Tuesday, November 24

Health Care and Thanksgiving in 2015

It’s that time of year that families gather together to celebrate and give thanks for all their blessings, and look forward to spending time around a table laden with bountiful food and drink. Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, and it has been celebrated in one form or fashion since the Pilgrims made nice with the Native American Indians in the 1620’s. About 400 years of  togetherness sometimes has its benefits, and sometimes not.

According to the History Channel, in November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as American’s “first Thanksgiving”—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days.

While no record exists of the historic banquet’s exact menu, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the event, and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer. Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were likely prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods.

Because the Pilgrims had no oven and the Mayflower’s sugar supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621, the meal did not feature pies, cakes or other desserts, which have become a hallmark of contemporary celebrations. For a lot of detail about the history of this holiday, go to this site: http://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving.

One major component that is part of Thanksgiving is the food. People get in a festive mood and begin preparing days in advance for the main feast of the holiday, and other meals leading up to it as well as afterwards—it is a major event. The Food Network has some incredible ways to you to make your guests feel as though they’ve dined and experienced Nirvana. Here is your path to gourmet victory: http://www.foodnetwork.com/thanksgiving.html.

Additionally, as if that’s not enough, the New York Times has a significant Thanksgiving food “How To” cooking guide that shows every neophyte baker or aspiring gourmand the best way to prepare about any dish you wish: http://cooking.nytimes.com/thanksgiving. And Southern Living Magazine displays every possible Thanksgiving side dish you could want: http://www.southernliving.com/food/holidays-occasions/thanksgiving-dinner-side-dishes.

As well, there are parades and football games to watch on the big screen television or on your electronic devices. Thanksgiving Day parades are held in some cities and towns on or around Thanksgiving Day. Some parades or festivities also mark the opening of the Christmas shopping season. Some people have a four-day weekend so it is a popular time for trips and to visit family and friends.

Most government offices, businesses, schools and other organizations are closed on Thanksgiving Day. Many offices and businesses allow staff to have a four-day weekend so these offices and businesses are also closed on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day. Public transit systems do not usually operate on their regular timetables. Thanksgiving Day it is one of the busiest periods for travel in the USA. This can cause congestion and overcrowding. Seasonal parades and busy football games can cause disruption to local traffic. More information about what goes on in America is found at this website: http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/thanksgiving-day.

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel seasons of the year, with tens of millions of people flying, driving and headed out of town. For some the journey is short, and for others it’s a major travel event. The American Red Cross provides very helpful advice if you’re bustling the family off to Grandma’s house for the holiday: http://www.redcross.org/news/article/Travel-Safety-Tips-for-Thanksgiving-Travelers.

And, you’ll especially want to be careful about fire safety during this holiday, whether in the kitchen when preparing meals or in the home when having a fire in the family den fireplace. ABC News has some great advice: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2014/11/5-fire-safety-tips-to-keep-in-mind-this-thanksgiving/.

Even though Thanksgiving is celebrated as a wonderful day and season of giving thanks for all your blessings, there are some safety precautions you should take to ensure that your celebration doesn’t get derailed.

Turkey safety—the turkey is the biggest star. Make sure he evokes a round of applause—not a round of visits to the bathroom or, worse, the hospital.

Buy carefully.
·         Avoid fresh, stuffed turkeys; buy your turkey at least 1-2 days before you cook it, and keep it in the fridge; keep it in the freezer if you’ve bought it earlier.

Defrost properly.
·         Thaw in the refrigerator (every 4-5 lbs. needs one day to thaw).
·         Submerge the turkey (wrapped in leak-proof packaging) in cold water (every 1 lb. needs 30 minutes to thaw) that should be changed every half hour.
·         Microwave in a microwave-safe pan, removing any packaging and following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Cook immediately after thawing.
·         Avoid slow cooking or partially cooking the turkey.
·         At 165 degrees F at least.
·         Opt to cook the stuffing separately.

Use a thermometeron the innermost part of the thigh and wing, as well as the thickest portion of the breast, to ensure that the turkey is well cooked.
·         Don’t carve at once; give the juices time (20 min.) to settle.
·         Keep Clean!
·         Wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling food.
·         Keep all surfaces and utensils clean.
·         Never handle cooked and raw food together, in order to avoid cross-contamination.
·         Keep raw meat away from vegetables or other uncooked food.

The Thanksgiving dinner should be fun and festive, not fearful and dangerous. A significant amount of safety information about all things Thanksgiving is found at this website: http://www.atlantictraining.com/safety-tips/thanksgiving-safety-tips.php. As well, the CDC has some safety tips for you to follow about food prep: http://www.cdc.gov/features/turkeytime/.

