Friday, December 7, 2007

Christmas and allergies?

Are you one of the many people who get all stuffed up at Christmas time? Do find you have a sinus infection every New Year? Do you have a real Christmas tree? Your health and your tree may have something in common.

According to this article Allergies may be rooted in Christmas trees, it could be the tree that is making you sick. While this may not be new news to many doctors, it isn’t widely known among the general public.

I was listening to the radio the other day when this topic came up. People were suggesting that artificial trees were the way to go if you were allergic to real trees. My thought was, though, can’t a lot of dust accumulate on the artificial trees? I would think that this could also contribute to allergy symptoms – or is that too far off?

We’re a real tree family, although for the past few years, I have been floating the idea of an artificial tree. Unfortunately, the idea gets shot down each time. I grew up with artificial ones, but some of the now are so real looking, it’s amazing.

Mind you, there is something to be said about having that real tree, pine needles and all. I even don’t mind finding needles months later. Makes me think of our special holiday and how lucky I am to have this choice.

News for Today:

Laid-off workers face increased premature death risk: study
Take kids' cold meds off market, journal urges
Patients Need To Know that Nuclear Medicine Procedures Can Trigger Radiation Alarms
Participation in organized high school activities lowers risk of smoking 3 years after graduation
Advisory Panel Rejects New Use for Cancer Drug
Abstinence best for recovering alcoholics
Depression common with chronic lung disease
Allergies may be rooted in Christmas trees
Combined Therapy Pills Needed for Children, WHO Says (Update1)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Months, weeks, days for health issue awareness

Have you ever wondered how people keep track of the various cause by the month, week, or day, such as National Birth Defects Prevention Month (January), Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week (in March) or World Mental Health Day (Oct. 10)?

There are calendars available to tell you what health issue is noted at what time of the year. The one I like to consult is at the National Health Information Center. Who would have thought there was a National Radon Action Month or Whole Grains Month?

In all seriousness, it really does help bring awareness of some of the lesser known health issues. Journalists can use the calendars to pitch stories to general publications and associations can use them for publicity blitzes or charity events.

So, what’s coming up for this month? December is a slow month – there’s only Safe Toys and Gifts Month, National Aplastic Anemia and MDS Awareness Week (this week), World AIDS Day (that was on Dec. 1), and National Handwashing Awareness Week (this week, as well). In January, be ready to learn more about thyroid issues, cervical health, glaucoma, birth defects, and radon.

News for Today:

Poorly refrigerated vaccines force parents to get new shots for their children
Palliative care - Raising awareness key to improving access
Reactor shutdown leaves many patients in lurch
Respiratory infections linked to increased heart attacks and strokes

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

My palliative care article on

Some shameless self-promotion here!

As many of you know, my passion is palliative care and getting the word out about how incredibly important the issue is. I wrote an article for Palliative care, Raising awareness key to improving access

Sinus infections

Sinus infections hurt; they hurt the head, they hurt the teeth, they just plain hurt. But, did you realize that a sinus infection can go beyond being just painful? A sinus infection that abscesses can cause brain damage and even death. Someone I know lost her brother to a sinusitis that abscessed and, when I worked in a school for physically handicapped children, there was a girl there who is a quadriplegic because of the same cause.

In other words – you can’t fool around with infected sinuses.

Ok, so what exactly are the sinuses?

They are empty cavities in your skull, behind your nose and eyes, which help lessen the weight of your head, some say. They are supposed to stay empty. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology has this good diagram to show you the different sinuses and where they are.

While they are supposed to stay empty, sinuses can fill with mucus when you have a cold or are experiencing an allergy. This can cause pressure and pain. If the mucus becomes inflamed (swollen), you have sinusitis.

Acute sinusitis lasts a couple of weeks and usually goes away with treatment. If your sinusitis does not go away or keeps returning, this is called chronic sinusitis. You only need antibiotics if the there is an infection, not if there is just inflammation.

Where the pain is located depends on the sinus cavity that is inflamed. If it is the frontal sinus, the pain is usually just above the eyebrows, around the forehead. The maxillary sinus is closer to your nose and jaw, so your jaw may be tender and feel as if there is a lot of pressure. You may even have a toothache or sore cheekbones. The ethmoid sinuses are between and behind your eyes, so this is where the pressure and pain would be, and the sphenoid sinuses would cause pain around your temples or even in your ear.

