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Nurse Bridgid

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ear candling: The inside scoop

Earwax (cerumen) is a healthy part of your body's defense system: it keeps out dirt and bacteria from affecting your inner ear, acts as a water protectant, and is its own form of lubricant so that the canal doesn't dry out.  Sometimes we do have too much in our ears which can cause the earwax to be visible or cause decreased hearing ability.  How we keep our ears clean, can be really important for your overall health.

People ask me all the time about ear candling, if they should do it, how it works, etc. and I did, at one point in my career, work in an ENT clinic and we used to manually clean out our patients ears.  Our primarily elderly population never really asked about it ear candling, they just came in for their monthly cleanings, so it was kind of a non-issue.  But now, there are all sorts of alternative therapy spas and holistic treatment centers that offer this as a treatment, and some of my clients and friends often ask about it and if it is a good thing for them to do.  I must say, I cringe every time I see people shoving Q-Tips in their ear canals, just pushing wax further and further into their ear canal, and causing blockages of their ear canal.

What IS ear candling?
It is the practice of placing a lit, hollow, wax candle into the external ear canal.  The theory behind ear candling is that the heat in the hollow candle causes a vacuum effect to draw out ear wax that may be causing blockages in your ear canal.  It is claimed by holistic practitioners and by ear candle companies to improve overall health and be a gentle way to clean the ears, improve hearing, and also treat/prevent sinus infections.  The whole process can last from between 15 minutes to 45 minutes depending on how many candles are burned in each ear.  It was touted as being started by the Hopi tribespeople, but that has been disproven numerous times over.

Is it good for you?
After ear candling started gaining popularity, researchers wanted to find how effective this therapy is and exactly how it works and improves health.  I know that so many people are going to be bummed right now, but time and time again it has been actually shown to be BAD for you! It has been found to be ineffective at pulling out ear wax can can actually push the wax further into the ear canal.  Also, the wax from the candles can actually drop into your ears causing more wax...which seems to defeat the purpose! And, despite the fact that between the end of the candle and the client, a flame retardant is usually placed to prevent burns, but in research clients were found to obtain burns to their faces, necks, ear canals, ear drums, and middle ears.  When you are trying to do something healthy, I think the last intention is that you burn your internal ear, right?  In 2007 the FDA made a statement that ear candling is dangerous when used as labelled by companies.  Both the Canadian and American Family Journals have spoken out about the dangers of ear candling.

Why do people do it?
People tend to feel really relaxed when they are doing it; it is quiet time to themselves without a computer, TV, people bothering you. It really is "me" time and some people almost get to a meditative state when candling.  Also, there is an idea that the wax residue in the candles, once the treatment is finished, is their own ear wax, but one of the studies found that it is just residue from the candle, itself, burning.  I think that people see all of that wax "removed" from their ears and are excited about doing something good for their body, so they continue to do it.  If you feel relaxed and good, and people tell you you're doing something good for you, why wouldn't you continue to do it?  Well, now you know better!

What should I do instead?
If you need your ears cleaned out regularly because you have tons of cerumen, then you should probably see your HCP and possibly go to a specialist.  ENT specialists suggest that patients go in to see their HCP for cleaning/irrigation...but I know that every time you feel like you need your ears cleaned, you are not going to see your HCP.  So, the best thing to do is buy an earwax removal kit, place the dropper at the edge of your ear canal (Not in it!) and place 2-3 drops in your ear, and repeat the process on the other side. Doing this two nights in a row should allow the wax to come out on its own while you sleep at night.  If that doesn't work, you can gently flush some warm water (make sure it is warm water- cool water is super uncomfortable and can make you dizzy) into your ear (with the flusher provided) and it will help to flush the excess wax out.

PLEASE don't stick Q-tips, paperclips, or anything else in your ears to clean them out and see your HCP if you need help or are unsure how to safely clean them out yourself.

Yours in Good Health

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How much should I poop?

People tend to ask me how often they should poop, and it's always after some small talk (or a couple of drinks) that this topic pops up.  It's always the questions of not only how often should I poop, but how long does it take to digest a meal, and when should I see a doctor?  There are a lot of interesting answers that I think might shock most people...

