5 Things Every Couple Needs to Do Before They Get Married

You've met the person who you think is "the one," and you're truly, madly, deeply in love. But how do you really know if marriage is the next step? Jill Andres and Brook Silva were asking themselves that very question after dating for several years (with one year-long breakup in the middle) when Andres came up with a quirky idea: "What if we made like an obstacle course of challenges to see if we'd be good at being married?" Her joke turned into a carefully thought-out project designed to simulate the strains of marriage (money, monogamy, in-laws!) to see if their relationship was truly built to last. The couple's new book, The Marriage Test: Our 40 Dates Before 'I Do' ($11, amazon.com), chronicles all that they learned in the process. We asked Andres and Silva to share five of the "dates" that they found most informative on their trip toward the aisle.


Exchange phones

Phone snooping is one of the worst (and most common) relationship offenses. To see what it would actually feel like to snoop and be snooped on, Andres and Silva voluntarily traded devices. For 48 hours, they had unfettered access to all forms of communication (Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, texts), which turned out to be enough to make them vow never to spy again. Andres was surprised how uncomfortable the exercise made her feel not because she had anything to hide, but because she didn't like surrendering so much of her privacy. "I believed both us of deserved privacy," she explained in an interview. "So the biggest demonstration of trust we could think of is to commit to each other that we weren't going to snoop."

RELATED: 10 Ways to Improve Your Relationship Instantly

Record a fight

This is what Andres and Silva call "the ultimate communication date" and something they recommend every couple do. It's simple: Record a fight. And then play it back a week later. "This is an incredible way to learn how you speak in your relationship," said Andres. You might be surprised to discover how defensively you react to criticism, or who tends to dominate the conversation. "I learned right away that I say about 10 words for every word that Brook says, which is something we can work out."

Take your partner's in-laws on a date

Meaning someone who has married your partner's sibling, or cousin, or parent. The idea? To get their perspective on the family's dynamics. "I got drinks with Jill's sister-in-law and after a couple drinks she shared some of the challenges of marrying into Jill's family, and the main one was how non-confrontational her husband, Jill's brother, can be," explained Silva. Hearing her experience lent Silva insight into his own relationship: "I kind of realized that non-confrontation trait was a trait that Jill in some ways shares," he explained. "And it's actually pretty useful in thinking about how Jill is hesitant to share things with me."

RELATED: 30 Signs You're in a Toxic Relationship

Swap credit cards

Money can be a funny thing in relationships. And for newlyweds, suddenly sharing it can come as a bit of a shock. To give themselves a dry run, Andres and Silva decided to exchange credit cards for a month and then compare expenses. The exercise was an important one because it drove home the need to be mindful of how every purchase affects you as a couple. It also prompted some hard but productive conversations about their financial future. “It really solidified to me what a large decision finances are for couples.”

Keep sex notes for seven days

In their book, Andres and Silva share that from the get-go, sex never came easily. When they sat down and thought about it, they realized that good sex requires good communication. So they came up with a simple plan: For seven days they'd give each other their "best sexual efforts," and then debrief. At the end of the week, they opened a bottle of wine and talked about what had gone well and where they could use some improvement. "This date was a really great chance to be really open and honest," explained Andres.

RELATED: How to Ask for What You Really Want in Bed

So how do you know if you passed?

The idea isn't to try to solve all your problems, explained Silva, but to at least acknowledge that you've got stuff to work on. The hope is that addressing those weak spots will make your bond even stronger. For Andres and Silva, it worked beautifully: "Even through the hardest weeks, even through the ones that made us cry, I ultimately felt closer to Brook almost every single time."


Health24.com | UCT prof I of only 5 SA women to win prestigious award

Heather Zar, a physician and scientist, has been declared one of the 2018 L’Oreal-UNESCO Women in Science Laureates.

Zar has been recognised for the work on child health in Africa and triumphed above several other opponents from the Middle East and Africa.

Saving children’s lives

The prestigious aware is awarded annually and contestants are chosen from Africa and the Middle East, Europe, Asia-Pacific, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean – one contender per region.

This is in recognition of her wide-ranging contributions to child health, which have improved – and saved – children’s lives across the globe, as well as helping to shape international policy.

Zar is the Head of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Director of Paediatric Pulmonology and the Director of the South African Medical Research Council Unit on Child and Adolescent Health at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital at the University of Cape Town. She has conducted extensive research in child lung health, ranging from pneumonia and asthma to TB and HIV-associated lung diseases.

In a statement issued by UCT, Zar said it is humbling to be counted among such amazing women scientists, and a wonderful acknowledgement of the work they have been doing in child health over many years. 

“The aware reflects the extraordinary teams and people I am fortunate to work with and the strong collaborations that we have built,” said Zar.

Respiratory illnesses are a few of the major causes of mortality and are incredibly debilitating illnesses affecting children worldwide. These illnesses are also considered serious complications in HIV-infected children. Zar has made invaluable contributions in epidemiology, diagnosis, prevention and management of respiratory illnesses, which has resulted in reductions in childhood mortality around the world.

Joins past laureates

Zar won the American Thoracic Society’s World Lung Health Award in 2014 and is also known for her innovation in the development of a low-cost alternative for asthma spacers – using a simple 500ml plastic cold drink bottle.

