Friday, May 28, 2010

Health Care and Indigestion


How many times have you ever had a big meal, then some time later you have a problem with indigestion? Indigestion, common in adults, can occur once in a while or as often as every day. Also known as dyspepsia according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), indigestion is a term used to describe one or more symptoms including a feeling of fullness during a meal, uncomfortable fullness after a meal, and burning or pain in the upper abdomen. Indigestion can be caused by a condition in the digestive tract such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcer disease, cancer, or abnormality of the pancreas or bile ducts. If the condition improves or resolves, the symptoms of indigestion usually improve. Sometimes a person has indigestion for which a cause cannot be found. This type of indigestion, called functional dyspepsia, is thought to occur in the area where the stomach meets the small intestine. The indigestion may be related to abnormal motility—the squeezing or relaxing action—of the stomach muscle as it receives, digests, and moves food into the small intestine.

According to the Mayo Clinic, most people with indigestion have one or more of the following symptoms:
--Early fullness during a meal. You haven't eaten much of your meal, but you already feel full and may not be able to finish eating.
--Uncomfortable fullness after a meal. Fullness lasts longer than it should.
--Pain in the upper abdomen. You feel a mild to severe pain in the area between the bottom of your breastbone (sternum) and your navel.
--Burning in the upper abdomen. You feel an uncomfortable heat or burning sensation between the bottom of the breastbone and navel.

Less frequent symptoms may come along with indigestion, including:
--Nausea. You feel like you are about to vomit.
--Bloating. Your stomach feels swollen, tight and uncomfortable.
--Sometimes people with indigestion also experience heartburn, but heartburn and indigestion are two separate conditions. Heartburn is a pain or burning feeling in the center of your chest that may radiate into your neck or back after eating.

People of all ages and of both sexes are affected by indigestion, according to WebMD.com. It's extremely common. An individual's risk increases with excess alcohol consumption, use of drugs that may irritate the stomach (such as aspirin), other conditions where there is an abnormality in the digestive tract such as an ulcer and emotional problems such as anxiety or depression. Swallowing excessive air when eating may increase the symptoms of belching and bloating, which are often associated with indigestion. Sometimes people have persistent indigestion that is not related to any of these factors. This type of indigestion is called functional, or non-ulcer dyspepsia. During the middle and later parts of pregnancy, many women have indigestion. This is believed to be caused by a number of pregnancy-related factors including hormones, which relax the muscles of the digestive tract, and the pressure of the growing uterus on the stomach.

What Causes Indigestion? Indigestion has many causes, according to WebMD.com, including:
1.) Diseases: Ulcers, GERD, Stomach cancer (rare), Gastroparesis (a condition where the stomach doesn't empty properly; this often occurs in diabetics).
2.) Stomach infections: Irritable bowel syndrome, Chronic pancreatitis, Thyroid disease.
3.) Medications: Aspirin and many other painkillers, Estrogen and oral contraceptives, Steroid medications, Certain antibiotics, Thyroid medicines.
4.) Lifestyle: Eating too much, eating too fast, eating high-fat foods, or eating during stressful situations, Drinking too much alcohol, Cigarette smoking, Stress and fatigue.

If you are experiencing symptoms of indigestion, make an appointment to see your doctor to rule out a more serious condition. Because indigestion is such a broad term, according to WebMD.com, it is helpful to provide your doctor with a precise description of the discomfort you are experiencing. In describing your indigestion symptoms, try to define where in the abdomen the discomfort usually occurs. Simply reporting pain in the stomach is not detailed enough for your doctor to help identify and treat your problem. First, your doctor must rule out any underlying conditions. Your doctor may perform several blood tests and you may have X-rays of the stomach or small intestine. Your doctor may also use an instrument to look closely at the inside of the stomach, a procedure called an upper endoscopy. An endoscope, a flexible tube that contains a light and a camera to produce images from inside the body, is used in this procedure.