How long does it take to digest a meal?
This is kind of a tough question because technically, you start digesting food with the saliva in your mouth, so you start digesting immediately.  As the foodstuffs goes down your digestive track, that's where the timing changes and depends on what you have eaten and how long it takes your body to break it down.  As we all know, fats take a long time to digest and slow digestion time, because it is harder for your body to break down, hence why you feel fuller after eating  fatty meal.  Fiber, on the other hand, both soluble and insoluble, are pretty easy for the body to pass through, and they act as a filler when you drink lots of water, and help to bulk up your poop, and empty out the colon. Fibers can be in the form of flax, oats, wheats, and other grains or fruits, vegetables, etc.  So truly? For the average meal, you are looking at about 20 hours from mouth to butt.

How often should I poop?
This is, again, very person dependent.  So this can vary from people who poop every couple of days to those who poop multiple times a day.  What's important is that your poop is of a normal consistency, not really loose and or frothy, without the presence of blood, or oil.  And, it is also very important that your poop isn't too hard, or that you are constipated.  On average, daily is how much most people poop.  Again this can be affected by what you eat: high fats will slow you down, and fiber can help to make you bulk your stool but without plenty of water you might make yourself constipated, too many fruits or veggies high in vitamin C can make you poop too much.  Also, vitamins can have an effect on our colons.  For example, iron can cause significant constipation.

In general what foods constipate?
Dairy, cheeses, milk(unless you're lactose intolerant)
Fast foods (high fat)
High sugar items (baked goods)
Breads and pastas (high starch)
Meat (beef and pork)
Processed proteins (pre-made meals with any form of protein- meat, soy, etc)

What foods can cause diarrhea?
Artificial fats and sweeteners
Spicy foods/peppers (capsaicin...the spice can cause GI irritation)
Acidic foods (such as citrus fruits- highly acidic and lots of vitamin C!)
Sulfur containing foods (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, garlic, onions)

When Should I See an HCP?
If you are having lots of gas and stool, are uncomfortable, or feel lots of urgency, you should talk to your HCP.  Also, the opposite is true; if you are feeling bloated and full, and you goes days between having bowel movements, you should see someone. If you mix between having diarrhea and being constipated, you should talk to your HCP as well.  Your issues could be diet related or you could have an undiagnosed medical issue. And, if you ever see blood in your stool you should go to see your HCP within a day or seek medical attention, it could be a sign of something much more significant.  Basically, use your best judgement, but if it seems like your colon has a different schedule than everyone else, you might want to get it looked into, you might have an issue that a diet change or medication could help.

Honestly, eating a healthy diet with a good mix of proteins, veggies, fruit, and grains paired with drinking water and getting 30 minutes (a minimum) of exercise a day is the best way to keep YOUR colon functioning properly and making sure that your body is working optimally.  I know this isn't everyone's favorite topic to bring up with their HCP or friends, but if you have concerns, bring it HCP's talk about poop all the time, I promise we can handle it!

Yours in Good Health

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Should I pee on that?

For years people have been under the impression that if you get stung by a jellyfish, you are supposed to urinate on the other person as an antidote.  I think as far as the US is concerned, TV shows and movies have made it a bit of a joke; there was a particular episode of Friends, in which it was depicted that the only way to treat a jellyfish sting was to pee on the person. Good news, for those of us who love ocean swimming but don't like to get peed on, it isn't the only treatment, and it actually has never been shown to work in studies.  I've got some other home remedies that will help to prevent the burn and relieve symptoms faster.

How do Jellyfish sting?
Jellyfish have tentacles that are long and hang off of the bulbous "jelly" part and the tentacles are covered with nematocysts, which are coiled stingers that can become activated and cause a sting/burn.  The nematocysts that are on the tentacles can continue to sting for hours and sometimes days after the tentacles are no longer attached to the jellyfish.  The stinging ability is the jellyfishes defense mechanism and to ward off certainly wards me off!

What are the treatments?
-Firstly, you need to remove the tentacles (and nematocysts) from your skin.  DON'T use fresh water or your hands, that activates the nematocysts to activate and sting your skin.  Try to brush the skin with a towel to remove the stingers from your skin, and pour salt water on your skin where the sting is occurring, it can help to get the nematocysts off without activating them.
-Try placing a towel soaked in warm water and vinegar (5% acetic acid solution)
-Unseasoned meat tenderizer or baking soda caked onto the areas can neutralize the stings (only leave on for about 15 minutes)
-If the stingers are still on the skin, put shaving cream on the skin and the tentacles will adhere to the shaving cream, and gently scrape the cream off with something hard edged, but not sharp!
-After the stingers are removed, you can take 50mg of benadryl (for children give a children's dose- age and weight appropriate) and for adults taking Ibuprofen can also help ease the discomfort, along with a hydrocortisone cream to decrease the swelling
-Ice packs can help to ease the pain
-Time is the only true treatment that will heal the stings....

