and child - on average - is consuming around 3kg of fat through fast food a year: the weight of a newborn baby. Each week, the average Kiwi eats the equivalent of two Big Macs with fries, industry sales figures show. A family of four spends an average $2000 a year on fast food - enough for a large plasma TV or holiday in Sydney. You could also wipe a month's worth of mortgage repayments for an average $360,000 home loan. The figures paint a picture of our increasing reliance on convenience food, Auckland University population health associate professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu said. "I think it's typical of what's happening overseas, people are working more outside the home." Studies in the United States and Britain show households are increasing the portion of incom

Online reviews have some at boiling point

Rogue online reviewers are holding restaurants to ransom with their scathing remarks. Websites such as MenuMania, Dineout and give picky and negative diners space to vent their views with little accountability, restaurant owners say. And the remarks can't be removed. Eight Point Two is regarded as one of Auckland's top places to eat out. But owner Lindsay Swannack cringes each time a review email pings into his inbox. "You tend to look at the bad ones more than the good ones. It's human nature,' Swannack said. He is frustrated by the lack of transparency of one-off reviewers and those who are near impossible to please. "You can't defend yourself. We take these very personally - well I do. It really does hurt." Swannack said he would rather see reviewers visit a restaurant several times in order to give a fair assessment, than arrive on a busy Saturday night and complain. Although a restaurant may have received plenty of good

Agony, ecstasy of birth choices

Strong drugs are the most effective form of pain relief in childbirth, according to international research. But some argue the female body is capable of providing the best relief on its own. Michelle Robinson  speaks to some new mothers and finds that what works for some, doesn't work for everyone. NOT FOR EVERYONE: Melanie Phillipson of Wanaka, wished she hadn't had an epidural. Water births, hypnosis and even muffin baking are just some of the ways Kiwi women cope with the pain of childbirth but nothing is more effective than an epidural, a new international study confirms. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found epidurals, the spinal anaesthesia injection used in 30 per cent of deliveries in New Zealand, to be the most potent form of relief, with water immersion, acupuncture, massage, local anaesthetics and non-opioid drugs also considered effective. However, the review found the same couldn't be said for more obscure therapies such as hypnosis, ar

Officials' Drinks - It's Your Shout

Michelle Robinson, Marika Hill & Kirsty Johnston Taxpayers are coughing up thousands of dollars to welcome public servants into the government's embrace - then spending even more on boozy farewells when they leave. Figures obtained under the Official Information Act show that almost half a million dollars of public money went on morning tea shouts, powhiri and farewell parties over the past three years. The amount of $453,450 is a conservative estimate as many government-funded organisations - including the police - refused to answer questions, preferring to keep their spending secret. Other organisations could provide only the figures for the most recent event held, due to a lack of detailed accounting reports into workplace shouts and cultural occasions. This was despite State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie saying transparency was crucial to maintaining a high level of public trust in state services. The Sunday Star-Times investigation into “morning tea tax” fou

Conchords Take on Flying Form

From the distant future - the year 2000, to the more innocent time of 1353 - the Flight of the Conchords took its vocal Auckland audience on a journey through the ages. Kiwi comedy folk duo Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie kicked off electro-pop disco beat 'Too Many Dicks on the Dancefloor', complete with high-tech sound effects and a cameo rap from their good friend and American TV co-star Dave Mohumbhai aka Arj Barker. The tune brought immediate cheers mingled with laughter from the hundreds of vocal fans gathered in the Auckland Town Hall. Donning cardboard box hats, Clement and McKenzie cleverly swivelled their headgear around to reveal silver aluminium foil robot hats which matched their shiny shirts for their classic futuristic tune 'Humans are Dead'. "We got the idea from Gaga," they said of the costume change. Another quick change saw the boys swap into simple, colourful plaid shirts and receive a wipe down from 'Matt the hairdresser tu

People 'Worried' to Report Dolphin Deaths

By Michelle Robinson & Kirsty Johnston People are still afraid to report on dolphin deaths due to repercussions from the fishing industry, a University of Otago zoology professor says. A critically endangered Maui's dolphin was found dead by a member of the public in Taranaki last week. The dolphin, of which only 54 are believed to be left, was found by a member of the public on Thursday or Friday on a beach near Pungarehu, south of New Plymouth. It was collected by the Department of Conservation and taken to Massey University for an autopsy. It's not yet known if the dead dolphin is a Maui or closely related Hector's dolphin. A latest population survey found a couple of Hector's mingling further north than usual with the Maui's dolphin. Otago professor Liz Slooten said it would be "hard to get information out of the tiny community of Parihaka''. It would be the second Maui's dolphin found dead in Taranaki this year. Another, a fe

Buzz Over Drugged Up Bee Study

SLOW BUZZ: Honey bees have shown their usually impeccable sense of time is slowed under general anaesthesia. An Auckland study using honey bees to prove the jet-lag effects of anaesthesia is creating quite a buzz. Drugged-up honey bees were used in tests at Cornwall Park and Mangere to show how their usually impeccable sense of time was slowed under general anaesthesia, with the results of the Auckland University study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences' latest issue. "It sounds unusual to you, but it's quite sensible to use bees," lead researcher from the Department of Anaesthesiology and School of Biological Sciences, Dr Guy Warman, said. "They have a time sense unlike any other creatures. They can know exactly what time of the day they think it is by a range of functions including their 'waggle' dance and by following the direction of the sun." The bees were trained to travel to a specific food source

Unclean School Toilets Exposed

Kiwi kids are being confronted with substandard school toilets. A survey of 68 Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill primary school found some without soap, hot water or disposable towels or hand dryers. One school had no soap, five had no toilet paper in any toilets, six had no way to dry hands – and 49 had "deficient hygiene facilities". "Good hand hygiene is one of the most effective ways of preventing infectious diseases," Southern District Health Board medical officer Dr Marion Poore said. "But it's hard to expect people to wash their hands if the facilities aren't clean and tidy. In the southern climate, having only cold water can be a turn-off to hand washing." The Otago University and health board research assessed availability, functionality and provision of hand basins, soap and hand dryers. The results were published in Oxford University's Journal of Public Health this month. The Ministry of Education recommen

Amateur surgeon saves virtual patient

The vital signs are good so, sweating and nauseated, I clench surgical tongs and start operating. It's all fake for me but for trainee obstetricians and gynaecologists at Middlemore, this couldn't be more real. The first of its kind in the country, LapSim laparoscopic simulators allow trainees to hone their skills without setting foot in a theatre. A study in Denmark, where the simulators are mandatory, found those who trained on them, performed surgery in half the time of other novices. Middlemore's obstetric and gynaecology senior medical officer Douglas Barclay is confident with his new tools. He undertakes simulation after simulation when the Sunday Star-Times visits, ranging from removing gallstones to an ectopic pregnancy. "I can teach you in a morning," he promises. Virtual or not, my palms are sweating before I even grab hold of the free-moving scissors and tongs to perform the intricate task of clamping a blood vessel. "Boys are bett