Archive for December, 2011


Poisonous Insect Bites

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As the days become longer and the weather warms, we begin to spend more time outdoors. So do caterpillars, bees, ticks, spiders and mosquitoes. The bites of these insects can range from being just a nuisance, to having a severe life threatening reaction. Screens on doors and windows as well as using repellents containing DEET will help you avoid these creatures. Wear gloves working outdoors when lifting wood, bricks or other items that spiders like to hide under. Check yourself for bites and adhered ticks after spending time outdoors in long grasses in the wilderness areas.

Here are some of the insect bites that we should be concerned with:

Puss Caterpillar Stings – Yes there is a Caterpillar that can be harmful to your health. This long haired Caterpillar has stingers hidden underneath their hairy body. When stung, a person will feel intense pain, develop a rash, accompanied by a fever, vomiting and severe muscle cramps. Remove stingers by using cellophane tape and seek medical attention.

Ticks – Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are two diseases carried by ticks. Ticks like to attach themselves around the moist areas of the groin and armpits. It usually takes an attached tick up to 36 hours before the transmission of Lyme Disease. The first signs you will begin to see is a circular rash developing upon the skin.

Black Widows – Their bites can be painless or very painful. Black Widows can be identified by the red or orange hour glass marking on their undersides. Look for the fang marks or if you begin to suffer from severe muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting and seizures, seek out immediate medical attention. You will need administration of anti-venom treatments.

Brown Recluse – Another poisonous spider which has a red or dark brown color. This bite is usually painless though it will have severe consequences. The skin will redden and then turn white at the bite sight. A bull’s-eye blister will begin to form. Immediate medical care will be necessary.

Mosquitoes – Though their bites are usually just a nuisance with itching, mild reddening and swelling of the skin, but they can also spread the West Niles Virus and Dengue Disease. Again screens on windows and doors, the use of a insect repellent and wearing long sleeves and pants will reduce the opportunities to be bit. Also makes sure to not have any standing water around your house, such as in a wheel barrow, buckets or depressions around your yard.

Severe reaction may cause anaphylactic shock. Any swelling around the eyes, tongue, lips or throat. Any difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath, dizziness, severe cramping or the development of hives, you should get immediate medical attention. Call 9-1-1 or use an Epi-pen, if one is prescribed for you.
Reference: First Aid – 463

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Are You Becoming a Cheap Drunk?

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Fortunately or unfortunately the answer is yes.  A recent study confirms that as we age our resistance to alcohol begins to weaken. Our bodies begin to retain less water than when were younger and we metabolize alcohol at a much slower rate. This means the alcohol stays in our bodies for a longer period of time and gives us a higher blood alcohol percentage.

More importantly, alcohol can make certain age-related health problems worse, like high blood pressure, diabetes, liver ailments and memory problems. Because older people typically take more medications, they have an increased risk of an alcohol-drug interaction, which can cause confusion, instability while walking, nausea or other problems.

Realize as you age you won’t be able to drink as you did when you were younger, but on the positive side it won’t cost you as much to get to that happy state.   So let’s enjoy one of the few benefits of getting older.   And please never drink and drive!

Reference: Health – 162

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8 Surprising Stress Effects on Your Body

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Stress takes a heavy health toll on your mental state, but it can also manifest into surprising physical ailments. During heavy stressful times, your body will send out hormones to signal your body that it is experiencing an overload of stress. Extend releases periods of these stress hormones can lead to serious health issues.

Here are 8 stress related symptoms to look for:

  1. Muscle Spasms – Tightening and contracting muscles over an extended period of time are an indication of stress overload. This can result in tweaked muscles or muscle spasms.
  2. Eye Twitches – A condition called “Blepharospasm” or uncontrolled eyelid contractions. An abnormal blinking or twitching of the eye muscles from overuse.
  3. Tattered Cuticles – Nail biting or picking of the nails or cuticles are a common waymany people deal with anxiety.
  4. Dental Health – Teeth grinding can result from excessive stress which can erode dental work.  This type of damaged can leave teeth susceptible to cavities.
  5. Rashes – Abundant stress can lead to rashes. The adverse effects of stress can impact the immune system and release histamine, causing irritation and itchy bumps.
  6. Nausea – Stomach discomfort and nausea can be the result of stress. If your anxiety is causing nausea, try this simple trick. Run tepid water over your fingers, many say this helps relieve the effects of nausea.
  7. Sleepiness – Stress hormones may cause your body to release adrenaline. Adrenaline can keep you up, awake and may lead to restless sleep.
  8. Confusion – Unable to make simple decisions can also be the consequences of excessive stress levels on your body.

Meditation, walks and just getting away from work for a few minutes can help reduce stress levels.  Studies have shown that sunlight helps release serotonin in your body, which can help improve your mood.  It also perks up your immune system.  If you don’t see any significant improvement, talk with your physician.