Also, according to the ASPCA, Thanksgiving is a time for friends, family and holiday feasts—but also a time for possible distress for our animal companions. Pets won’t be so thankful if they munch on undercooked turkey or a pet-unfriendly floral arrangement, or if they stumble upon an unattended alcoholic drink. Check out the following tips for a fulfilling Thanksgiving that your pets can enjoy, too, at this website: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/thanksgiving-safety-tips.

Overall, Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate your blessings and be thankful for all you have. Take time to remember what and who are important, and say a simple prayer to Him for that which provides the real reason you can give thanks.


Until next time.
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Monday, November 9

Health Care and Legionnaires Disease

Several years ago a strange illness was diagnosed after many attendees of a conference in 1976 became very sick. American Legionnaires returning from a state convention in Philadelphia began to fall ill with mysterious symptoms including pneumonia and fevers up to 107 degrees. Several of the conference attendees died, and no laboratory tests could determine the cause of their illness, which quickly became known as Legionnaires’ disease. Over 30 people died. Many more were hospitalized for several weeks.

It took researchers six months to determine that the illness had been caused by a bacterium, Legionella pneumophilia. Doctors now know this illness usually succumbs to the timely prescription of proper antibiotics, according to the New York Times. The bacterium, which in this case was apparently spread from the hotel’s air-conditioning system, is a cause of pneumonia and other illnesses worldwide. A more detailed background story of this illness is available at this site: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/01/health/01docs.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

CDC researchers named the species of bacteria Legionella pneumophila because the second word means "lung-loving" in Latin. This bacteria is actually very common in the natural world and only causes trouble when it gets into people's respiratory systems. It finds your lungs to be an especially comfortable place because they have conditions the bacteria prefer—they are warm and moist, according to ScienceClarified.com.

Legionella are found to exist naturally in stagnant water, and in the Philadelphia case, the CDC traced the outbreak source to the hotel's air conditioning system whose condenser was vented very close to its air intake system. This meant that the large air conditioning system, which had not been cleaned for some time, had the common Legionella germ growing in it, which people then inhaled after the organism had gotten into the air intake pipes. Read more at this site: http://www.scienceclarified.com/Io-Ma/Legionnaires-Disease.html

However, while the disease can be treated with antibiotics, many times it is misdiagnosed and it is estimated that only 5-10% of cases are ultimately reported. The fatality rate of Legionnaires’ disease has ranged from 5% to 30% during various outbreaks and can approach 50% when treatment with antibiotics is delayed. More information about the history of Legionnaires’ Disease is available at this website: http://www.thelegionnaireslawyer.com/history-legionnaires-disease/.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Illness caused by Legionella continues to be detected, now more than ever. Each year, it is estimated that between 8,000 and 18,000 people in the United States need care in a hospital due to Legionnaires' disease. More illness is usually found in the summer and early fall, but it can happen any time of year.

Legionella is a type of bacterium found naturally in fresh water. When people are exposed to the bacterium, it can cause illness (Legionnaires’ disease and Pontiac fever). This bacterium grows best in warm water, like the kind found in:
·         Hot tubs
·         Cooling towers (air-conditioning units for large buildings)
·         Hot water tanks
·         Large plumbing systems
·         Decorative fountains

Cooling towers use water to remove heat from a process or building. They are often part of the air conditioning systems of large buildings. In contrast, home and car air conditioning units do not use water to cool, so they do not aerosolize water (spread small droplets of water in the air) and are not a risk for Legionella growth. More info is located online at this site: http://www.cdc.gov/legionella/about/history.html.

Patients with Legionnaires' disease have pneumonia and in addition may have clinical findings suggestive of a systemic disease, according to this website: Open-Access-Biology.com .The symptoms and signs of the disease are often quite variable. The majority of patients have fever, which is usually one of the earliest signs of the illness. Accompanying the fever may be anorexia, myalgia, rigors, and headache.

Clinical diagnosis also may indicate chest pain, shortness of breath and cough may or may not be prominent findings. The cough may or may not be productive, and when it is productive the sputum can be bloody, purulent, or scant and mucoid. In some patients the absence of purulent sputum production, chest pain and cough may fool clinicians into discarding pneumonia as a possibility. When chest pain and haemoptysis are prominent the patient may be suspected of having a pulmonary infarction.

Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting may occur as well, symptoms that have led to consideration of intra-abdominal infections and inflammatory conditions such as appendicitis, peritonitis, abscesses, inflammatory bowel disease and diverticulitis.

