Thursday, August 27, 2015

Health Care and Sonograms

When expectant mothers go to the doctor to check on their pregnancy, one of the first procedures that the OB/GYN schedules is a sonogram. This unique tool allows the technician, the physician, and the Mom to see how the baby is developing. In some cases, the sonogram tech can predict the due date of the baby more accurately than the physician.

Technically, the sonogram is an image or graph representing a sound, showing the distribution of energy at different frequencies—a diagnostic medical image created using ultrasound echo (sonographic), equipment.

A sonogram is the image generated during ultrasonography, which is a diagnostic imaging technique that uses ultrasound to visualize anything inside the body. Ultrasound is sound with a frequency above the range audible to humans, about 20 kHz. In common parlance, both words are used to refer to the ultrasonography procedure, according to Diffen. The sonogram also helps physicians observe growth of a fetus, calculate age and due date and see presence of multiple fetuses. Plus, it’s used to diagnose pelvic bleeding or locate cancerous cells.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, an ultrasound exam is a procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to scan a woman’s abdomen and pelvic cavity, creating a picture (sonogram) of the baby and placenta. Although the terms ultrasound and sonogram are technically different, they are used interchangeably and reference the same exam.

There are basically seven different ultrasound exams, but the principle process is the same. Here are the various types of exams:

·         Transvaginal Scans – Specially designed probe transducers are used inside the vagina to generate sonogram images. Most often used during the early stages of pregnancy.

·         Standard Ultrasound – Traditional ultrasound exam which uses a transducer over the abdomen to generate 2-D images of the developing fetus .

·         Advanced Ultrasound – This exam is similar to the standard ultrasound, but the exam targets a suspected problem and uses more sophisticated equipment.

·         Doppler Ultrasound – This imaging procedure measures slight changes in the frequency of the ultrasound waves as they bounce off moving objects, such as blood cells.

·         3-D Ultrasound – Uses specially designed probes and software to generate 3-D images of the developing fetus.

·         4-D or Dynamic 3-D Ultrasound – Uses specially designed scanners to look at the face and movements of the baby prior to delivery.

·         Fetal Echocardiography – Uses ultrasound waves to assess the baby’s heart anatomy and function. This is used to help assess suspected congenital heart defects.

Your healthcare provider will use hormone levels in your blood, the date of your last menstrual period and, in some cases, results from an ultrasound to generate an expected date of conception. However, many differences in each woman’s cycle may hinder the accuracy of the conception date calculation. Much more detailed information about this subject can be found at this website: http://americanpregnancy.org/prenatal-testing/ultrasound/ .

In many pregnancy cases, especially when there is thought about aborting the baby, an actual-size sonogram at nearly seven weeks' gestation is usually done; 33 percent of abortions occur before then. Sonograms are a vital tool in showing the growth and any movement of the baby in the womb.

When a pregnancy is planned, a sonogram marks a joyful beginning, according to Glamour Magazine. Soon-to-be parents post the grainy images on Facebook, tape them up on refrigerator doors, or paste them into baby books as first entries. But for the 3.4 million women across the country who face an unintended pregnancy every year, the scan can be a different story. This is where a sonogram complicates that decision to move forward with aborting the new life now growing in the mother.

Sonogram laws, which require doctors to offer or perform an ultrasound before any abortion, are part of a dramatic increase in antiabortion legislation sweeping the country. As of late 2014, over 220 of these restrictions have passed—35 more than in the entire previous decade: Some of them ban the procedure outright after 20 weeks of pregnancy; others mandate that facilities meet specifications such as a certain width for hallways.

Although the images have become politically charged, the science behind sonograms is straightforward. When an ultrasound sensor is placed inside a woman's vagina or on her belly during an exam, the sound waves produce a moving picture. At six weeks the sonogram can often show a fetal heartbeat.

At eight weeks—the point at which two thirds of abortions have occurred—a distinct shape is just starting to emerge. At nine weeks the beginnings of arms and legs are visible. By 13 weeks—when 92 percent of abortions will have taken place—the fetus weighs nearly an ounce, with a hint of facial features.

Most abortion providers routinely use ultrasound to help determine how far along a pregnancy is, but now in several states the test is required in virtually all cases. In Texas, Louisiana, and Wisconsin, the law mandates that women be shown the image and hear it described (a doctor will detail the exact dimensions of the embryo, for example, or the internal organs of the fetus). In the nine other states (Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia), women must be offered a view of the sonogram.

In most of these states, if the women don't want to look, they must sign a waiver. More details about the use of sonograms by abortion clinics is found at this site: http://www.glamour.com/inspired/2014/11/how-women-seeking-abortions-feel-about-viewing-a-sonogram

Ultrasound images are captured in real-time, allowing them the ability to show the structure and movement of the body’s internal organs, as well as blood flowing through the vessels. Ultrasound scans are completely noninvasive, and unlike x-rays, they do not use ionizing radiation, according to Envision Radiology.