Possibly her most important work has been establishing the Drakenstein child health study. This unique birth cohort study is among the first in Africa to investigate comprehensively the early life determinants of child health and the link between early life illness and development of chronic disease. The information obtained from studies like this provides new knowledge to inform strategies for improved prevention and treatment of childhood illnesses.

This body of work has had a big impact on child health, improving management and prevention of childhood illnesses, and changing policy and international practice guidelines, including those produced by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Zar now joins the likes of past laureates Valerie Mizrahi, Jennifer Thomson, Tebello Nyokong, Jill Farrant, and Quarraisha Abdool Karim – the only other South African women in science who have won the prestigious award.

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Health24.com | Is there anything that really works for a stubborn cough?

If you’re looking for an effective cough remedy, you might be out of luck.

Nothing has been proven to work that well, according to a new report from the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP).

OTC cough medicine not recommended

After reviewing clinical trials testing everything from cough syrups to zinc, an ACCP panel came to some less-than-positive conclusions: Over-the-counter medicines – including cold and cough products and anti-inflammatory painkillers – cannot be recommended.

Nor is there evidence supporting most home remedies – though, the group says, honey is worth a shot for kids.

However, not everyone agrees, and a previous Health24 article has the following advice for treating coughs:

  • Half a teaspoon of honey before sleep has been shown to provide soothing relief from coughs related to upper airway infection.
  • Sucking lozenges or sipping water may temporarily supress a cough and temporarily relieve the sensations of throat irritation.
  • For productive (wet) cough, mucolytic medications like N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) are important, designed specifically to break down the mucus which is causing the cough. 
  • Mucolytics have been shown to assist in reducing cough in adults and children.

People want relief

Every season, most people probably battle at least one cold-induced cough, said report author Dr Mark Malesker.

The recommendations were published in the journal Chest.

And they apparently want relief. In 2015, Americans spent more than $9.5 billion (±R135 billion) on over-the-counter cold/cough/allergy remedies, according to the report.

In South Africa the situation is similar, and in 2016, South Africans spent around half a billion rand on cough syrups alone.

“But if you look at the evidence, it really doesn’t support using those products,” said Malesker, a professor at Creighton University in Omaha.

A hacking cough

Malesker’s team looked at trials of cold products that combine decongestants and antihistamines, or decongestants and painkillers. They found no consistent evidence that any quash a cough.

The same was true when they analysed studies of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which include naproxen (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).

So what do you do when a hacking cough keeps you up all night?

A couple of studies have found that honey may bring some relief to children age one and up. (Honey should not, however, be given to babies younger than one year, the physicians’ group says.)

There was also “weak evidence” that zinc lozenges might help ease adults’ coughing – but it wasn’t enough to recommend them, according to the report. Plus, it says, zinc can have side effects, including a bad taste in the mouth, stomach cramps and vomiting.

What about home remedies?

What about storied home remedies, like Grandma’s chicken soup or neti pots for nasal irrigation? There’s no strong evidence for them, either, the review found.

On the other hand, Malesker said, if your favourite tea or soup makes you feel better, use it.

“It’s very frustrating that we haven’t found a good way to address this,” said Dr David Beuther.

Beuther is a pulmonologist at National Jewish Health, a Denver hospital that specialises in respiratory diseases.

A simple cold-related cough is generally something healthy people can wait out – but it can be miserable, Beuther pointed out.

“It can affect your sleep and quality of life,” he said. “So people are looking for ways to make it more bearable.”

Varying ingredients

And while a quick fix might be tempting, simply slowing down could help, Beuther said.

“Sometimes you just need to take a day off and let yourself rest,” he noted.

Beuther also recommended that people drink enough water to stay hydrated – which may help break up any thick mucus that is causing the cough.

As for healthy adults, Beuther said that if they have found an over-the-counter product to be useful in the past, he wouldn’t discourage them from trying it again.

There are many products, with varying active ingredients, he said. So a doctor or pharmacist may be able to steer you toward the most appropriate one.

Image credit: iStock

Health24.com | The difference between mild, moderate and severe asthma

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are currently about 235 million people worldwide who suffer from asthma, and that in 2016 there were 383 000 deaths due to this disease.

Controlling asthma

An asthma attack occurs when the lining of the bronchial tubes swell. This causes the airways to narrow, which reduces the airflow in and out of the lungs.

According to the WHO the strongest risk factors for asthma are a combination of genetic predisposition with environmental exposure to inhaled substances and particles.

Asthma can be controlled with the help of medication and by avoiding triggers that irritate and inflame the airways.  

How severe is your asthma?

The treatment of your asthma is based on your severity level. This means that your doctor will assess and classify the severity according to the latest guidelines for the management of asthma in either adults and adolescents or children.

Asthma treatment involves a two-pronged approach: targeting chronic airway inflammation and relieving acute bronchial spasms.

Determining the severity

The following tables will help you (and your doctor) determine the severity of your or your child’s asthma symptoms:

Table 1: Classification of severity of asthma in adults and adolescentsasthma

Table 2: Classification of severity of asthma in childrenasthma

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