Elderly and immune-compromised patients may not have fever or findings that localize to the lung. Confusion and memory loss are common presenting findings. Much less common are frank encephalopathy, focal neurological findings, seizures and meningitis. A deep dive into the clinical analysis of all aspects of Legionnaires’ Disease can be found at that same site: http://www.open-access-biology.com/legionella/edelstein.html.

According to OSHA, some people have lower resistance to disease and are more likely to develop Legionnaires' disease. Some of the factors that can increase the risk of getting the disease include:
·         Organ transplants (kidney, heart, etc.)
·         Age (older persons are more likely to get disease)
·         Heavy smoking
·         Weakened immune system (cancer patients, HIV-infected individuals)
·         Underlying medical problem (respiratory disease, diabetes, cancer, renal dialysis, etc.)
·         Certain drug therapies (corticosteroids)
·         Heavy consumption of alcoholic beverages

Early treatment reduces the severity and improves chances for recovery. The drugs of choice belong to a class of antibiotics called macrolides. They include azithromycin, erythromycin, and clarithromycin. In many instances physicians may prescribe antibiotics before determining that the illness is Legionnaires' disease because macrolides are effective in treating a number of types of pneumonia, according to OSHA.

Avoiding water conditions that allow the organism to grow to high levels is the best means of prevention, according to OSHA. Specific preventive steps include:
·         Regularly maintain and clean cooling towers and evaporative condensers to prevent growth of Legionella. This should include twice-yearly cleaning and periodic use of chlorine or other effective biocide.
·         Maintain domestic water heaters at 60°C (140°F). The temperature of the water should be 50°C (122°F) or higher at the faucet.
·         Avoid conditions that allow water to stagnate. Large water-storage tanks exposed to sunlight can produce warm conditions favorable to high levels of Legionella. Frequent flushing of unused water lines will help alleviate stagnation.

If you have people living with you who are at high risk of contracting the disease, then operating the water heater at a minimum temperature of 60°C (140°F) is probably a good idea. Consider installing a scald-prevention device. More detailed information is located at this website: https://www.osha.gov/dts/osta/otm/legionnaires/faq.html.

Legionnaires’s Disease can be deadly if not properly diagnosed. Any incident you experience of flu-like symptoms, especially if you’ve been traveling, should be reported to your doctor or a health care professional. Don’t take chances that it may be something minor like a cold or other type of nominal illness. Not many individuals contract this disease, but those who do should take immediate action to get prompt medical attention.

Until next time. 
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Wednesday, November 4

Health Care and Dizziness

Being dizzy is symptomatic of several medical or underlying health issues. Dizziness can be caused by different reasons and should never really be taken lightly, especially if you are experiencing it on a regular or sustained basis.

According to HealthLine, dizziness is the feeling of being lightheaded, woozy, or unbalanced. It affects the sensory organs, specifically eyes and ears. It can cause fainting. Dizziness is not a disease but a symptom of other disorders.

Vertigo and disequilibrium may cause a feeling of dizziness, but those two terms describe different symptoms. Vertigo is characterized by a feeling of spinning. Disequilibrium is a loss of balance or equilibrium. True dizziness is the feeling of lightheadedness or nearly fainting.

Dizziness is common. The underlying cause of dizziness is usually not serious. Occasional dizziness is nothing to worry about. However, frequent or sustained dizziness is another problem.

Seek medical attention if you have recurring bouts of dizziness with no apparent cause. Also seek immediate help if you experience sudden dizziness along with a head injury, a headache, neck ache, blurred vision, hearing loss, a loss of motor ability, a loss of consciousness, or chest pain. These could indicate serious issues. More detailed info can be found at this website: http://www.healthline.com/symptom/dizziness.

According to the Mayo Clinic, dizziness has many possible causes, including inner ear disturbance, motion sickness and medication effects. Sometimes it's caused by an underlying health condition, such as poor circulation, infection or injury. The way dizziness makes you feel and your triggers provide clues for possible causes. How long the dizziness lasts and any other symptoms you have also help pinpoint the cause. Factors that may increase your risk of getting dizzy include:

Age: Older adults are more likely to have medical conditions that cause dizziness, especially a sense of imbalance. They're also more likely to take medications that can cause dizziness.

A past episode of dizziness:If you've experienced dizziness before, you're more likely to get dizzy in the future.

Dizziness can increase your risk of falling and injuring yourself. Experiencing dizziness while driving a car or operating heavy machinery can increase the likelihood of an accident. You may also experience long-term consequences if an existing health condition that may be causing your dizziness goes untreated. Much more detailed material is located at this website: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dizziness/basics/definition/con-20023004.

