Preventing Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

Spring has sprung and so have your sneezes

Allergies can wreak havoc on your system, causing symptoms from watery or itchy eyes to coughing, congestion and possibly even a rash. While they’ve become synonymous with spring, allergies can actually be seasonal or year-round, depending on your trigger. The first step to controlling your bothersome symptoms is figuring out what you’re allergic to.

You can narrow it down by taking note of your symptoms and their patterns. Then you can work to avoid the allergen. Below are tips to reduce both seasonal and year-round environmental allergens, including dust mites, mold, animal dander and pollens.

In the bedroom

  • Remove heavy drapes, upholstered furniture and stuffed animals that are likely to collect dust.
  • Use a zippered, plastic air-tight cover on all pillows and mattresses.
  • At least every 14 days, wash all bedding and stuffed animals in hot water and dry on hot setting.

Throughout the rest of the house

  • Avoid damp basements or water-damaged areas of your home and fix water leaks to prevent mold exposure.
  • Clean moldy surfaces with a diluted solution of bleach. If a larger-scale mold exposure is suspected, you should seek professional assistance with mold removal.
  • If possible, remove all carpets. 
  • Vacuum as frequently as possible using a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter vacuum.
  • Avoid the use of ceiling fans Prior to use, make sure to clean any collected dust from the surface of the fan blades.
  • During the height of allergy season, keep windows closed, avoid exposure to pollens and limit outdoor activities when pollen counts are highest.
    • Early morning for spring time tree pollens.
    • Afternoon and early evening for summer grasses.
    • In the middle of the day for ragweed in the fall.
  • Consider using a HEPA filter to control airborne allergens (these only work if what you are allergic to is airborne, which doesn’t include dust mites and mold).   Change the filters frequently per the manufacturer’s guide. You can also purchase HEPA home-air filters for use in your air conditioner. 
  • Since dust mites and mold increase in high humidity, keep indoor humidity low.
  • Provide a smoke-free environment for yourself and any children.
  • Cockroaches and rodents are also causes of allergies; if you suspect an infestation, make sure to clean your home frequently and thoroughly, store away food in secure containers, keep garbage outside and repair holes in the walls, floors, doors, etc.  Also, seek the help of a professional exterminator.

For those who are allergic to animal dander

  • Keep indoor pets out of the affected person’s bedroom and wash your pet each week to remove surface allergens
  • Consider a HEPA filter for the room in which the pet is primarily kept. 

If you’re unable to keep your allergies at bay with these measures, I recommend you try an over-the-counter option, such as daily salt water irrigation (Neti-Pot) combined with a steroidal nose spray (Flonase), or allergy medications, such as second generation antihistamines (Claritin and Zyrtec).

First generation antihistamines (Benadryl)  should be reserved for severe cases and should not be used as a long-term solution. If you’ve exhausted these measures and allergies are still impacting your daily life, or if you’re experiencing severe coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath, seek the help your physician. Specialized medication and testing may be for you.

When Your Bathroom Habits Aren’t Routine (And What Can Help)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irregular bowel habits, alternating diarrhea and/or constipation, and cramping or bloating, in conjunction with abdominal discomfort or pain–they’re the hallmark signs of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). If you are regularly finding yourself, and your bathroom, occupied with these life-altering symptoms, relief may be in sight. 

It’s a Common Disorder

IBS can make you feel isolated, but you are not alone. It is estimated that about 10 to 15 percent of the world’s population suffers from IBS. There is no known cure for the condition, but there are many effective treatment options available.

7 ways to improve your IBS

The following can help you to manage even your worst IBS symptoms:

1. Medications

No matter your IBS symptoms, anti-diarrheal, anti-spasmodic and laxative medications can get your toilet habits back on track. These are particularly effective with patients whose symptoms do not respond to simple lifestyle changes or for those who are having severe symptoms. Low-dose anti-anxiety medications have also shown to improve the effects of IBS in some people. Communicating openly with your physician is the key to finding the best treatment plan.

2. Probiotics

They’ve become quite popular as the importance of gut health has been a popular topic in the media, but put simply, new studies have shown promise that probiotics can help to regulate the gut’s healthy bacteria and regulate you as a result.

3. Fiber

Fiber is important in any healthy diet, but for those suffering with constipation, it is particularly vital. Gradually increasing your fiber intake to the recommended 25 to 30 grams per day can help you to increase your overall health and normalize your bathroom habits.

4. Dietary changes

Fiber is just one part of a healthy lifestyle. Eating the recommended amount of fruits, vegetables and good fats daily can help your stomach and improve your mindset. While not a cure-all, the low-FODMAP diet is also worth trying if you have gastrointestinal concerns. It is an elimination diet that removes FODMAP foods, or short-chain carbohydrates, from the menu.