Ultrasound scans help physicians diagnose and treat a variety of medical conditions, and help evaluate symptoms such as pain, swelling, and infection. Ultrasound is useful in examining many of the body’s organs, including the heart and blood vessels, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, liver, bladder, thyroid, uterus, ovaries, and scrotum.  Most ultrasound procedures are fast and painless, being completed within 30 to 60 minutes.

Sonogram machines emit sound waves, often known as ultrasound waves, that bounce off of organs, bones, and muscles. The machines are able to calculate the distance between waves in order to generate a very accurate picture, which is displayed on a specialized computer screen, according to WiseGEEK. In most cases, the waves are both sent and received from a wand-like instrument known as a transducer.

A trained technician will usually gently touch the wand to the skin above the area of interest. Jelly or lubricant is often applied first, both to help the wand glide and to amplify the sound waves to generate a clearer, more accurate picture. Most sonogram sessions result in pictures from many different angles, which technicians and medical professionals look at in sequence to get an idea of what is happening internally.

To mitigate the possible risks to a developing child, most medical professionals use sonograms only intermittently in pregnancy. Though parents often want to see images of their growing baby at each doctor visit, this is not usually permitted unless there is a legitimate medical need. Limiting the number of sonograms administered is one of the ways that medical professionals protect babies from potential risks.

Listening to the fetal heartbeat and monitoring the mother’s blood work are often just as effective at making sure the baby stays healthy as a real-time picture is. More information about this topic can be found at this website: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-sonogram.htm .

Sonograms can and should be used for any type of non-invasive medical evaluation, including pregnancy, cancer, and other health care needs. As long as you use a certified technician qualified to do the procedure, you should have minimal discomfort. The results that are generated can give a clearer picture of what is going on inside your body. For all medical situations, visit a certified medical or health care practitioner.


Until next time.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Health Care and Nose Bleeds

Have you ever had a nose bleed? Some people get them more often than others. And, there is a variety of reasons why your nose would all of a sudden start to bleed for no apparent reason. Naturally, if you got punched in the nose on purpose or by accident, it may start to bleed. If you broke your nose for any reason, no doubt you would have a nose bleed. But what causes your nose to start bleeding just because?

The nose is an area of the body that contains many tiny blood vessels (or arterioles) that can break easily, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology. In the United States, one of every seven people will develop a nosebleed some time in their lifetime. Nosebleeds can occur at any age but are most common in children aged 2-10 years and adults aged 50-80 years. Nosebleeds are divided into two types, depending on whether the bleeding is coming from the front or back of the nose. More info can be found at this site: http://www.entnet.org/content/nosebleeds .

According to eMedicineHealth.com, nosebleeds (epistaxis, nose bleed) can be dramatic and frightening. Fortunately, most nosebleeds are not serious and usually can be managed at home, although sometimes medical intervention may be necessary. Nosebleeds are categorized based on where they originate, and are described as either anterior (originating from the front of the nose) or posterior (originating from the back of the nose).

Anterior nosebleeds make up most nosebleeds. The bleeding usually originates from a blood vessel on the nasal septum, where a network of vessels converge (Kiesselbach plexus). Anterior nosebleeds are usually easy to control, either by measures that can be performed at home or by a health care practitioner.

Posterior nosebleeds are much less common than anterior nosebleeds. They tend to occur more often in elderly people. The bleeding usually originates from an artery in the back part of the nose. These nosebleeds are more complicated and usually require admission to the hospital and management by an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat specialist).

Nosebleeds tend to occur more often during winter months and in dry, cold climates. They can occur at any age, but are most common in children aged 2 to 10 years and adults aged 50 to 80 years. For unknown reasons, nosebleeds most commonly occur in the morning hours. More details can be found at this website: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/nosebleeds/article_em.htm

Nosebleeds are common. Most often they are a nuisance and not a true medical problem. But they can be both, according to the Mayo Clinic. Here are a few tips how to stop them:

·         Sit upright and lean forward. By remaining upright, you reduce blood pressure in the veins of your nose. This discourages further bleeding. Sitting forward will help you avoid swallowing blood, which can irritate your stomach.

·         Pinch your nose. Use your thumb and index finger to pinch your nostrils shut. Breathe through your mouth. Continue to pinch for five to 10 minutes. Pinching sends pressure to the bleeding point on the nasal septum and often stops the flow of blood.

·         To prevent re-bleeding, don't pick or blow your nose and don't bend down for several hours after the bleeding episode. During this time remember to keep your head higher than the level of your heart.

·         If re-bleeding occurs, blow out forcefully to clear your nose of blood clots and spray both sides of your nose with a decongestant nasal spray containing oxymetazoline (Afrin, Mucinex Moisture Smart, others). Pinch your nose again as described above and call your doctor.