Other symptoms of a sinusitis can be:

- Blocked nose
- Bad taste in your mouth
- Bad breath
- Post nasal drip
- Frequent headaches
- Reduced sense of smell
- Stuffed sounding voice

Don’t fool around with sinus infections. They can be serious.

News for Today:

Kids' earlier peanut exposure may cause allergy: study
Fitness, not low body fat, key to a long life
Watch for heart attack symptoms during holidays, experts advise
Medical marijuana restrictions unfair, lawyers contend
Survey confirms Americans prefer root canal treatment by endodontists
Some common treatments for sinus infections may not be effective

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Winter heart attack danger

Winter is here in North America and for much of us – lots of snow. It’s a good time to remind people about not over exerting and heart attack prevention.

The main problem is that many who don’t exercise all year long, put a lot of effort and exercise into shoveling and end up having a heart attack. There are a few medical emergencies that time is of absolute essence – if you think you or someone else is having a heart attack – don’t wait. It’s best to go to the emergency with a false alarm then to die because you weren’t sure if you should go.

What are the signs and symptoms of a heart attack?

This was taken directly from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute:

The most common heart attack signs and symptoms are:
· Chest discomfort or pain—uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of the chest that can be mild or strong. This discomfort or pain lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
· Upper body discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
· Shortness of breath may occur with or before chest discomfort.
· Other signs include nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), vomiting, lightheadedness or fainting, or breaking out in a cold sweat.
If you think you or someone you know may be having a heart attack:
· Call 9–1–1 within a few minutes—5 at the most—of the start of symptoms.
· If your symptoms stop completely in less than 5 minutes, still call your doctor.
· Only take an ambulance to the hospital. Going in a private car can delay treatment.
· Take a nitroglycerin pill if your doctor has prescribed this type of medicine.
· Put an aspirin under your tongue. Aspirin reduces blood clotting and can help keep a heart attack from getting worse. But don’t delay calling 9–1–1 to take an aspirin.

Do you know if you are at risk of having a heart attack? You can take this quiz offered by the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation. Don’t wait. If you are at risk, take care of yourself. Your life absolutely depends on it.

News for Today:

Anorexic women's brains altered even after recovery: study
Diabetes drug Avandia may increase osteoporosis risk
High glycemic diet may raise cataract risk
Rapid test offers new weapon against chlamydia
Try honey to calm children's coughs, says study
Fever can temporarily unlock autism's grip
Relatives of patients with Parkinson's disease face increased risk of depression/anxiety disorders

Calgary researchers develop 2-in-1 heart attack test

Monday, December 3, 2007

24-hours a day - time for sleep?

Sleep is in the news again – we aren’t getting enough of it and it’s affecting our health in a big way.

Of course, for people working night shifts, getting a good sleep isn’t always easy. As much as we try to get our body to adjust to sleeping during the day instead of at night – it’s just not natural. The story Nurses working extended shifts, are tired at work and sleep little likely to drive drowsy is an important one. The issue doesn’t rest with just nurses though. It used to be that only certain professions worked overnight and those were the professions that were vital to the health and functioning of the community: doctors, nurses, bus drivers, city workers who plowed the snow, and many others.

But now, with our changing society, we have people working overnight at the local fast food places, some mega-store chains, 24-hour corner stores and more. While this may be making life easier for many of us who do work odd shifts, what it does is add to the number of people who are working hours that are unnatural to the body clock and adding to the number of people who may be driving in an exhausted state.

Good sleep is vital to good health, so maybe we need to rethink how we feel about what is really important to us.

News for Today:

New drug curbs age-related macular degeneration: study
Promising new HIV-AIDS drug approved in Canada
Childhood sleep-disordered breathing disproportionately affects obese and African-Americans
Study links blood transfusions to surgery complications in women
Short, long sleep duration associated with increased mortality
Nurses working extended shifts, are tired at work and sleep little likely to drive drowsy
New study in the journal Sleep finds that sleep duration raises the risk for diabetes
Napping a more effective countermeasure to sleepiness in younger people