5. Stress reduction

IBS is often exacerbated by stress, as the mind and gut have a strong connection. Finding ways to both manage and anticipate your stress can go a long way in symptom reduction. Everything from mindfulness to yoga can help. 

6. Exercise

In a 2011 study, IBS patients who exercised 20-30 minutes per day at least three days per week saw an improvement in their symptoms. Even simple changes to your routine, like adding a 30 minute walk after dinner, can reduce your stress, improve your health and potentially erase your symptoms.

7. Education

Many patients come to me concerned that their discomfort is a sign of something much more serious than IBS. I take IBS very seriously, and I work together with my patients to find relief for their symptoms. The palliative effect of knowing their suffering is not the result of a more dire diagnosis is an added bonus. If you’re concerned about any discomfort you are having, talk with your doctor—it could be a reprieve.

When your gut feeling shouldn’t be ignored

It is important to know that IBS is defined as recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort that is associated with altered bowel habits, like diarrhea or constipation. These symptoms can typically happen on average at least one day per week for the past three months.  Symptoms such as an unexplained weight loss of more than 10 pounds, bloody stools or rectal bleeding, fevers or night sweats, or nighttime stooling are not typical of IBS and should prompt one to be evaluated by a gastroenterologist.

IBS is not an indicator of future disease

Having IBS does not increase your risk for colon cancer, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. In fact, in IBS the gastrointestinal system appears normal on an internal exam.  However, IBS is often seen in patients who have already been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), anxiety, depression or other conditions associated with visceral hypersensitivity (fibromyalgia).

On the horizon for IBS

While there is no current cure for IBS, there are new findings about its origins. Stay tuned and in touch with your doctor for ever-changing treatment options and, hopefully, one day a cure.

It’s Too Late to Get the Flu Shot (and Other Myths)


There are many misconceptions about the flu shot, but science and experience have proven that the influenza vaccine can reduce your risk of acquiring the flu; so you can rest assured that the flu shot is generally safe and effective. Let’s tackle a few of the most common myths about this often polarizing vaccine.

A woman giving a flu shot

Myth #1: It’s Too Late to Get the Vaccine

Physicians and researchers have designed the vaccine to be most effective when it is administered before the flu begins to spread, which is typically in late October.  However, it is better to get the vaccine any point during the season, rather than not at all, as it will still protect you if you are exposed to the flu.

Myth #2: It Will Make me Sick

It’s possible to get the flu shot, then get sick the next day; it’s ironic, but the shot didn’t cause this. If this has happened to you, it is likely that you were exposed to a virus before ever receiving the shot, or you were exposed to a virus that the shot does not protect you against. The vaccine cannot make you sick or give you the flu, though side effects like soreness, redness or swelling at the injection shot, headache or low-grade fevers do occur. The vaccine’s effects have been studied time and time again, and there is no proven correlation between the flu shot and other disease or illness. 

Myth #3: It is Rarely Effective

Each year more than 226,000 Americans are hospitalized and about 36,000 die from influenza-related complications, according to the American Lung Association. But, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by 40 to 60 percent. It has also been shown to reduce the severity of illness and number of hospitalizations in those who still get sick. The influenza vaccine is designed to protect against the three or four flu strains that are most common in any given flu season. While nobody can predict fully which version of the virus you will be exposed to, the 2018-19 shot has been updated to better match the viruses that are actually circulating in the U.S. 

Myth #4: I’m Healthy, it Isn’t Necessary

Healthy or not, you are always at risk of contracting the virus. The flu can wreak havoc on your system and can also cause long-term correlative health effects. If you are in contact with children, the elderly or anyone who has an impaired immune system, you can help protect their health by getting the flu shot. In fact, every employee at our hospital is required to get the vaccine for this reason. 

If you have other questions about the flu shot, check with your physician for the facts.  From a clinical perspective, the benefit of getting the flu shot far outweighs the negatives. It isn’t too late in the season; get yours today

Is a Gluten-Free Diet Right For You?

Weight loss, loose stools, infertility, joint pain, bloating, migraines—these are only some of the varied symptoms that can result from celiac disease. For those who suffer from this mysterious illness, a gluten-free diet can be life-changing, but there is little data to prove that the diet is beneficial for the general population.

Gluten Free pastries

I would describe a gluten-free diet for the general population as a “fad” diet. It’s certainly healthy to reduce your intake of carbohydrates and accordingly consume more fruits, vegetables and lean meats, but barring celiac disease it isn’t necessary to scrub all gluten from your diet. Many celiac patients stumble on a gluten-free diet in desperation after years of living with gastrointestinal discomfort; others try the diet at the behest of their physician after diagnosis. For those with the disease the diet isn’t a fad, it is life altering. In fact, nearly all patients go into celiac remission after following the diet for one year.