You should seek emergency care if the bleeding lasts for more than 20 minutes, or if the nosebleed follows an accident, a fall or an injury to your head, including a punch in the face that may have broken your nose. Much more detailed information about nose bleeds can be located at this site: http://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-nosebleeds/basics/art-20056683 .

Children are especially susceptible to nose bleeds. If your child gets a lot of nose bleeds, ask your pediatrician about using saltwater (saline) nose drops every day. Doing so may be particularly helpful if you live in a very dry climate, or when the furnace is on in your home. In addition, a humidifier or vaporizer will help maintain your home’s humidity at a level high enough to prevent nasal drying. Also tell your child not to pick his nose, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Also, you should contact your child’s doctor in the following situations:

·         You think your child may have lost too much blood. (But keep in mind that the blood coming from the nose always looks like a lot.)

·         The bleeding is coming only from your child’s mouth, or he’s coughing or vomiting blood or brown material that looks like coffee grounds.

·         Your child is unusually pale or sweaty, or is not responsive. Call your pediatrician immediately in this case, and arrange to take your child to the emergency room.

·         He has a lot of nosebleeds, along with a chronically stuffy nose. This may mean he has a small, easily broken blood vessel in the nose or on the surface of the lining of the nose, or a growth in the nasal passages.

Your child is almost certain to have at least one nosebleed—and probably many—during these early years. Some preschoolers have several a week. This is neither abnormal nor dangerous, but it can be very frightening. If blood flows down from the back of the nose into the mouth and throat, your child may swallow a great deal of it, which in turn may cause vomiting. For more details, visit this website: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/ear-nose-throat/Pages/Chronic-Nosebleeds-What-To-Do.aspx .

Frequent nosebleeds may mean you have a more serious problem. For example, nosebleeds and bruising can be early signs of leukemia. Nosebleeds can also be a sign of a blood clotting or blood vessel disorder, or a nasal tumor (both cancerous and non-cancerous), according to this website: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/nosebleeds.html .

Your doctor will try to find out where the bleeding is coming from in your nose. He or she will probably ask you some questions and examine your nose. If the bleeding doesn't stop on its own or when pressure is applied, your doctor may cauterize the bleeding vessel or pack your nose to stop the bleeding. That should help your situation, although it’s uncomfortable for a little while. An occasional nosebleed may make you worry, but there's no need to panic. If it becomes problematic or chronic, see your doctor for other options.


Until next time.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Health Care and National Immunization Awareness Month

Vaccinations are a hot topic, especially for mothers of infants, children and teens, and pediatricians. August is declared National Immunization Awareness Month by the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP), and health officials are urging parents to make sure kids are vaccinated before heading back to school this month and in September. 

Children need to be up to date on their immunizations, or obtain a waiver from their local health department. This month is the perfect time to get a head start on booking an appointment with a pediatrician.

The AAP has also provides impressive statistics and answering important questions about immunizations for parents. The statistics include:

·         Out of 1,000 U.S. children who will catch the measles, one to three of them will die.
·         The average number of annual cases of measles in the 20th century in the United States was over a half million. In 2010, thanks to successful vaccines, there were only 63 cases.
·         38% of children younger than 5 years who had measles required hospitalization.
·         85% of babies born to mothers who had rubella in the first trimester will have birth defects.
·         More than 95% of people who receive MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine become immune to all three diseases.

According to the AAP, National Immunization Awareness Month begins with a focus on immunizations for preteens and teens. Use key messages as the basis for talking points, presentations, media interviews, news releases, social media messages or outreach materials. Preteens and teens are at risk for diseases like meningitis and HPV cancers and need the protection of vaccines to keep them healthy.  Vaccines are recommended for preteens and teens because:

·         Some of the childhood vaccines wear off over time, so adolescents need shots to stay protected from serious diseases like tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough).

·         As children get older, they are at greater risk of getting certain diseases like meningitis, septicemia (blood infection), and infections that can lead to HPV cancers.

·         Specific vaccines, like HPV vaccine, should be given during the preteen (11 to 12) years because they provide more protection when given at that age.

·         Vaccines not only help protect preteens and teens from serious diseases, but also their siblings, friends and the people who care for them, like their parents or grandparents.

·         Vaccines do more than protect your child. Some diseases, like whooping cough and the flu, can be deadly for newborns or infants who are too young to be vaccinated themselves. You can help protect our littlest community members from being exposed to vaccine-preventable diseases by making sure your child gets all the vaccines recommended.

·         Vaccines are among the safest and most cost-effective ways to prevent disease. Protecting your children from preventable diseases will help keep them healthy and in school.

·         When a child comes down with a disease such as whooping cough or the flu, they may miss a lot of school while recovering. A sick child may also mean that a parent may miss work or other important events.

·         Schools are a prime venue for transmitting many vaccine-preventable diseases, and school-age children can further spread disease to their families and others with whom they come in contact.