Some people can eat anything and they never get upset stomachs. But other people are more sensitive to food and they might find certain ones just don't agree with them. According to KidsHealth.org, if you discover one of these foods, it's best not to eat a lot of them, or skip them entirely. In addition to avoiding problem foods, it's a good idea to eat several smaller meals instead of a couple really big ones. Here are some other tips to prevent indigestion:
--As much as possible, avoid fatty, greasy foods, like fries and burgers.
--Avoid too much chocolate.
--Eat slowly.
--Don't smoke — or don't start smoking!
--Find ways to relax and decrease stress.
--Give your body a chance to digest food. Don't eat a huge meal and immediately engage in alot of physical activity, or have any sports practice. Try to eat at least an hour beforehand, or eat afterward.

According to Heartburn.com, because indigestion can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as an ulcer or occasionally cancer, anyone experiencing the following symptoms in addition to indigestion should consult with their doctor:
--Unplanned weight loss.
--Severe pain.
--Anyone over 45 who has not previously suffered with any indigestion problems.
Immediate medical attention is needed for anyone who experiences either of the following symptoms:
--Vomiting with specks of blood or with blood that looks like coffee-grounds.
--Vomiting fresh blood.

Because indigestion is a symptom rather than a disease, treatment usually depends upon the underlying condition causing the indigestion, according to ClevelandClinic.org. Keep in mind that excess stomach acid does not cause indigestion, so using antacids will not help your indigestion. Often, episodes of indigestion go away within hours without medical attention. However, if your symptoms become worse, you should consult a physician. Avoiding foods and situations that cause indigestion are the best ways to treat it. Changing the following eating habits that cause you to swallow too much air can help relieve indigestion:
--Chewing with your mouth open.
--Talking while chewing.
--Eating food too fast.
Drink fluids after rather than during meals, and avoid late-night eating. Try to relax after meals. Avoid spicy foods, smoking, and alcoholic beverages. Sometimes aspirin can irritate the stomach lining. If this occurs, switch to acetaminophen. If indigestion is a functional, or nonulcer condition, your physician may prescribe medications that affect stomach function.

The best way to treat indigestion is to prevent it by avoiding the foods and situations that seem to cause indigestion. According to the Cleveland Clinic, keeping a food diary is helpful in identifying foods that cause indigestion. Here are some other suggestions:
--Eat small meals so the stomach does not have to work as hard or as long.
--Eat slowly.
--Avoid foods that contain high amounts of acids, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes.
--Caffeine causes the stomach to produce more acid, so reduce or avoid foods and beverages that contain caffeine.
--If stress is a trigger for your indigestion, reevaluating your lifestyle may help to reduce stress. --Learn new methods for managing stress, such as relaxation and biofeedback techniques.
--Smokers should consider quitting smoking, or at least not smoking right before eating, as smoking can irritate the stomach lining.
--Cut back on alcohol consumption because alcohol can irritate the stomach lining.
--Avoid wearing tight-fitting garments because they tend to compress the stomach, which can cause its contents to enter the esophagus.
--Do not exercise with a full stomach. Rather, exercise before a meal or at least one hour after eating a meal.
--Do not lie down right after eating.
--Wait at least 3 hours after your last meal of the day before going to bed.
--Sleep with your head elevated (at least six inches) above your feet and use pillows to prop yourself up. This will allow digestive juices to flow into the intestines rather than to the esophagus.

The doctor may recommend over-the-counter antacids or medications that reduce acid production or help the stomach move food more quickly into the small intestine, according to the NIH. Many of these medications can be purchased without a prescription. Nonprescription medications should only be used at the dose and for the length of time recommended on the label unless advised differently by a doctor. Informing the doctor when starting a new medication is important. Antacids, such as Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, and Riopan, are usually the first drugs recommended to relieve symptoms of indigestion. Many brands on the market use different combinations of three basic salts—magnesium, calcium, and aluminum—with hydroxide or bicarbonate ions to neutralize the acid in the stomach. Antacids, however, can have side effects. Magnesium salt can lead to diarrhea, and aluminum salt may cause constipation. Aluminum and magnesium salts are often combined in a single product to balance these effects. Calcium carbonate antacids, such as Tums, Titralac, and Alka-2, can also be a supplemental source of calcium, though they may cause constipation.

