According to the 2016 Medibank Better Health index, more than one million Australians are deficient in iron, and that number appears to be on the rise.
Iron deficiency and anaemia are most common among young women aged 18-30, but if you’re pregnant, menopausal or have a poor diet, you’re at greater risk of suffering from low iron.
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Symptoms, in some cases, can be debilitating.
- Cold hands and feet
- Brittle nails
- ‘Pica’ – strange cravings for items that are not food, like dirt or ice
- Pale skin
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeat
- Tingling feeling in the legs or cramps
- Sore tongue or swelling
- Difficulty sleeping
- Leg cramps
- Difficulty concentrating
As tempting as it may be to self-diagnose, when it comes to iron deficiency or anaemia, it’s really important that you don’t. Taking iron supplements when you don’t need them is dangerous.
But actually getting to the doctor can be a deterrent for a lot of women. It can be difficult to find somewhere that bulk bills, you might have to make an appointment during work hours, and even still, you’ll end up spending some time sitting in a waiting room. The needle itself is enough to make many of us dismiss any possible symptoms.
But not anymore.
Recently, I was in a chemist waiting to have a script filled, and saw a sign up on the counter.
"Iron testing. Less than two minutes. $5."
I inquired and my eyes had not deceived me. You can get an iron test with a finger prick.
No scary needle. No weird arm strap. No deep breaths. No waiting room. No referral to a pathologist.
Bam. An entirely painless prick of the finger that gets you your results instantly.
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I got mine done at Priceline Pharmacy, and I was low in iron but not anaemic. I walked out with iron supplements, all in less than five minutes.
There are a number of pharmacies throughout Australia that offer this service, including Chemistworks, McCabe's Pharmacy, Capital Chemist, Stirling Village Pharmacy and of course Priceline. There are also many independent chemists that offer it. Just give them a call and ask if they offer an iron test.
An over the counter test won't be sufficient for anyone suffering from a long term health condition, or anyone who needs comprehensive blood work, but it's a good start.
And it's about time Australian women started prioritising their health, even if it's a two minute finger prick at the chemist.