*If you get stings near your eyes, flush your eyes out with Artificial Tears (or other saline solutions)
**Any stings in your eyes, mouth, or that cause trouble breathing, extreme swelling, etc you should seek immediate medical attention and call 911 (or the emergency number where you live)

Why doesn't urine work as a treatment?
Urine, depending on the person, is a majority of water, along with waste products from the body.  If someone has diabetes, dehydrated, on certain medications, on a low carb diet, etc what the waste products in their urine are will be different and can actually make a jellyfish sting feel worse.  Ideally, if the urine is high in uric acid, it was thought that it would neutralize the stings but that has never been shown as true in research.

These treatments have been studied, but unfortunately all peoples skin reacts differently, so you have to try them out and figure out what works best for you.  The good news is that I gave you a bunch of other treatments, the bad news is that if you've had a stung and someone peed on you, you got peed on for no reason!  But, be safe, especially with children, and really look for jellyfish when swimming in warmer waters and ask locals about the ocean before swimming, just so you know what you're getting into (pun intended).  So be safe and stay away from those pesky jellyfish!

Yours in Good Health

Monday, July 25, 2011

Male Kegels????

Just as we have learned how important kegels can be for the ladies, but fellas, did you know that they can benefit you as well?  There are plenty of benefits, some of which may be things that you are too embarrassed to talk to your HCP about but maybe you can try to work your kegels and be proactive!  Kegel exercises are aimed at toning and strengthening the pubococcygeus muscles, which are the muscles of the pelvic floor.

What are the benefits?
Kegel exercises can help men by decreasing prostate pain that is associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatitis, along with preventing urinary incontinence, and can help to prevent premature ejaculation and increase intensity of orgasms.  Also, it can make your erections stronger and for longer.  I am not a man, but I see no negatives here!!

When should I start doing Kegels?
Any male at ANY age should be doing kegel exercises, especially because approximately 1 of every 10 men over 60 years old has some form of urinary/prostate problem that would be benefitted by strengthening the muscles of the pelvic floor!  And, with those benefits, I can't see why any man wouldn't want to start their toning, a more intense orgasm should entice anyone!

How do I do them?
So, basically you have the squeeze the same muscles that you would squeeze as if you are holding in urine or a bowel movement, when you really have to go, but have to wait.  It is best to actually do these exercises with an empty bladder, but try to contract and relax these muscles 15 times a day, and work up to 75 times and them start holding the contraction for 3-5 seconds and try to get in two sets of 50 per day while holding the contraction.

I know it seems like a lot BUT you can do them anywhere at any time without it being noticed: while driving, in the shower, at work, watching TV, etc. No one has to know that you are exercising, and really the benefits to you out weight the few minutes a day you will be strengthening your pelvic floor muscles and doing something positive for your body!  You will start to see the benefits in 4-6 weeks after starting the exercises and, I promise you, you'll thank me!!!

Give it a go, and I'll wait the 4-6 weeks until my inbox blows up with thank you's!

Yours in Good Health

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Kegels for the Ladies: Do I really need to do them???

I know that this topic is mentioned a lot, and people joke about it, but ladies, you really should be doing them!  Kegel exercises strengthen the muscles in the pelvic floor, which supports your uterus, bladder, and bowel.  The muscles can be weakened due to pregnancy and childbirth, age, being overweight, and sometimes....just because you don't strengthen them!  Sometimes this weakening can cause organ prolapse, where your bowel droops down and puts pressure on your bladder causing leakage and urgency. Kegels are muscles just like any other muscle, and they need to be worked out, and the good news is that you can do it at ANY time and no one has to know...and it can make sex more enjoyable and orgasms MUCH better!

How do I do kegels?
So, you need to get pretty comfortable with your body, just to find the right muscles and make sure that you are doing it the right way, but I promise you will thank me!  Insert a finger into your vagina and try to squeeze the muscles around your fingers, and your fingers should feel the muscles tighten and the pelvic floor should move up.  OR you can always try and stop your pee mid stream, the same muscles help to stop the urine flow are your kegels, but I don't like to encourage people to do that, in case they are prone to UTI's and if you do that a lot it can cause incomplete emptying of the bladder.  So NEVER DO KEGELS WITH A FULL BLADDER; you want to make sure that you are empty before exercising!