Indigestion is usually not a serious health problem, unless other symptoms also occur such as weight loss or trouble swallowing, according to Medline Plus. However, you should seek immediate medical help if your symptoms include jaw pain, chest pain, back pain, profuse sweating, anxiety, or a feeling of impending doom. These are possible heart attack symptoms. If your symptoms are not severe, a visit to your doctor makes sense if you have any concerns about your indigestion. Your doctor will perform a physical examination, paying special attention to the stomach area and digestive tract. You will be asked questions about your symptoms. The symptoms of indigestion can be mistaken for the early warning signs of a heart attack, but most medical professionals can tell the difference within a few minutes of examination, according to WiseGeek.com. If over-the-counter remedies have little to no effect on your feelings of indigestion, it may be a good idea to visit the emergency room or another medical facility as soon as possible if the symptoms are severe.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Health Care and Memorial Day


Hundreds of people in the U.S. suffer serious, even life-threatening burns in grilling accidents each year, according to the University of North Carolina Medical Center. With the Memorial Day weekend at hand, it’s time to fire up the grill. However, before you put on that first piece of meat there are a few precautions you need to be aware of. With life-threatening burns that result from the careless use of outdoor grills, these injuries result primarily from the use of unapproved lighter/starter fluids, such as gasoline, and the misuse of approved fluids. In addition, many injuries occur when gas grills are improperly used. A fire or explosion can occur when a grill is used the first time after it has been left idle.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in 2005, U. S. fire departments responded to an estimated 8,300 home fires involving grills, hibachis or barbeques, including 3,400 structure fires and 4,900 outside fires. These 8,300 fires caused 10 civilian deaths (to the nearest ten), 110 reported injuries and $137 million in direct property damage.1 Also in that same year, an estimated 8,610 people were see at hospital emergency rooms for thermal burns caused by grills. However, all of these grill–related injuries are easily preventable by following the safety tips outlined below:
--When lighting a gas grill, keep the top open. If the grill does not light in the first several attempts, wait five minutes to allow gas to dissipate.
--Check grill hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes, and leaks. Make sure there are no sharp bends, holes and leaks.
--Check the gas grill for leaks every time the cylinder is replaced.
--Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the grill and use caution when storing LP gas containers.
--Never store a spare gas container under or near the grill or indoors.
--You should take just as much care when using a charcoal grill. Charcoal produces carbon monoxide (CO) when it is burned. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can accumulate to toxic levels in closed environments.

More info about this topic can be found at http://www.unchealthcare.org/site/newsroom/news/2009/May/grilling.

On a more serious note, Americans have a variety of feelings about Memorial Day. The speaking of it brings different meanings to people. Some see it as a time to have a free day off from work; others view the day as a way to connect with family and friends at a picnic or backyard cookout, taking advantage of big sales at all the malls, and others know the time set aside to honor those who serve and have served to defend our nation's freedoms. Regardless of your thoughts about what this day represents, know and understand that the health of America depends upon the ability to live according to the rights and privileges afforded to all residents--made available by the sacrifices of those in uniform over the past two centuries and more. Here are words to help everyone remember:

Freedom is not Free:
I watched the flag pass by one day.
It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Marine saluted it,
And then he stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform,
So young, so tall, so proud,
He'd stand out in any crowd.
I thought how many men like him,
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?
How many pilots' planes shot down?
How many died at sea?
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, freedom isn't free.