The problem is celiac disease is an uncommon disease with common symptoms, which explains why it is quite elusive to many health care providers. In my opinion, increased awareness, screening and testing accounts for the rising number of people diagnosed with the disease.

If you have any of the following symptoms, or you have been suffering with unexplained gastrointestinal concerns, I recommend that you speak with your provider about testing options.

Typical Symptoms

  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal distention
  • Bloating sensation
  • Joint pains
  • Skin rash

Lesser Known Symptoms

  • Bone fractures
  • Pallor
  • Recurrent migraine headaches
  • Infertility
  • Frequent miscarriages
  • Low birth weight in children

Unique Symptoms Seen in my Office Practice

  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Malnutrition
  • Weak and thin bones
  • Herpetic skin rash

Celiac disease is frequently associated with a variety of autoimmune or connective tissue disorders such as diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and dermatitis herpetiformis. If you also suffer from any of these diseases, it might be worth getting tested for Celiac’s.

If you plan to go gluten free, regardless of your disease status, be sure to speak to a physician or registered dietitian to come up with a diet plan that is healthy for you.

6 Things You Can do to Prevent Breast Cancer

A More Healthful Lifestyle Can Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer

An apple a day may keep the doctor away. It might seem simple, but the truth is that living a more healthful lifestyle has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer, as well as many other cancers, regardless of your family history.

Be sure to talk with your health care provider, especially when it comes to how your family history impacts your risk. However, it’s been shown that moving more and eating better has a positive impact on your health and overall lifetime risk of cancer. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, about 33 percent of breast cancer cases can potentially be prevented with some basic lifestyle changes. 

1. Lose it

Maintaining a healthy weight puts you at a lower risk for developing cancer, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. If you are overweight, studies have shown that losing even a modest amount of weight (approximately seven percent of your body weight) can improve your health. Maintaining a BMI under 26, especially in post-menopausal women, has also been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

2. Move

A small amount of exercise can add big results. Studies have shown that 150 minutes of exercise per week can impact weight loss. Try a new class, join a gym or simply go on a 10-minute walk after most of your meals. Find something that interests you so you’ll stick with it and start slowly to avoid injury.

3. Focus on plants

Eating a plant-based diet rich in fruits, nuts and vegetables can provide a variety of healthful antioxidants that have been shown to prevent cancer. Other foods offering cancer-reducing effects include soy, green tea, turmeric, ground flaxseed, the omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, as well as fish oil, garlic and onions.

4. Try soy

In Asia, where soy consumption is much higher, the rates of breast cancer are much lower. It’s considered safe to consume one-to-two servings of soy per day by eating foods like tofu, edamame and protein bars. Although because soy can act as an estrogen in the body, there are different recommendations for those who have a family risk of estrogen-positive breast cancer. Check with your health care provider. 

5. Avoid fad diets and red meat

Focus on eating to maintain for your long-term health. The American Cancer Society says to avoid eating processed meats high in the cancer-causing preservative sodium nitrite. They also suggest no more than 18 ounces of “red” meat per week (pork, beef and lamb) in your diet.

6. Get drunk on life

Avoid or reduce your alcohol intake and increase your water intake. Alcohol is a proven carcinogen and contributes to weight gain. It’s recommended that women have no more than one drink per day and a maximum of two for men.

If either side of your family has a history of breast cancer before the age of 50, male breast cancer or ovarian cancer, you may be a candidate for genetic testing and you should speak to your physician about getting tested.

7 Ways to Stay Healthy as You Age

Aging Well

Clinicians for ages have shared the importance of exercise, emphasizing its positive impact on the heart, waistline and longevity. But exercising can be a boon to the brain as well. Physical activity actually increases the amount of oxygen that flows to your brain, improving mental acuity and concentration. The endorphins released during workouts also help to reduce incidence of depression and anxiety disorders, as well as improving your sleep patterns and moo

Exercise can also help older adults reduce the need for some medications, and may be as effective as prescriptions for some conditions. Paired with a healthy lifestyle, working out regularly can also reduce the risk of dementia.

As you age, mind and body fitness are more important than ever. Keeping abreast of both can help you to maintain your independence and state-of-mind. 

The idea of starting a new regimen later in life can be daunting, but it can be accomplished in a few easy steps.