Once you've learned your muscles, you need to start working them!  A great way to start is to contract the muscles for 5 seconds, then relax for 5 seconds and try to do that 4 to 5 times in a row, and work up to 10 second contractions with 5 second breaks.  And you can even get weights: Kegel Exercise Weights and GyneFlex with VTP (R) - Regular Strength to help and really work those muscles, starting slow with lower weights and working your way up!   Remember to breathe while doing the exercises, and try to work yourself up to 10 sets three times a day- seems like a lot, but you can do them while sitting at your desk at work, laying in bed, sitting in traffic, really ANY time!

What are the benefits?
As I said earlier, strengthening the kegel muscles can help with urinary incontinence and urgency and it can help with prevention of pelvic prolapse, where the organs droop into the pelvic area.  And, strengthening of the pelvic muscles can also increase the sensitivity during sexual intercourse and your orgasms can become more intense and enjoyable.

How long will it take to see results?
If you are starting your kegel exercises because you have urinary leakage or incontinence and you are hoping to change that, it may take 8 weeks up to 12 weeks to see a significant change, because you are strengthening very weak muscles, and think of how long it takes to see a change in your biceps, muscles that already have some tone.  Sex and orgasms can be effected sooner after starting the exercises.

Start working out your kegels even if you don't have any of these problems to prevent them from occurring.  And, if you are having trouble locating them, or performing the exercises, I know you might feel awkward, but talk to your HCP or email me, your HCP can help you to locate the muscles.  Give it a try, I promise you will thank me, and so will your partner :)

Yours in Good Health

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Asthma: Medications and Alternative Treatments

As discussed yesterday, Asthma is a long term disease that causes a narrowing of the airways due to an allergic or hypersensitive reaction.  The bronchus spasm, and make breathing very difficult.  There are numerous medications that can be taken either in pill form or inhaled, that are FDA  approved, or you can try some different alternative therapies: some include taking herbal supplements (which may or may not be helpful) and  some include diet, exercise, and breathing techniques.

Modern Medical Treatments:
Allergy medications- like Zyrtec or Claritin to prevent common allergies and possible flare-ups
Inhaled Corticosteroids- like Flovent or Pulmicort. These are inhaled medications that have low risks from long term use and take a few days to a week to build-up in your system and are used for long term prevention of symptoms.
Leukotriene Modifiers: Oral medications such as Singular that prevent asthma symptoms for 24 hours at a time. They can have some serious mental side effects like depression and hallucinations, so you need to be aware of any feelings of sadness that are new and unlike you.
Long Acting Beta Agonists (LABA): like Serevent are inhaled medications that open airways and prevent inflammation but they have been linked with severe asthma attacks if they are not taken along with an inhaled corticosteroid.
Combination Inhalers: a mixture of a LABA and corticosteroid, like Advair. They work well for long-term control of symptoms, but there is a risk of asthma attack because of the LABA involved.
Theophylline: a daily pill that helps to open the airways by relaxing the muscles around the airways. It is kind of a treatment of the past, and not used very frequently these was a first line treatment years ago.

What are Alternative Treatments?
Breathing exercises: in which you stretch the volume of your lungs and learn to relax to take deep breaths, can help to decrease the amount you need medications. Yoga breathing techniques can help to learn to relax and the feelings involved with taking deep, relaxed breaths.
Diet: eating fresh fruits and veggies high in antioxidants can help improve lung functions and prevent asthma symptoms.  As well, Omega-3 Fatty Acids (found in fish, flax, etc) have been found to reduce inflammation throughout the body, including the lungs, so it can help to improve asthma symptoms as well.
Exercise: regular cardiovascular inducing workouts can hep to strengthen your lungs and improve their function.  Working out in cold weather can trigger asthma, or if outdoors during high allergy season, but in a gym with AC you can work out your lungs and body all at the same time!

Are there Herbal Supplements?
As always, they haven't been extensively studied or FDA approved, so I can't say I condone the use of herbal supplements but many people have reported decreased asthma symptoms when using these products, and they may benefit you: butterbur, dried Ivy, Ginko extract, Indian frankincence, reishi mushroom, and Choline.  It is best to take these under direction of your HCP or an herbal healer, so please discuss so they can talk to you about any interactions to look for and any reactions that may occur.