I heard the sound of TAPS one night,
When everything was still.
I listened to the bugler play,
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That TAPS had meant "Amen,"
When a flag had draped a coffin,
Of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands,
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard,
At the bottom of the sea,
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom isn't free.
--by Kelly Strong

The "Memorial" in Memorial Day has been many times ignored by too many Americans who are beneficiaries of freedoms, paid for by those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, according to USMemorialDay.org. Often, people do not observe the day as it should be--a day where you actively remember your ancestors, your family members, your loved ones, your neighbors, and your friends who have given the ultimate sacrifice:
--By visiting cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes.
--By visiting memorials.
--By flying the U.S. Flag at half-staff until noon.
--By flying the 'POW/MIA Flag' as well (Section 1082 of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act).
--By participating in a "National Moment of Remembrance": at 3 p.m. to pause and think upon the true meaning of the day, and for Taps to be played.
--By renewing a pledge to aid the widows, widowers, and orphans of our falled dead, and to aid the disabled veterans.

A truth that does not receive enough attention is that killing in combat is the beginning of a long journey for most soldiers. At the moment of killing, a soldier may experience relief, excitement, rage, sickness, sadness, exuberance, numbness, or even satisfaction. The returning soldier often, though not always, feels a sense of estrangement, of being different, even when welcomed home. Medals and speeches about duty, honor, country, courage, and heroism all ring hollow and feel disconnected from the images of death, both of friends and foes, that are the reality of combat. No justification ultimately satisfies the soldier who has killed or witnessed killing. Do not be naive about what they have seen and done. Many are committed Christians who will spend the remainder of their lives trying to make sense of the events they have endured. It is work they must labor on with God.

Memorial Day has traditionally been a day of remembering the many heroes who lost their lives during wars in which the United States has been involved, according to ChristianityToday.com. This weekend pause to pray for those currently serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other posts worldwide. Show honor to those who have served, and consider where America would be without those who have given the ultimate price to keep our nation "the land of the free, and the home of the brave." Then, thank God for all the blessings He has provided to you on this Memorial Day.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Health Care and Accidents

When you get a boo-boo, often the best remedy is a hug and a bandaid. When you have a major life-threatening accident, you'll need alot more help. Accidents have a way of interrupting life, and sometimes can stop it all together. Are you prepared for serious injury or worse if an accident should happen to you or a loved one? Too many people are caught by surprise. By sheer definition, an accident happens with no advance warning. According to Dictionary.com, an accident is an undesirable or unfortunate happening that occurs unintentionally and usually results in harm, injury, damage, or loss; or any event that happens unexpectedly, without a deliberate plan or cause.

An accident can be life-changing. It often creates a chain of events that you are not prepared for, according to Accidents.com. There are many types of accidents: vehicle, work, medical, fall down, product liability, aviation, watercraft, recreational, and many others. For example, on the water the US Coast Guard estimates that each year hundreds of lives are lost... thousands are injured... and millions of dollars of property damage occurs because of preventable recreational boating accidents on U.S. waterways. Too often pleasure outings turn tragic. Operator errors account for 70% of boating accidents. Simply using preventive measures, such as wearing a life jacket, will save lives. The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that life jackets could have saved the lives of over 80% of boating fatality victims. And alcohol consumption is a huge factor in boating accidents with many incidents caused by individuals on the water and abusive drinking. As a boat operator, you're in command of the safety of your passengers. But accidents can, and do happen with terrifying speed on the water. There's rarely time to reach stowed life jackets, especially if you are under the influence of an alcoholic beverage.

According to OSHA.gov, thousands of accidents occur throughout the United States every day, especially at the worksite. The failure of people, equipment, supplies, or surroundings to behave or react as expected causes most of them. Employers are required to post safety standards and instruct their workers on proper safety procedures while on the job or in the office. An effective safety and health program depends on the credibility of management's involvement in the program, inclusion of employees in safety and health decisions, rigorous worksite analysis to identify hazards and potential hazards, including those which could result from a change in worksite conditions or practices, stringent prevention and control measures, and thorough training. Companies who ignore these practices end up in serious trouble when an accident happens and employees are hurt.