Reference: Health – 324

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Deadliest Day of the Year

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According to the American Heart Association, Christmas or December 25th is the date with the highest number of heart attacks.  The second deadliest day is the day after, December
26th, followed closely in third place by January 1st.  What cardiologist suspected for years has now been confirmed by this study.  The researchers found that the 30-day mortality rate was significantly greater in patients admitted during the month of December, even though the care they received was of equally high quality in December, as compared with any other month.

Unfortunately, they have not been able to determine the specifics why December is the most deadly.  Many hypothesize certain behaviors and outside influences can have an impact, but nothing has been truly identified as a source or a contributing factor.  Nonetheless, taking prudent actions during this holiday season can improve your risk.  Consider the following suggestions.

Overeating and Drinking
Our consumption of higher fatty foods, increased levels of alcohol and salt to our diet, can put extra stress upon your digestive and heart systems.  Enjoy these foods in moderation and try to balance your diet.

Cold weather is extremely hard on the heart.  It increases blood pressure because of the constricting of the blood vessels due to the cold.  Also blood clots more readily in cooler temperatures.  All this puts additional stress on your heart.  Try and avoid too much physical exertion or strenuous exercise in any cold environment.

Pressure Deadlines
The extra pressure of work deadlines as well as shopping adventures for gifts can increase the stress to the body.  Again moderation and some type of balancing of these activities will help alleviate or reduce your stress levels.

When traveling to friends and relatives do not forget to pack your medications.  This happens more times than not and people will generally go without their medication for several days.  Make sure to pack all medications as well as your physician’s phone number if you need him to call in an urgent RX for you when you are out of town.

Patients with symptoms of a heart attack in December are prone to try just wishing the symptoms away, or attributing them to some other cause since, how can it be a heart attack?
It’s the Holiday’s! Such willful ignoring of the symptoms goes on until the symptoms simply can be no longer ignored. By that time, patients arrive in the hospital much later during the course of their heart attacks than they would at other times of the year.

Just because it is the holidays do not think you are immune to a heart attack.  If you have the symptoms get help immediately!

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Is Your Crib a Death Trap?

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A recent safety study showed approximately 113 infants deaths occur each year due to cribs and playpens.

In reviewing the emergency room hospital records for the past 19 years, this study found an unacceptable high rate of death and injuries have occurred to children 2 years or younger from these devices. Researchers have now issued a new call to action for the need of safety and design changes to cribs and playpens.

Since 1990, this child safety study found, an average of 25 kids per day, received some sort of medical treatment for injuries sustained due to design flaws. The bigger issue is the reported average deaths per year of a 113 infants, with falls being the highest occurring reason.

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7 Safety Tips for the Holidays

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The holidays are a time for families to celebrate and come togetherIt is also the time when hospitals report increases in the number of accidents and injuries.  Now is the time to spend additional attention to your health and safety.  Here are seven tips to help keep you safe and healthy during the holiday season.

  1. Handling and Preparation of Food – Foodpoisoning can put a damper on the holidays.  Make sure to  wash your hands before handling any food items.  Clean and/or disinfect all food preparation surfaces.  Avoid cross-contamination especially with meats or fowl.  Cook all foods to their proper temperatures and refrigerate left-over as soon as possible.
  2. Hand Washing – The best way to keep from getting sick and spreading germs is to wash your hands often.  Plain soap and water is all you need.  The use of a hand sanitizer will work when soap and water are not readily available.  Avoid coughing or sneezing into your hands.  The CDC now recommends that you cover your mouth or nose with your sleeve or into a disposable Kleenex, which is immediately thrown-away.
  3. Travel Safety – You have heard it a million times, don’t drink and drive.  There is a reason why the Police and Highway Patrol increase their staffing during the holidays.  In climate weather and holiday traffic, increase the opportunities for accidents.  Allow extra driving time.  You don’t want to resort to speeding or engage in reckless driving to make up time for leaving late or for unanticipated traffic delays.  And always make sure everyone wears a seat-belt.
  4. Burns – Keep children out of the kitchen while preparing meals.  Hot grease needs to be kept in a safe location.  Pot handles should be point in and not left exposed away from the stove.  This is an opportunity for kids to pull hot liquids down on them or adults accidentally bumping into the handles and spilling hot items on themselves or others.  Cool all burns immediately with cool running water (no butter, lard, mayonnaise, egg, toothpaste or other home remedy).  Small burns can be treated with an over-the-counter burn gel.  Burns to the genitals, face or larger than 9% body area (about the size of your hand with fingers expanded) should be seen by a physician.
  5. Fires – Most residential fires happen in the winter months.  Keep tree stands filled with water.  Heated rooms can dry live trees out rapidly.  Never leave candles, fireplaces, stoves or space heaters unattended.   Check smoke detectors and replace batteries if it has been longer than 6 months.  Have an emergency plan that is practiced with all family members.  Children tend to hide when scared which makes it difficult to find them in smokey rooms.  Teach them how to exit each room (have two solutions, such as the door or out a window) and have a rendezvous location outside of the home.
  6. Prevent Injuries – Use ladders and stools correctly instead of furniture when decorating.  Hide or tape down with duct-tape all loose wires.  Wear appropriate shoes when going outside.  Rain, ice and snow can change the condition of walking surfaces.  Use care and proper lifting techniques when lifting trees or large presents.  Twisting or turning when lifting can cause falls and damage to your back.  Nobody wants to spend their holidays in a hospital bed.
  7. Watch the Kids – This is an exciting time for the little ones.  Their extra enthusiasm can put them into dangerous situation.  Encourage their fun but in a safe manner.  Give them toys appropriate for their age.  Balloons, strings and ribbons are all potential suffocation or choking items for children under the age of 8.  Have them dress properly before going outside.  Always have them wear safety items such as helmets and knee or elbow pads when biking or using skates
    or skateboards.