Does anything make Asthma worse?
Exposure to allergens: if you are allergic to something, and know it, it can make your asthma symptoms worse, or cause flare-ups so you should stay away from that allergen, or do your best to avoid it (like cigarette smoke, exhaust, or foods that cause allergic reactions.)
Cold weather: As stated above, it can cause constriction of the bronchioles and make asthma symptoms worse.
-Anything high in saturated fats (meats, butters, etc) can make asthma symptoms worse
-Additives and preservatives can cause people to have reactions and common additives are artificial sweeteners and sulfites (found in cheeses, red wines, etc.)
-Milk products can cause an increase in mucus production and a thickening of the mucus, making asthma symptoms worse.

Asthma is different for everyone and the way we all react can be very different, so work with your HCP to see what best fits your lifestyle and your beliefs.  Work with your HCP on your Action Plan and take into account all aspects of alternative and medical therapies. You know your body best, so learn what your triggers are, and what prevents them best!

Yours in Good Health

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Asthma: Action Plans

There are more people with Asthma world-wide than is actually documented, because not everyone knows the signs and symptoms.  But for those of us with documented asthma, we should have an asthma action plan to prevent flare ups and hospitalization.

What exactly is asthma?
Asthma is a long term disease that causes narrowing of the airways due to an allergic type reaction or hypersensitivity. The bronchus (airways) spasm, making breathing a very difficult task.

What are signs and symptoms?
Coughing: that is usually worse at night or early in the morning, making it difficult for you to sleep.
Wheezing: high pitched whistling or squeaking that occurs when you breathe- coughing won't make it go away.
Chest tightness: your chest just feels tight, like there is a vice on your upper body and you almost physically feel like you cannot take a deep breath.
Shortness of breath: no matter how much air you take in, it is not enough.

What can cause it to flare?
SInce asthma can be caused by allergens, many of the "triggers" for asthmatics, are allergens: Dust, animal fur, bugs (such as cockroaches), mold and pollens
Irritants: cigarette smoke, chemicals, air sprays (hair, room scents), bug sprays
Medications: aspirin containing medications, beta blockers (for heart rate control)
Viruses: causing upper airway/respiratory infections
Physical activity: cardio exercise

There are tons of treatments, ranging from taking anti allergy medication, to inhaled steroids to oral steroids, inhaled non-steroidal treatments, and emergency inhalers (which immediately open up the airway in an emergency).  I will talk more about Asthma treatments tomorrow in my Asthma: Medical and Alternative treatments blog!

Action Plans: What are they?
Action plans are super important in the treatment of asthma.  Literally, they are plans that you, the patient, and your HCP come together and create.  You create plans so that you know what are the early signs and symptoms of a flare-up are, what your triggers are, and what you should do as soon as you realize you are going to have an asthma attack.  For some people, it is to take their rescue inhaler, some can stave off an attack by drinking ice cold water, others just need some caffeine, and some people need to go immediately to the Emergency Room because they will have a major attack.  Action plans help to prevent those trips to the ER, and to prevent those major asthma attacks that can keep children out of school, and people out of work.

It is imperative that you are a part of the action plan, because it is your body and your life, if part of it is unfeasible, then you know you will not do it, so speak up and have open and honest conversations with your HCP, because we all want you to be successful and stay healthy.  So, if you are allergic to dogs, but have one, be honest and tell your HCP that you are not going to get rid of your dog, and work on a way that maybe your dogs sleeps in another room, and you use a HEPA filter in your room to clear the air.  There are many different plans, and tons of different treatments, we need to create one that is good for you, and that you will stick to!

Check back tomorrow for more treatments.......

Yours in Good Health

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Work in an office?

Sitting at a computer all day can cause neck and back pain...that searing pain that goes down the middle of your back between your shoulder blades? Yup.  All caused by posture, stress, and how you crane your neck to view your computer screen.  Desktops are a problem, but laptops cause even MORE of an issue, because people tend to scrunch up their bodies and hold their heads forward when viewing the screen.  Funny story, while I was getting my Masters Degree, I didn't understand why my left shoulder hurt so much and I had such back pain on that side, until one day a friend took a picture of me, with my 6lb dog sitting on my shoulder (like a parrot) and I realized that he did that EVERY time I sat down to write a paper...DUH!  Your body posture becomes habit, just like anything else!