On average, another person dies in a car crash every 12 minutes in this country - that's approximately 123 deaths per day, according to CarInsuranceList.com. Through the coordinated efforts of automobile designers, manufacturers and organizations like the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety), the safest cars, with the most advanced safety features are being driven off car lots each year. If that is the case, what are the most common causes of car accidents? Well, there are four major factors that contribute to vehicle accidents. They are, in ascending order, mechanical issues, road design / maintenance, road condition, and poor driver performance. The latter is, of course, the most significant, and 95% of all accidents involving motor vehicles - worldwide - include poor driver performance in tandem with one of the other three. If you drive long enough, chances are you will have an accident, or know someone who does. Accidents on the road in the US are so common that the number of individuals injured every year is in the millions.

While distractions can cause accidents - cell phone conversations, sipping coffee, applying make-up - the biggest cause of vehicle accidents is speeding, though aggression is quickly becoming a significant cause as well. Law enforcement officers are also generally quick to remind us that the chance of a motor vehicle accident increase by 50% once the sun goes down. According to CarInsuranceList.com, the following factors (in order) cause the most accidents - and all of them are under the driver's control:
--Speeding.
--Unsafe or too-frequent lane changing.
--Not using turn signals.
--Tailgating.
--Not yielding the right of way.
--Ignoring traffic signals.
--Driving while impaired by alcohol or chemicals.

Injuries are a major source of childhood emergency department and hospital admissions. The most recent accident statistics from the National Safety Council, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, and other sources tell us that:
--Injury is the leading cause of death in children and young adults. According to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were approximately 2,800 children, ages one to 14 years, that died from an unintentional injury.
--Falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury for children. Children ages 14 and under account for one-third of all fall-related visits to hospital emergency rooms.
--In 2005, nearly 252,000 children ages 14 and under were treated in the US for bicycle-related injuries. Nearly half (47 percent) of children ages 14 and under hospitalized for bicycle-related injuries are diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.
--Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages one to 14. The majority of drownings and near-drownings occur in residential swimming pools and in open water sites. However, children can drown in as little as one inch of water.
Airway obstruction injury is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among infants under age one.
--Approximately 45 percent of unintentional injury deaths occurred in and around the home.
--Unintentional home injury deaths to children are caused primarily by fire and burns, suffocation, drowning, firearms, falls, choking and poisoning.

It pays to be prepared for the unprepared. No one can forecast when an accident will take place. Although, accidents can be deadly, or at least very injurious, you can help yourself financially to some degree by purchasing accident insurance. Many companies offer their employees voluntary benefits that include Accidental Death & Dismemberment and Accident Medical Insurance. Additionally, families and individuals can purchase these types of products through various insurance agents, brokers, and agencies who specialize in these policies. Coverage can range from as little as a few thousand dollars to much more, depending on the type of policy and amount of premium you are willing to pay. Usually, they are guaranteed issue.

If you are involved in a fatal accident, this type of policy will offer protection for your family. In addition, if an accident renders you disabled or with the loss of your limbs, you can collect a lump sum from an AD&D policy, to make up for your lost income if you can't go back to work after the accident, according to ezinearticles.com. If an accident is identified as the cause of your death or injury, your AD&D policy will pay out. AD&D insurance doesn't cover health-related deaths, drug overdoses or suicides. Usually, AD&D insurers have restrictions on the types of accidents that are covered. Combined with an accident medical policy that pays up to a certain indemnified amount, this type of plan is great to even combine with a high deductible health plan or a limited medical benefit plan. If you are denied life insurance, then AD&D insurance is a good way to get some insurance. The low premiums that AD&D insurance commands will work towards easing your family's financial burden if you died in an accident. For more information about AD&D insurance, log on to a reputable life insurance quote provider website where you can weigh your options and receive free life insurance quotes. You can compare quotes and compare the financial standing of insurance companies, so that you can make a quick, well-informed decision. At the end of the day, it is always better to have some insurance, than none at all.