1. Pull up a Chair

Chair exercises are an easy way to exercise safely anywhere. Using a sturdy chair, work on standing up and sitting down. Begin by sitting up straight, toward the edge of the chair. While bending slightly forward at your hips, push your weight into your heels and stand up, then sit down slowly. 

2. Be Flexible

Stretching exercises are important for maintaining and improving range of motion in the joints. Stretching does not need to be unpleasant. Gentle stretches performed in a chair or while standing can provide significant improvement in range of motion, balance and fall reduction—all keys to preventing cognitive decline.

3. Join a Group

Group workout programs are a good place to start for anyone new to exercise. Groups for older adults, like Chesapeake Regional’s Silver Sneakers program, provide exercise and social interaction—which can also aid your mental wellbeing.

4. Stay Positive

Exercise, and a positive attitude, can help to reduce stress. Stress can cause an over-secretion of stress hormones that negatively affect memory. By changing your attitude and your routine, you can take the weight off of your shoulders.

5. Play Games

Your regimen shouldn’t stop there; cognitive exercises like crossword puzzles and brain teasers keep the brain fit. Reading and math problems also keep the brain youthful. Research has shown that brain exercises can actually improve memory and reduce “fog.” 

6. Feed Your Brain

A heart-healthy diet is also a brain-healthy diet. Damaged blood vessels, which supply the brain with blood, are linked to vascular dementia. Focus on reducing the amount of red meat in your diet and increasing your intake of fish, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

7. Don’t Give Up

A little bit can go a long way.  As long as you are on the move and keeping your brain active, your whole body—and your future independence—will benefit.

Again, it is never too late to get started on a healthy path. However, if you start to notice changes in your memory, or someone you love is more forgetful than usual, it may be time to seek the guidance of a physician.

Make a Plan for an Emergency

You know to call 9-1-1 if you or a loved one suffers a life-threatening emergency or illness. But did you know that what you do before and after you make that call can be just as important as dialing those three numbers? Use this guide to find out how you can prepare for an emergency.

When faced with an emergency situation, it is often difficult to stay calm and remember everything you need. Because of this, experts recommend that you prepare for an emergency before it happens by gathering all of the information you’ll need to give the 9-1-1 operator and emergency team.  This includes:

  • Your street address, apartment number and closest cross street
  • A call-back number in case you are disconnected, or emergency personnel have additional questions
  • Chronic medical conditions, if any
  • Recent medical events or illnesses, if any

Keep this information handy (by the telephone or on the refrigerator, for instance) and include contact information for your doctors and family members. Make sure caregivers, babysitters and others know where to find this information. It is also important to have a list of allergies and medications, including how much and how often each is taken.

Just as important as having the patient’s medical history and medication list handy is deciding whether or not a call to 9-1-1 is truly necessary. 9-1-1 services are meant for patients who require rapid evaluation and transport. When 9-1-1 is called and it is not a true emergency, that ambulance and dispatcher are no longer available for someone who is having a true emergency like a heart attack or stroke.

You Just Called 9-1-1. What’s Next?

When a patient or family member calls 9-1-1, they will talk to a dispatcher who is trained to send emergency vehicles to patients and find out preliminary information that can be helpful to emergency personnel.

In case the emergency is happening while the patient or family member is on the phone, 9-1-1 operators are also trained to give advice on how to handle these situations until help arrives. For instance:

  • In a choking victim, the operator may give advice on how to clear a victim’s airway, whether through the Heimlich Maneuver or another method.
  • In a patient who is bleeding, the operator will give advice on how to control the bleeding, such as applying direct pressure until the ambulance arrives.
  • In a patient whose heart has stopped, the operator might give instructions on how to perform CPR while waiting for the ambulance.

Waiting for Help to Arrive

Help is on the way, but don’t hang up the phone until the 91-1 operator tells you to do so. Families or patients can prepare for EMS’s arrival by unlocking doors, grabbing the patient’s medication list and clearing the area from unnecessary bystanders. If the patient is a minor, or an elderly or handicapped person, make sure an adult or person with power of attorney is available to authorize care.  Furthermore, if there is information regarding care that the patient, or their medical power of attorney, does not want to have rendered, such as Do Not Resuscitate status, that information should be readily available to EMS personnel upon their arrival.

While nobody ever hopes to need 9-1-1, it helps to be prepared in case that day comes. In the event of an emergency, a few minutes can make all the difference.

Preventing Food Poisoning this Summer

Ants aren’t the only pests ready to spoil your picnic

Food poisoning may also be lurking around the corner. Here are a few easy food handling steps you can take to keep your summertime al fresco meals healthy and fun!