What can we do?
A recent study from the American College of Sports Medicine actually studied this exact issue, and ways to prevent the pain and discomfort. In 10 weeks, people who worked primarily in offices at computers for the majority of the day, in just doing 2 minutes of exercising a day, significantly decreased their neck and shoulder discomfort.
There were 198 people studied, that had no other medical problems other than the neck/shoulder pain that was job related. They were asked to do 2 to 12 minutes of stretching using resistance tubing and doing what is known as a lateral raise.  A lateral raise is when you lift your arms up from a side position until your upper arms are horizontal:
Lateral Raise
After just ten weeks of these exercises before work, when they would be without much exercise for a long period of time, they reported a decrease in shoulder and neck pain.  The people who performed the 12 minutes of exercises reported a bigger decrease in pain BUT it wasn't totally correlated; like 2 minutes meant 10% less pain and 12 minutes meant 60% less pain...they just reported less discomfort than those who performed only 2 minutes.

What works best?
The researchers found that it wasn't the length of time the exercises were performed that made people more comfortable, but the frequency with which they did the exercises.  So maybe doing two minutes of lateral raises a few times a day might ease your neck and shoulder pain more than performing 10-12 minutes straight at one time.

What does this mean for me?
Be aware of how you hold your posture when you are sitting in front of a computer at work; shoulders back, head straight, and try not to lean it forward.  If you use a laptop, raise it up on a thick book so that you aren't craning over to look at it, your head staying in a neutral position will prevent pain later.  Also, make time to stretch and perform lateral raises a few times a day to warm your muscles and allow them to get worked out, so there will be less pain from holding your head and neck in one position.  Also, make sure that your chair that fits your body; is it at the right height? tilt? Do you feel like you are straining to reach your desk from a sitting position? If so, see if there is an alternative chair for you to use, or ask your boss for another chair, desk, etc. in the long run, some new office equipment is cheaper than you being out on workers comp from injuries sustained at work!

So, keep your head up, literally, and do some lateral can totally be a "lat" guy/gal!  Your neck and shoulders will thank you :)

Yours in Good Health

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Be careful with kids and medicine

There are roughly 4.3 million calls to the poison control center every single year, and approximately half of those are due to children ingesting pills by accident.  There are some things that are completely benign for adults and actually helpful in treating many medical issues, many are even over the counter (OTC) treatments, but they can be deadly for children, even with one lick, never mind actually ingesting the pill.

What are common meds that are deadly to kids?
Salicylate: a compound found in Pepto-Bismol, Alka seltzer, Icy Hot, and Maalox. Depending on the child and the amount of medication ingested, it can cause swelling in the brain, fluid in the lungs, and can lead to seizures and death.
Camphor: found in Vicks Vaporub, mothballs, and Tiger Balm.  Initially it can cause nausea and vomiting, but lead to delirium, hallucinations, seizure, and death.
Buprenorphine: Suboxone or Subutex which is used to help prevent opioid addicts from taking their drug of choice by making them very ill, and one lick of this drug can cause respiatory distress to the point that a child can die.
Loperamide: the active medicine in Immodium that prevents diarrhea. Ingestion by children can cause a decreased mental status and respiratory depression.
Oxycodone: or drugs containing oxycodone such as percocet, vicodin, oxycontin, etc can cause severe respiratory depression and quickly lead to death without quick treatment.
Antidepressants: can cause heart arrythmias and seizures, leading to brain damage, cardiac damage, and death without treatment.
Beta Blockers: medications commonly prescribed to adults to maintain appropriate heart rate and prevent arrythmias can cause a child's heart rate to become too slow and can be difficult to treat.

What can I do?
-Keep medications out of a child's reach, high up.
-Always keep an idea of how many pills you have in each bottle- that way you know if your child got into the bottle, you can have a rough estimate to tell your HCP how much they ingested.
-Know the risks of medications you have in the house on your kids
-Inform babysitters and others that care for your kids of the risks and when they should call poison control.

Accidental ingestion of medication is obviously an accident, but we need to make sure that we do everything to prevent it, and know the risks of the medications that we have in our cabinets.  Accidents happen, but know the number to poison control, in the US the number is 1-800-222-1222 make sure it is readily available for everyone taking care of your kids, and  if they do ingest something, get them emergency medical care ASAP!  And, if you aren't sure about the effects of what they ate, call poison control and ensure that you are treating them appropriately.