There are many great accident insurance plans on the market through companies like Aflac and American General. Going through an agency like Core Five Solutions (www.corefivesolutions.com) can provide multiple options from a variety of carriers for consumers for the plan that makes the most sense. Also, instead of figuring it out on your own, you have the ability to talk with an agent who can assist you with the choices available for accident insurance. Another great option is to combine the AD&D and Accident Medical policies with a discount health plan. That will stretch your savings further by getting immediate savings with participating health care or dental providers to reduce your out of pocket medical expense and still receive payment from any claims you submit to the insurance company for your accident. A great source for one of these types of plans can be found with a discount medical plan organization, such as Careington International (www.careington.com), for an inexpensive membership between $30 and $45 per month. You'd have the best of both worlds--discounted medical and dental rates combined with an insurance product that pays you for accidents.

Accidents happen. Some are worse than others, and you never know when they will happen. It's up to you to prepare for the unprepared.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Health Care and Travel Tips

Americans are getting ready for the holidays of the summer before the fall season comes into full swing. That means millions of people will be traveling, and that also means that you should prepare for any important health needs that you have. It also means you should think ahead just in case there is a medical emergency or accident. As the Boy Scouts say, "Be Prepared"--a timely motto that is timeless in its application. From the National Institutes of Health (NIH), please note the following suggestions before you hit the road for any travel:

1.) BEFORE LEAVING:
--Bring nonprescription medications that you might need with you.
--Check your health insurance carrier regarding your health care coverage (including coverage for emergency transport) while traveling out of the country.
--Consider traveler's insurance if you are going abroad.
--If you are leaving your children, leave a signed consent-to-treat form with your children's caretaker.
--If you are planning a long flight, minimize jet lag by scheduling your arrival at your destination as close to your usual bedtime as possible, according to the time zone to which you are flying.
--If you are taking medications, talk to your health care provider before leaving. Carry any medications with you -- not in your luggage.
--If you are traveling to another country, research the accessibility and quality of health care there.
--If you have an important event at your long-distance destination, plan to arrive 2 or 3 days in advance, if possible, so that you will be fresh for your appointment.
--Take immunization records, along with any other important medical records, especially when traveling to another country.
--Take a medical first aid kit.
--Take insurance ID cards.
--Take sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses.
--Take the name and phone numbers of your pharmacist and health care provider.
--When traveling to an underdeveloped country, make sure that everyone in your traveling party is adequately immunized against any infectious disease you might encounter. Some countries require certificates of vaccination against diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, hepatitis A and B, meningococcal meningitis, tetanus, and yellow fever.
--Check with your health care provider. The Centers for Disease Control maintains updated advisories and immunization requirements for travelers to all parts of the world.

2.) ON THE ROAD:
--Avoid mosquito bites, which can spread infections, by wearing proper clothing and using insect repellant.
--Cooked foods are usually safe, but raw foods and salads (lettuce, raw vegetables, fruit with peel, unpasteurized milk, milk products, undercooked seafood or meat) may lead to gastrointestinal problems. Eat in restaurants that have a reputation for safe cooking.
--Consider automobile safety and use seat belts when traveling.
--If you are visiting an area where diarrheal illnesses are common (Mexico, for example), speak with your health care provider about getting a prescription for antibiotics. Fill the prescription and take it with you in case you fall ill.
--If you come down with diarrhea, drink plenty of bottled liquids. Broths and carbonated beverages are good for maintaining your strength.
--Prevent infections with hand washing.
--Upon arrival, check the local emergency number. Not all communities use 911.
--When traveling long distances, expect your body to adjust to a new time zone at the rate of about 1 hour per day.
--When traveling to less economically developed countries, don't drink the water if you want to avoid the risk of diarrhea. Remember the ice may also be contaminated if there is concern about the water quality. Bottled water may be safe, as long as it is factory bottled. Traveler's diarrhea can also result from drinking beverages that contain ice. Bottled carbonated sodas, beer, and wine (without ice) are safe.
--When traveling with children, make sure that they know the name and telephone number of your hotel in case they get separated from you. Give them enough money to make a phone call, and make sure they know how to use the phones if you are in a foreign country.