Vaccines are also an important component of a healthy pregnancy. Women should be up to date on their vaccines before becoming pregnant, and should receive vaccines against both the flu and whooping cough (pertussis) during pregnancy. These vaccines not only protect the mother by preventing illnesses and complications, but also pass on vaccine protection to her unborn child.  For more details about this issue, go to this site: https://www2.aap.org/immunization/about/niam.html

Immunization helps prevent dangerous and sometimes deadly diseases. To stay protected against serious illnesses like the flu, measles, and pneumonia, adults need to get their shots – just like kids do. Additionally, companies should also make note of the need to have healthy employees this month. According to WellNation, employers can take steps to encourage physical exams and immunizations in a variety of ways, including:

·         Provide coverage for preventive health screenings. A common barrier to scheduling a physical exam or screening is the fear of it being a large expense. By communicating the insurance coverage related to preventive exams and immunizations, it can help ease this concern and make employees more likely to complete them.

·         Offer your employees the convenience of vaccinations right at work. Collaborate with a local health organization to provide an onsite immunization clinic, such as a flu-shot clinic each fall.

·         Provide vaccination or preventive screenings cards to employees to keep in their wallet or their health file. This can help employees keep record of which items they have completed or need to schedule.

Use this month to raise awareness about vaccines and share strategies to increase immunization rates with your community, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Here are just a few ideas:

·         Talk to friends and family members about how vaccines aren’t just for kids. People of all ages can get shots to protect them from serious diseases.
·         Encourage people in your community to get the flu vaccine every year.
·         Invite a doctor or nurse to speak to parents about why it’s important for all kids to get vaccinated.

National Immunization Awareness Month is a great time to promote vaccines and remind family, friends, and coworkers to stay up to date on their shots. For more details, visit this website: http://healthfinder.gov/NHO/Augusttoolkit.aspx .

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), each year in August, National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) provides an opportunity to highlight the value of immunization across the lifespan. Activities focus on encouraging all people to protect their health by being vaccinated against infectious diseases. In 2015, the National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC) is coordinating NIAM activities. More detailed material can be found at this website: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niam.html .

There are some parents and other health proponents who disagree with vaccinations, feeling that they do more harm than good. Until very recently, the US had just about eradicated many of the communicable diseases over the past fifty years. Now, with new unvaccinated individuals coming into the country from areas that have less stringent healthcare controls, and from a certain nominal no-vaccination movement--largely based more on fiction than fact--these diseases have shown up in certain regional outbreaks and are very difficult to control.

One recent example is the measles outbreak that started last December in Disneyland Park in California and was tracked back to human carriers who had not been immunized. Many individuals were exposed and developed the disease, which is highly contagious. It eventually spread to a half-dozen U.S. states, Mexico and Canada. The outbreak sickened 147 people in the U.S., including 131 in California. There were no deaths, even though many were hospitalized. The event took several months to contain until it was declared controlled.

Do yourself and your family a favor. Get your vaccinations up to date this month. Employers should also use NIAM to keep their workforce happy and healthy. Immunizations are for your own protection.


Until next time. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Health Care and Black Lung

One of the most serious diseases that exists has been dreaded primarily by coal miners, and by those exposed to mining industries. Coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP), also known as black lung disease or black lung, is caused by long exposure to coal dust. It is common in coal miners and others who work with coal.

It is similar to both silicosis from inhaling silica dust, and to the long-term effects of tobacco smoking. Inhaled coal dust progressively builds up in the lungs and is unable to be removed by the body; this leads to inflammation, fibrosis, and in worse cases, necrosis.

Like all occupational diseases, black lung is man-made and can be prevented, according to the United Mine Workers. In fact, the U.S. Congress ordered black lung to be eradicated from the coal industry in 1969. Today, it is estimated that 1500 former coal miners each year die an agonizing death in often isolated rural communities, away from the spotlight of publicity. More details about the legislation to help miners with this disease can be found at this site: http://www.umwa.org/?q=content/black-lung .

According to the American Lung Association (ALA), there is no known treatment for pneumoconiosis, but doctors treat the symptoms and complications of the disease. People who work in jobs where they are exposed to coal dust get pneumoconiosis. This includes working in a coal mine or loading coal for storage, working in a graphite mine or mill, and manufacturing carbon electrodes and carbon black. Carbon electrodes are used in some large furnaces, and carbon black is used in tires and other rubber goods, as well as many other products.

People who inhale coal dust may not have any symptoms for many years, according to the ALA. Over time, however, as the coal dust has settled deep in the lung, it eventually causes the lung to harden. As the lung hardens, breathing becomes more difficult and gets worse over time. Possible complications of pneumoconiosis include:

·         Cor pulmonale (failure of the right side of the heart)
·         Lung cancer
·         Pulmonary tuberculosis
·         Respiratory failure

Pneumoconiosis (Black Lung) is not treatable or curable. How severe each person's disease becomes is the result of the conditions of his or her work during exposure to coal dust. More details can be located at this website: http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/pneumoconiosis/ .