Yours in Good Health

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Exercising in the heat

It has been pretty to and humid out, making most people either exercise super early in the morning (like me) or later in t evening, avoiding the days heat, and if they can't fit that in, they go to workout inside or just skip it.  With winter always a step away, you don't want to skip your outdoors time- I wait all year for it to be warm enough to play outside!

How can we keep it cool?
A recent study from Roehampton University in London, looked at the response of athletes bodies in heat, and tried to find ways to help cool them and improve their physical performance in the heat.  They found a really simple solution, that didn't actually effect their core temperatures (so their bodies weren't actually any cooler) but they felt much cooler and were able to run longer in faster.  The simple solution was to put a soft flexible neck strap with reusable cool packs around the athletes necks while they ran on treadmills in humid 87 degree heat.

It is really all about perception; your body isn't actually cooler, but you feel that it is, and you are able to pus through and work out despite the heat.  Of course, there are risks associated with that, and you need to make sure to rehydrate with water and electrolyte based fluids (coconut water, gatorade, etc) and when you really feel hot, to prevent heat stroke, just take it easy and stay inside.  Also, I am not encouraging you to run at 12pm every day BUT I do think this is a good trick for those of us that want to run outside, in the summer, and not be excessively effected by the heat.....and it may be helpful for those training for competitions.  Tricking your brain into feeling cooler, can help you out, just remember to listen to your body and if you are too overheated, take a break.

Try it out, stay cool, and get your exercise in the fresh air!!

Yours in Good Health

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Night shifts might be killing you!

As a nurse that worked the night shift basically permanently for 6 years, this new research based upon Norwegian nurses, makes me pretty nervous.  There has been speculation for ages that working nights is not good for your health, and clearly being sleep deprived lowers your immune resistance, but for the last ten years there  has been loads and loads of research showing that working night shifts can increase your cortisol levels (which increase with a stress response) and insulin levels, leading to an increased risk of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.  None of this is good, especially because healthcare is a 24 hour field, just like many other fields, such as police work, and other emergency services, pilots, etc.

What was the newest research?
Unfortunately, ladies, this one hits close to home for us.  Around 50,000 female nurses were studied, over a course of 17 years, looks for rates of breast cancer directly associated with night work. The findings were pretty scary, considering how many night shifts the average RN works! Nurses that worked around less than 4 night shifts a month had a minimal increased risk of breast cancer, and even nurses with 30 years working in hospitals (where we are exposed to radiation and chemotherapy agents) were at a minimal risk.  Nurses that worked five or more years with 4 consecutive night shifts had a much higher rate of breast cancer, and the highest group is nurses with 5 or more years of working with 6 consecutive nights of working.

What does this mean?
I'll be honest with you, 6 night shifts in a row would make anyone feel completely gross, and more than a little off your game.  But it appears that the number of consecutive night shifts worked, is what has the biggest effect on you, which makes sense, right?  Most people do not sleep normally during the daytime, because we aren't supposed to, so people medicate themselves to sleep, watch TV, or are just like me and just power through on only 3 hours of sleep.  Not only is this totally not a normal way to go through life, but it really isn't healthy. Just like when people who work during the day (in any job) have to work long hours for a few weeks, or have added stress at work (or at home), when it is over, you "crash" and catch up on sleep.  People who work nights a lot mess with their bodies normal rhythm and it has obviously huge effects on our ability to sleep normally (even when not working), our immune system, and obviously our long term health as well.

Now, everyone cannot stop working overnight shifts in every field, or our world would turn to chaos and patients in the hospital would not be very happy (to say the least) but these are really dramatic results and I think that they are something that we should be cognizant of and keep in the back of your mind.  Go to see your HCP and get check ups, do SBE's (self breast exams), and be aware of the effects that staying up all night might have on you.  Those shifts might get you some extra cash, but at what cost?

Just be aware of the effects of long term sleep and poor health outcomes, and try to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible; this study hit home for me, but whether you are a man or woman, working nights, or just odd hours, think about what might be happening to your body in the long term and how you can hopefully offset the bad with and otherwise healthy lifestyle. So get some sleep, eat something healthy, and get some exercise!

Yours in Good Health