Nearly ten per cent of breast feeding mothers suffer from a breast abscess in the weeks following childbirth. These abscesses are almost entirely preventable in the first place and arise only because the modem’ mothers feed their babies in such a strange way. Because they breast feed by the clock (if indeed they breast feed at all), the breasts become engorged (swollen) and the pressure within the breasts can block a milk duct. The blocked duct shows as a red, hot, tender lump in the breast and this often makes the woman feel shivery or ‘flu-like’.
First-aid measures include feeding the baby much more frequently (to empty the breast); not limiting the length of feeds; massaging the lump gently but firmly towards the nipple; ensuring that your bra does not press on any particular area of the breast; varying the position in which the baby feeds at each feed and even during a feed; and using hot or cold compresses (whichever gives best relief). Antibiotics will only be necessary if all these methods have not dispersed the lump within 24 hours.
If a blocked duct is caught early, it will not go on to become infected and form a proper abscess (a walled-off, pus-filled structure within the breast). Once an abscess does form through it will probably (like abscesses elsewhere) need to be incised by a doctor to allow the pus to escape. If you have a breast abscess you should not feed the baby from that breast, but continue to feed from the other one. Once the abscess has cleared up you can feed again from both breasts. In the meantime, express milk from the affected breast frequently and discard it. It may be possible to avoid incision by catching the abscess early and treating it with antibiotics. Your doctor will prescribe a suitable drug should it be indicated.
Lumps in he breast are fairly common and have most often nothing to do with cancer. But with one woman in twenty dying of breast cancer in the UK today, breast lumps must be taken seriously. If you feel a lump, go to your doctor within 24 hours or to the first surgery on Monday if you find the lump over the weekend. He will feel it and tell you if he thinks it feels like a ‘normal’ lump that many women have in their breasts or if he thinks it needs a specialist opinion. Any breast lump associated with a recent (as opposed to a long-standing) inturning of the nipple or bleeding from the nipple must be seen by a doctor without delay.
One of the ways of saving yourself a lot of worry is to get into the habit of examining your breasts regularly every month. Do this after your period and get used to the feel of your breasts so that you will pick up a lump early on, should one occur. Early treatment makes a difference to the outcome. Do not delay going to your doctor because you are afraid. Delay can only make things worse.
An inflammation of the large air tubes in the chest. There are two different conditions covered by this term and they need different treatment. Acute bronchitis comes on after flue and colds and produces a dry, painful cough and tightness in the chest. Later on, yellow, biown or green phlegm may be coughed up. The best treatment for this condition is to keep the room air moist by having a kettle steaming away in a corner. Coupled with steam inhalations (available from chemists) this can reduce chest tightness and help bring up the phlegm. Hot drinks also help bring up the phlegm. Most people get better but some will need antibiotics. If you bring up yellow, brown or green phlegm, tell your doctor. Antibiotics may not be necessary.
Chronic bronchitis is a long term illness seen in cigarette smokers and those who have lived in polluted air. These people will know they are ‘bronchitics’ and should have been told that there is no cure. The condition can be prevented from getting worse by
(1) stopping smoking;
(2) moving away from polluted air;
(3) losing weight;
(4) getting medical treatment for even trivial chest infections; and
(5) doing regular breathing exercises.