According to the US Department of Labor, the Division of Coal Mine Workers' Compensation, or Federal Black Lung Program, administers claims filed under the Black Lung Benefits Act. The Act provides compensation to coal miners who are totally disabled by pneumoconiosis arising out of coal mine employment, and to survivors of coal miners whose deaths are attributable to the disease. The Act also provides eligible miners with medical coverage for the treatment of lung diseases related to pneumoconiosis.

The Division of Coal Mine Workers' Compensation has published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to address several issues that have arisen in administering and adjudicating claims under the Black Lung Benefits Act. The proposed regulations would:

·         Require parties to disclose medical information about the miner developed in connection with a benefits claim.

·         Clarify a liable coal mine operator’s obligation to pay benefits during post-award modification proceedings.

·         Clarify that a supplemental report from an examining physician is a continuation of the physician’s earlier report for purposes of the evidence-limiting rules.

The NPRM was published in the Federal Register on April 29, 2015. The public may submit comments on the proposed rule online at www.regulations.gov (follow the instructions on that web site) or by the other methods set forth in the NPRM. More material about this is located at this site: http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dcmwc/ and at this website: http://www.msha.gov/endblacklung/ .

According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), your risk of getting coal worker's pneumoconiosis depends on how long you have been around coal dust. Most people with this disease are older than 50. Smoking does not increase your risk of developing this disease, but it may have an additional harmful effect on the lungs. If coal worker's pneumoconiosis occurs with rheumatoid arthritis, it is called Caplan syndrome.

The doctor will do a physical exam and listen to your lungs with a stethoscope. A chest x-ray or chest CT scan will be performed. You may also need lung function tests.  Wear a protective mask when working around coal, graphite, or man-made carbon. Companies should enforce the maximum permitted dust levels. Avoid smoking. You should avoid further exposure to the dust. Details can be sourced at this website: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000130.htm .

Although the overall percentage of Americans are not typically affected with this disease, there are many who are. Follow the recommendations of your health care provider. There are also financial resources available to assist you if you have developed the disease and are permanently disabled as a result. Be careful if you are in this industry.


Until next time.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Health Care and Spring Water

Earlier this Summer, companies that bottle spring water were forced to recall millions of plastic bottles of water filled with water collected at a natural spring. According to ABC News, Niagara Bottling said that one of its spring sources has a "positive indication" of E. coli, which the company said indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes.

The company said it didn't receive any reports of illness or injury. E. coli microbes can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms, the company said, and may pose a greater risk for infants, young children, some of the elderly and people with severely compromised immune systems. More information about this healthcare issue can be found at this website: http://abcnews.go.com/Business/check-bottled-water-recalled-due-coli/story?id=31963480

The recalled water was sold under the brand names of Acadia, Acme, Big Y, Best Yet, 7-11, Niagara, Nature's Place, Pricerite, Superchill, Morning Fresh, Shaws, Shoprite, Western Beef Blue and Wegmans. ACME Markets, which operates supermarkets in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, was among the supermarket chains announcing involvement in the recall. Among others were Shaws grocery stores in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont; and Wegmans in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

According to Mother Jones, while many spring water brands started out selling water from a single source, a large portion now draw from multiple springs, even though they don't often tout that fact. The original springs are insufficient in part because demand has grown to the point where the quantity of water available from these natural springs isn't enough. For others, the springs have been over pumped, or the groundwater levels dropped and caused them to dry up.

There are a few rules that bottled-water brands have to follow, however. In order to be called "spring water," according to the EPA, a product has to be either "collected at the point where water flows naturally to the earth's surface or from a borehole that taps into the underground source." Unlike the term "spring water," other terms like "glacier water" or "mountain water" aren't regulated and "may not indicate that the water is necessarily from a pristine area," according to the EPA. 

But, despite spending over $11 billion per year on bottled water, most Americans don't know much about the origins of these beverages. More info can be found at this site: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/03/bottled-water-poland-spring-rubio .

According to the Livestrong Foundation, bottled water is increasingly common, with Americans drinking more than 2 billion gallons of it each year. With the large variety of different types of water on the market, it can be confusing to know the difference between one and the other. Spring water and purified water come from two different sources, and in many cases, are as safe as tap water for drinking, although personal preference often determines they type of water chosen.

Spring water is also sometimes called artesian water, ground water or well water. Spring water may be accessed by a well, and it can be treated or not. In all cases, spring water is collected when it flows or arrives to the surface. Natural springs can form along the sides of hills and in valleys, and some people consider the natural filtration process of spring water to make for better tasting water that is richer in minerals.

Springs for spring water can form where there is any rock, with limestone being a common case in much of the United States. The soft texture of limestone makes it easy for the water to well through. Springs form when an underground aquifer is filled sufficiently high that the excess seeps through to the surface. While water from springs are often clear because they are filtered through rock, the mineral composition of the soil will affect the color.