Occasional dizziness is very common in adults, but it may surprise you to learn that vertigo — a related but more serious condition that makes you feel like the room is spinning as you stand still — affects nearly 40 percent of people over 40 at least once, according to the University of San Francisco Medical Center.

While dizziness can make you feel momentarily unbalanced, and ranges in severity from merely annoying to seriously debilitating, vertigo may be a major symptom of a balance disorder. It can also cause nausea and vomiting.  Additional facts about dizziness are available at this site: http://www.everydayhealth.com/news/10-surprising-facts-about-dizziness-vertigo/.

According to the Vestibular Disorders Association, the body maintains balance with sensory information from three systems: vision,  proprioception (touch sensors in the feet, trunk, and spine), and vestibular system (inner ear). Sensory input from these three systems is integrated and processed by the brainstem. In response, feedback messages are sent to the eyes to help maintain steady vision and to the muscles to help maintain posture and balance.

A healthy vestibular system supplies the most reliable information about spatial orientation. Mixed signals from vision or proprioception can usually be tolerated. When sitting in a car at a railroad crossing, seeing a passing train may cause the sensation of drifting or moving, and feeling a soft, thick carpet underfoot as opposed to a solid wood floor can produce a floating sensation.

However, compensating for vestibular system abnormalities is more problematic. Just as a courtroom judge must rule between two sides presenting competing evidence, the vestibular system serves as the tie-breaker between conflicting forms of sensory information. When the vestibular system malfunctions, it can no longer help resolve moments of sensory conflict, resulting in symptoms such as dizziness, vertigo, and disequilibrium. Dizziness can also be linked to a wide array of problems and is commonly linked to blood-flow irregularities from cardiovascular problems. A lot of detailed material on this subject is available at this website: http://vestibular.org/node/2 .

Dizziness accounts for about 5% to 6% of doctor visits, according to the Merck Manuals. Dizziness may be temporary or chronic. Dizziness is considered chronic if it lasts more than a month. Chronic dizziness is more common among older people. People who have warning signs, those whose symptoms are severe or have been continuous for over an hour, and those with vomiting should go to a hospital right away. Other people may see their doctor within several days. People who had a single, brief (less than 1 minute), mild episode with no other symptoms may choose to wait and see whether they have another episode.

Doctors first ask questions about the person's symptoms and medical history. Doctors then do a physical examination. What they find during the history and physical examination often suggests a cause of the dizziness or vertigo and the tests that may need to be done. In addition to warning signs, important features that doctors ask about include severity of the symptoms (has the person fallen or missed work), presence of vomiting and/or ringing in the ears, whether symptoms come and go or have been continuous, and possible triggers of the symptoms (for example, changing position of the head or taking a new drug).

Doctors then do a physical examination. The ear, eye, and neurologic examinations are particularly important. Hearing is tested, and the ears are examined for abnormalities of the ear canal and eardrum. The eyes are checked for abnormal movements. Additional details are available at this site: http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/ear-nose-and-throat-disorders/symptoms-of-ear-disorders/dizziness-and-vertigo.

Pregnant women also experience dizziness. It's not uncommon to feel lightheaded or dizzy occasionally. When you're pregnant, your cardiovascular system undergoes dramatic changes. Your heart rate goes up, your heart pumps more blood per minute, and the amount of blood in your body increases by 40 to 45 percent, according to BabyCenter.com.

What's more, during a normal pregnancy, your blood vessels dilate and your blood pressure gradually decreases, reaching its lowest point in mid-pregnancy. It then begins to go back up, returning to its regular level by the end of pregnancy. Most of the time, your cardiovascular and nervous systems are able to adjust to these changes, and there's adequate blood flow to your brain. But occasionally they don't adapt quickly enough, which can leave you feeling lightheaded or dizzy or cause you to faint.

The first thing to do is lie down so you won't fall and hurt yourself if you do faint. If you're in a place where it's impossible to lie down, sit down and try to put your head between your knees. And naturally, if you're doing anything that might put you or others at risk for injury, such as driving, pull over and stop right away. Lying on your side maximizes blood flow to your body and brain. It may keep you from fainting, and could relieve lightheadedness altogether. Lots of helpful information on pregnancy and dizziness is located at this site: http://www.babycenter.com/0_dizziness-and-fainting-during-pregnancy_228.bc.

Dizziness is typically not harmful, unless there is a more severe underlying cause. It’s definitely inconvenient and can be stressful. However, if you feel that symptoms are more severe than usual for any reason, see your doctor, or go to the nearest medical facility to get checked out. It may be nothing to worry about, or it might be a health situation that needs definite medical attention and diagnosis by a healthcare professional. Be careful.


Until next time. 
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