According to the Center for Disease Control, an estimated 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from food borne diseases each year. According to the National Poison Control Center, there are four steps that can help keep your food as safe as possible

1. Clean

Wash your hands and all surfaces that touch meat. Do not wash meat, as it can splash bacteria throughout your kitchen. Clean cutting boards by washing them in hot, soapy water after each use, then rinse with clear water or use a dishwasher, unless the board is laminated. Air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels. To sanitize cutting boards, make a solution with one tablespoon of unscented liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Flood the surface with the bleach solution, let it stand for a few minutes, rinse with clear water, and air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels.

2. Separate

Keep your fruit, poultry, fish and meat separate at all times, including while your foods are in the grocery cart, bags and refrigerator. While prepping your food, make sure you use separate cutting boards for each food item.

3. Cook

Use a thermometer to ensure food is cooked properly. A free food temperature chart is available on both the CDC and USDA’s websites.

4. Chill

Put leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate immediately. Do not thaw frozen meats on the counter top. Instead, submerge them in cold water, ensuring that you refill with cold water every 30 minutes, or place in the refrigerator for a few days.

Wrapping Up…

Keeping the four steps above in mind, it’s also important to avoid foods that look or taste unusual and to thoroughly reheat leftovers.

From norovirus to salmonella, there are many viruses that cause food poisoning, and the symptoms are similar for each strain. Gastroenteritis, more commonly known as the stomach flu, can be classified by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps.

To prevent the spread of disease, wash your hands frequently, and limit the number of people you come in contact with.

If your symptoms do not go away within a few days, call your health care provider. A trip to the Emergency Department is only absolutely necessary if you feel dehydrated, have a high fever, yellow eyes or skin, blood in your vomit or stool, or if you are experiencing sharp pain.

Asthma

Sometimes asthma symptoms are mild and go away on their own or after minimal treatment with asthma medicine. Other times, symptoms continue to get worse.

When symptoms get more intense and/or more symptoms occur, you’re having an asthma attack. Asthma attacks also are called flareups or exacerbations (eg-zas-er-BA-shuns).

Treating symptoms when you first notice them is important. This will help prevent the symptoms from worsening and causing a severe asthma attack. Severe asthma attacks may require emergency care, and they can be fatal.

Asthma (AZ-ma) is a chronic (long-term) lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. Asthma causes recurring periods of wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. The coughing often occurs at night or early in the morning.

Asthma affects people of all ages, but it most often starts during childhood. In the United States, more than 25 million people are known to have asthma. About 7 million of these people are children.

Overview

To understand asthma, it helps to know how the airways work. The airways are tubes that carry air into and out of your lungs. People who have asthma have inflamed airways. The inflammation makes the airways swollen and very sensitive. The airways tend to react strongly to certain inhaled substances.

When the airways react, the muscles around them tighten. This narrows the airways, causing less air to flow into the lungs. The swelling also can worsen, making the airways even narrower. Cells in the airways might make more mucus than usual. Mucus is a sticky, thick liquid that can further narrow the airways.

This chain reaction can result in asthma symptoms. Symptoms can happen each time the airways are inflamed.

 

Source – www.nhlbi.nih.gov

Anemia

What Is Anemia?

Anemia is a condition that develops when your blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a main part of red blood cells and binds oxygen. If you have too few or abnormal red blood cells, or your hemoglobin is abnormal or low, the cells in your body will not get enough oxygen. Symptoms of anemia — like fatigue — occur because organs aren’t getting what they need to function properly.

What Causes Anemia ?

There are more than 400 types of anemia, which are divided into three groups:

  • Anemia caused by blood loss
  • Anemia caused by decreased or faulty red blood cell production
  • Anemia caused by destruction of red blood cells

 How Do I Know if I Have Anemia?

To diagnose anemia, your doctor will likely ask you about your medical history, perform a physical exam, and order blood tests.

Blood tests will not only confirm the diagnosis of anemia, but also help point to the underlying condition. Tests might include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC), which determines the number, size, volume, and hemoglobin content of red blood cells
  • Blood iron level and your serum ferritin level, the best indicators of your body’s total iron stores
  • Levels of vitamin B12 and folate, vitamins necessary for red blood cell production
  • Special blood tests to detect rare causes of anemia, such as an immune attack on your red blood cells, red blood cell fragility, and defects of enzymes, hemoglobin, and clotting
  • Reticulocyte count, bilirubin, and other blood and urine tests to determine how quickly your blood cells are being made or if you have a hemolytic anemia, where your red blood cells have a shortened life span

What Are the Treatments for Anemia?

Your doctor may not treat your anemia until the underlying cause has been established. The treatment for one type of anemia may be both inappropriate and dangerous for another type of anemia.

Source: https://www.webmd.com

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