As well, spring water can be safe to drink without any treatment, however, the quality of the water is not guaranteed. Bottled spring water is required to be tested and filtered for any sediment to meet EPA standards. More material about spring water can be found at this site: http://www.livestrong.com/article/548249-purified-water-vs-spring-water/

Spring water is the subject of many popular misconceptions. Many of those misconceptions are promoted through less than accurate advertising pitches. For example, many people believe that spring water is actually “pure” water. On the contrary, spring waters contain many of the same impurities found in drilled wells or even tap water. In fact, since springs feed rivers, there’s lots of spring water right in your own tap water! On average, the purity of spring water is roughly comparable to that of tap water. Some have lower TDS levels and some are much higher.

But is spring water “100% pure” as many spring water companies advertise? As it turns out, the “100% pure” refers not to the absence of impurities in the water, but to the source of the water itself. That is, 100% of the water in the bottle came from an underground source (i.e. a spring), rather than from a surface water. These cleverly worded phrases may be legally permissible, but many people find them to be misleading, to say the least.  Even more frightening is the fact that most people actually believe them.

Another adjective which frequently pops up in spring water advertising is “natural”. While this term may conjure up images of a pristine wilderness setting, the fact is that “natural” can mean just about anything. This vague term could actually apply to your local tap water since the closest river to your home or office is most certainly a “natural” source. It may be natural, but how many people who would go down to the river and scoop themselves a refreshing glass of “pure and natural” river water!

Spring water advertising is all about images – images of the mountains, streams and wildlife. What really happens to get that bottle of water to you is actually quite different from those images. Many, if not most, spring waters are not bottled at their source. Instead, the water is pumped into large tanker trucks for transportation to a bottling facility at a different location.

Remember, those “pristine” springs are being visited many times each day by large diesel tanker trucks – not exactly a “pristine” image. Health regulations dictate that the water in those tanker trucks be either chlorinated or ozonated at all times to protect against bacterial contamination. Additional info about this topic is found at this site: http://www.drinkmorewater.com/types-of-water .

At the end of the day, much of what is consumed in the bottled water industry comes down to personal preference and taste. Is spring water better than tap water? Maybe, or maybe not. That is for you to decide, and how much you are willing to spend on your next drink of cold, clear water on the go. If you’re like most Americans, you prefer convenience over cost.


Until next time.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Health Care and UV Safety

The sun can be brutal to your skin, especially during the warmer months of the year. Additionally, protection against its rays is often neglected by most people. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the need to protect your skin from the sun has become very clear over the years, supported by several studies linking overexposure to the sun with skin cancer.

The harmful ultraviolet rays from both the sun and indoor tanning “sunlamps” can cause many other complications besides skin cancer - such as eye problems, a weakened immune system, age spots, wrinkles, and leathery skin. UV rays are their strongest from 10 am to 4 pm Seek shade during those times to ensure the least amount of harmful UV radiation exposure.

When applying sunscreen be sure to reapply to all exposed skin at least 20 minutes before going outside. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating, according to the HHS. A significant amount of info can be found at this website: http://www.foh.hhs.gov/calendar/july.html .

As well, according to the University of Washington, UV or ultraviolet lamps are used in biological safety cabinets, light boxes, and cross linkers in many university laboratories and in some patient care rooms. One of the problems in working with UV radiation is that the symptoms of overexposure are not immediately felt so that persons exposed do not realize the hazard until after the damage is done.

The health effects of exposure to UV light are familiar to anyone who has had a sunburn. However, the UV light levels around some UV equipment greatly exceeds the levels found in nature. Acute (short-term) effects include redness or ulceration of the skin. At high levels of exposure, these burns can be serious. For chronic exposures, there is also a cumulative risk of harm. This risk depends upon the amount of exposure during your lifetime. The long-term risk for large cumulative exposure includes premature aging of the skin and even skin cancer.

The eyes are also susceptible to UV damage. Like the skin, the covering of the eye or the cornea, is epithelial tissue, too. The danger to the eye is enhanced by the fact that light can enter from all angles around the eye and not only in the direction you are looking. The lens can also be damaged, but since the cornea acts as a filter, the chances are reduced, according to the University of Washington.

This should not lessen the concern over lens damage however, because cataracts are the direct result of lens damage. Burns to the eyes are usually more painful and serious than a burn to the skin. Make sure your eye protection is appropriate for this work. More info on this type of UV exposure can be found at this site: http://www.ehs.washington.edu/rsononion/uvlight.shtm.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) protection from ultraviolet (UV) radiation is important all year round, not just during the summer or at the beach. UV rays from the sun can reach you on cloudy and hazy days, as well as bright and sunny days. UV rays also reflect off of surfaces like water, cement, sand, and snow. More details about UV protection can be found at this site: http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/prevention.htm .