Reference: Safety – 643

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Cold and Flu Season Precautions

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The days are getting shorter and the weather is beginning to chill. The cold and flu season is upon us.  With more activities inside and closer physical contact with others, this increases your potential of acquiring a bacterial of viral infection.

Cols and FluThe best form of prevention, during these times, is to frequently wash of your hands.   Most germs are spread through skin contact.  Touching of surfaces such as computers, desks, chairs and hand-shaking can help in the spread of disease.

Once these germs or bacteria get on your skin it can easily transition to other areas of your body.  Rubbing your eyes or nose, handling foods such as sandwiches, burgers or burritos,
gives these germs an easy opportunity to get inside your body.

Once inside, these germs can multiple and cause you to become ill.  Your best defense is the frequent cleansing of your hands.  Plain soap and warm water are the simplest and best form of cleansing.  Spend time in creating a good lather with the soap.  Make sure to rub in between each finger and under your fingernails.  It is best to wash for at least 15 to 20 seconds or as long as it takes to sing the childhood song, “Twinkle, twinkle little star”.

This can be a fun way to get children involved in more frequent hand washing.  Though if you are by yourself you may want to sing quietly if you’re in public.

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Toxic Holiday Plants

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Some of the most common holiday plants we use to decorate our homes during the holidays may contain hidden dangers for our children and pets. A common misconception is that  Poinsettias plants are extremely poisonous and life threatening. Though eating several leaves may cause a mild stomach upset, they are generally considered by the Poison Control Center as a safe plant for your home.

Here’s a list of potentially dangerous plants:

Mistletoe – All parts of this plant are toxic and can cause vomiting and diarrhea. If you hang this plant in your home, place it into a plastic bag first so that the leaves or berries do not fall to the floor where our kids and pets have access to them.

Christmas Trees (Cedar) – The bark on a cedar tree, if eaten can cause a stomachache. Also pine needles can stick in a child’s throat if swallowed and can cause choking.

Holly Berries – Children who swallow more than 1 or 2 berries will experience nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Jerusalem Cherry – This plant has bright red and orange berries. If swallowed it can cause hallucinations, drowsiness and vomiting.

Rosary Pea (Jequirity Bean) – The jequirity bean is commonly used in Mexican jewelry. In India and Africa it is used as a poison for animals and humans. This small bean if swallowed whole does not pose any harm, but if chewed before swallowing it can be life threatening. Vomiting and bloody diarrhea will occur within a few hours.

If you believe a child or animal has been poisoned and they are still conscious, call the “Poison Control Center” immediately at 1-800-222-1222, for information in the treatment of that specific poisoning.  If at any time the individual becomes unconscious call 9-1-1, for immediate medical assistance.

In any case never induce vomiting unless instructed by the poison control center.

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Reduce Stress Eat More Chocolate

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Your dreams may have just come true, there is now a healthy reason to eat chocolate.   A recent study done by the Nestle Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland, showed that eating dark chocolate helped reduce the levels of stress hormones in people who had high anxiety levels.  This study had participants eat a candy bar  of approximately 1.4 ounces each day for two weeks.

Blood test later revealed a reduced level of cortisol, a stress hormone, as well as an increase in flavonoids (an antioxidant).  Higher intakes of chocolate did not prove to increase the levels of cortisol or flavonoids.  The researchers cautioned that chocolate contains a high level of sugar and eating large amounts can have negative health effects.  Increases in your physical weight can lead to heart disease, diabetes and other health related problems.  Moderation will be the key in enjoying the beneficial effects of chocolate while still maintaining a healthy life style.

So go ahead and enjoy chocolate this holiday season. For us chocoholics, we can feel a little less guilt about our intake of the sweet indulgence.   Happy Holidays!

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