People who get a lot of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays are at greater risk for skin cancer. Sunlight is the main source of UV rays, but you don’t have to avoid the sun completely, according to the American Cancer Society. And it would be unwise to stay inside if it would keep you from being active, because physical activity is important for good health. But getting too much sun can be harmful. There are some steps you can take to limit your exposure to UV rays.

Some people think about sun protection only when they spend a day at the lake, beach, or pool. But sun exposure adds up day after day, and it happens every time you are in the sun. Simply staying in the shade is one of the best ways to limit your UV exposure. If you are going to be in the sun, “Slip! Slop! Slap!® and Wrap” is a catchphrase that can help you remember some of the key steps you can take to protect yourself from UV rays:

·         Slip on a shirt.
·         Slop on sunscreen.
·         Slap on a hat.
·         Wrap on sunglasses to protect the eyes and skin around them.

Children need special attention. They tend to spend more time outdoors, can burn more easily, and may not be aware of the dangers. Parents and other caregivers should protect children from excess sun exposure by using the steps above. It’s important, particularly in sunnier parts of the world, to cover your children as fully as is reasonable. You should develop the habit of using sunscreen on exposed skin for yourself and your children whenever you go outdoors and may be exposed to large amounts of sunlight.

Children need to be taught about the dangers of too much sun exposure as they become more independent. If you or your child burns easily, be extra careful to cover up, limit exposure, and apply sunscreen. Many more details about UV safety can also be located at this site: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/sunanduvexposure/skincancerpreventionandearlydetection/skin-cancer-prevention-and-early-detection-u-v-protection .

According to the American Academy of Opthalmology, growths on the eye, such as pterygium, can show up in your teens or twenties, especially in surfers, skiers, fishermen, farmers, or anyone who spends long hours under the mid-day sun or in the UV-intense conditions found near rivers, oceans, and mountains. Diseases like cataract and eye cancers can take many years to develop, but each time you are out in the sun without protection you could be adding damage that adds to your risks for these serious disorders.

Additionally, as you sleep, your eyes enjoy continuous lubrication. During sleep the eyes also clear out irritants such as dust, allergens or smoke that may have accumulated during the day. Some research suggests that light sensitive cells in the eye are important in your ability to regulate wake-sleep cycles.

This may be more critical as you age, when more people have problems with insomnia. While it's important that you protect your eyes from overexposure to UV light, your eyes also need minimal exposure to natural light every day to help maintain normal sleep-wake cycles. More information on this topic can be found at this website: http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/living/sun.cfm .

July, which is UV Safety Month, and August are a great time to spread the message about sun, fun, and UV safety to the community. Be careful.


Until next time. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Health Care and Poison Control

As Summer starts, one key element of health care during these months is poison control. In 2013, America’s 55 poison centers received over 3.1 million calls, and about 2.2 million of those were for poison exposures including carbon monoxide, food poisoning, snake bites, and many more. The remainder of those calls consisted of people asking general information about poison, according to the AAPCC.  

The American Association of Poison Control Centers supports the nation’s 55 poison centers in their efforts  to prevent and treat poison exposures. These locations offer free and confidential medical advice 24/7 through the toll free poison help line at 800-222-1222. This service provides a primary source for information about poisoning and helps reduce costly emergency room visits through in-home treatment in non-emergency situations.

According to the Texas Poison Center Network, in years past, if your child swallowed some type of poison, you wouldn't think twice about using Ipecac to induce vomiting. Today, Poison Centers would never recommend Ipecac. However, many online sources still vouch for its effectiveness. In a panic, people often click on the first seemingly reputable option online.

Every second counts when it comes to poisoning. The longer it takes to look through pages of search results online, the greater the danger of negative health effects. A mistreated poison exposure can escalate an easy in-home treatment into a trip to the hospital. 

Because factors like weight, height, medical history, and in some cases even geography can drastically change the outcome of a poison exposure, it's vital that poisonings are handled on a case-by- case basis. Poison Center experts are the only reliable source for accurate medical recommendations regarding poisons.  

Calling a Poison Center is like calling a really smart, caring family member, minus the judgment and gossip-spreading. The voice on the other end of the line is a medical professional who has undergone years of training and rigorous testing just to qualify to answer your questions. In fact, 20 percent of calls are from doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who are seeking specialized treatment advice. More info can be found at this site: http://www.poisoncontrol.org/ .

However, there are a great number of poisonings that happen that never result in an initial call to a poison control center. In 2010 there were 42,917 deaths attributed to poison, yet poison centers were consulted in 1,730 poisoning fatalities (only 4%).  The CDC estimated that there were 1,098,880 poisoning injuries in 2010 that resulted in a visit to an emergency department. 

Yet, poison centers were involved in only 601,197 cases that involved treatment at a health care facility, indicating that poison centers are not consulted for many poisoning-related ED visits.  Poisonings also go unreported when people do not realize they have been exposed, choose not to seek medical treatment or advice, do not have access to medical care, or do not know about poison center services.

In 2013, the National Capital Poison Center provided consultations for 54,534 callers from the DC metro area.  Sixty-nine percent (38,197) were about people exposed to a poison. Other consultations involved pet poisonings (1,566) and information requests (14,771).  Some interesting facts include: 
·         Most poison exposures (77%) were unintentional.  The Center also received calls about other types of poisonings: medication side effects, substance abuse, malicious poisonings, and suicide attempts. 
·         14,771 people (27%) called for poison-related information. Their questions were about possible problems with medication interactions, pesticide use, workplace chemicals, the safety of specific medications while breast-feeding, and many more topics.
·         44% of poison exposures involved children younger than six, but the most serious cases occurred in adolescents and adults.
·         55% of poison exposures involved medications; other exposures were to household or automotive products, plants, mushrooms, pesticides, animal bites and stings.
·         75% of poison exposures involved people who swallowed a drug or poison. People were also poisoned by inhalation and through exposures to the skin or eyes.
·         65% of poison exposures were safely managed over the phone and did not need medical treatment in a health care facility. However, 82% of those who called a poison center first, before going to a health care facility were safety treated at home. This number increases to 90% for pediatric poisonings when the Poison Center is consulted first, before other medical intervention is sought.

Although these specific stats are for the Metro DC area, they are indicative of the general types of poisonings that happen nationwide. More info about this topic and other associated details can be found at this site: http://www.poison.org/ .

What should you do in an event regarding a poisoning?  REMAIN CALM. For UNCONSCIOUS patients, CONVULSIONS, or any DIFFICULTY BREATHING, call 9-1-1. Otherwise call the Poison Control Center TOLL FREE NUMBER.

Information the Poison Center Specialist Will Need:
·         AGE and WEIGHT of the person.
·         WHAT was ingested. Have the bottle or container with you.
·         HOW MUCH was taken. This will help the Poison Center Specialist determine the severity of the incident.
·         HOW the victim is feeling or acting right now.
·         Your NAME and PHONE number.

Here are some safety tips:

·         EYE - Flood the eye with lukewarm water Repeat for 15 minutes. Encourage patient to blink while flushing the eye. Do not force the eyelid open.
·         SWALLOWED MEDICINE - Do not give anything by mouth until calling for advice
·         CHEMICAL OR HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS - Unless patient is unconscious, having convulsions, or cannot swallow - give a small amount of water. Then call for professional advice to find out if patient should be made to vomit. Do NOT induce vomiting unless recommended by your physician or the Poison Center.
·         INHALED - Immediately get patient to fresh air. Avoid breathing fumes. Open doors and windows. If victim is not breathing, call for help and start assisted (mouth-to-mouth) breathing.
·         SKIN - Remove contaminated clothing and flood skin with water for 15 minutes. Then wash gently with soap and water and rinse. 

Here are some preventive safety tips, according to www.calpoison.org :
How Can You Prevent Poisonings?
Medicines
·         Use only child resistant covers.
·         Keep in locked cabinets.
·         Return to safe storage immediately after use.
·         Always measure dose - don't guess.
·         Never tell children that medicine is candy.
·         Never take medicine in front of children. They often imitate adults.
·         Keep all purses out of your child's reach. They may contain medicines or other items that could harm a child.

Disposal of Medicines
·         Old, unused and expired prescription and over the counter medication should not be kept
·         Always be careful to remove and/or destroy all personal information on the medication container
·         Wrap medication containers in a thick paper bag or plastic bag that can be closed and place in the trash
·         Place medicines in the trash just before pick-up so that children and animals don’t get to it
·         Tablets and capsules can be crushed or melted in water and mixed with kitty litter, coffee grounds, sand or other kitchen garbage, put in a plastic bag and thrown away
·         Some cities and counties in California have drop-off sites that you can take your medication to, call your county's hazardous waste collection center to find out
·         Flushing medication down the toilet is discouraged and it is better to try one of the other ways listed above, but keeping the home safe by removing old and unused medication is most important

Household Products:
·         Select products with child resistant covers.
·         Keep in locked cabinets.
·         Return to safe storage immediately after use.
·         Store products and food in separate areas.
·         Keep products in original containers. Never put them into food or beverage containers.
·         Don't turn your back on a child when a product is within reach. If the phone or doorbell rings, take the child with you.

Plants:
·         Know the names of all your plants and which ones are poisonous.
·         Keep all plants out of the reach of small children.
·         Teach children not to put any part of plants in their mouths.

Poisonings are going to happen. Some are life threatening, but all of them are dangerous. Take time to review your house and other areas you frequent. Practice safety wherever you are regarding poison control. Remember to teach everyone in your household and office good prevention for poison control. Keep your doctor’s phone number handy, and always call 911 if you have an emergency.


Until next time.