If you are traveling with pets, the ASPCA has some great suggestions. Traveling can be highly stressful, both for you and the four-legged members of your family. But with thoughtful preparation, you can ensure a safe and comfortable trip for everyone. The ASPCA urges pet owners to think twice about flying their pets on commercial airlines, especially if they plan on checking them in as cargo. Unless your animal is small enough to fit under your seat and you can bring him or her in the cabin, the ASPCA recommends pet owners to not fly their animal. If pet owners have already committed to transporting their pets on commercial airlines, the ASPCA is offering the following top ten tips for safe air travel with your pet on their website: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/pet-care-tips/air-travel-tips.html.

When traveling with children, it's always important to plan ahead. According to KidsHealth.org, it's always important to take care of your health, but there are additional concerns to keep in mind when you're traveling. Whether you're taking a quick trip with your family or studying abroad for several months, it's easier to get sick when you're in a new place because your body hasn't had a chance to adjust to the food, water, and air in a new environment. Traveling can bring you in contact with things that your body isn't used to. Here are some tips on keeping your travel experience as healthy as possible as noted on their website: http://kidshealth.org/teen/safety/safebasics/travel_tips.html.

According to Travel Tips on USAToday.com, many United States citizens don't realize that they might not be covered by their health insurance when they travel abroad. Many private companies, as well as Medicare and Medicaid programs, do not cover emergency treatment outside of the country; should an emergency occur, you and your family could incur medical bills that you need to pay for out of your own pocket. There are many companies that offer short-term medical coverage for travelers.

--Step 1: Ask your current provider about whether your policy covers you and your family while traveling abroad. Some insurance policies do extend coverage across borders, although there can be limitations based on location and type of medical care. Even if your current policy offers some coverage, it might be wise to seek out supplemental travel insurance that covers a wider array of services, including emergency services, which can require evacuation by helicopter or airplane.

--Step 2: Access your needs before seeking supplemental traveler's medical coverage. Factors that can affect the type of coverage you need include your health, including any pre-existing conditions; your travel destinations and length of stay; and any high-risk activities you are planning, such as scuba diving, mountaineering or camping in rural areas.

--Step 3: Examine each plan carefully and ask questions before you purchase. Ensure that it will provide coverage for the needs you identified in Step 2. You need to understand the exact amount of coverage it provides, what deductibles and co-payments are involved and any exemption limits and refund policies. Also, the U.S. State Department recommends looking for medical policies that guarantee their payments abroad, pay directly to foreign hospitals and foreign doctors and have a 24-hour support center.

--Step 4: Purchase from an established company. The U.S. Department of State maintains a list of reputable companies that offer traveler's medical insurance on its website. You also can ask friends and family who have purchased insurance when they traveled abroad for feedback and research customer comments about the company on the web.

If you are a senior citizen, look for companies that offer traveler's medical insurance plans as part of your Medicare supplement plans, according to USAToday.com. The American Association of Retired Persons can be a great place to start to look for information. Never assume that because you are traveling to a country that offers socialized medicine to its citizens that you will be covered similarly as a visitor. You might need to buy different types of supplemental medical coverage if you are traveling to areas where the U.S. Department of State has issued warnings. Always check the U.S. Department of State website before you travel.

Traveling can be big time fun, and it can also be very stressful--especially if you get sick or have an accident. Always take time to plan ahead to make sure your trip is worry free. Preparation to avoid being unprepared is always a good thing. Now, go have fun!

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Health Care and Bed Bugs

Remember the old night time saying, "Good night, sleep tight. Don't let the beg bugs bite."? That old rhyme has been around since the mid-20th century. Parents have whispered that saying to their children for many, many years as a cute way of saying goodnight when the kids drift off to sleep. However, at one time that may not have been so comforting, and now it appears that these pests are once again on the rise. The 'don't let the bedbugs bite' part has prompted some to suggest that the 'tight' refers to the tightness of bedclothes, intended to keep bedbugs at bay. That's hardly likely, as bedbugs live in mattresses and wouldn't be avoided by tying bedclothes tightly. Also, '...bedbugs bite' is an extended version of the original 'sleep tight' bedtime message, which didn't start to be used until the mid-20th century - well after 'sleep tight' was first used, according to www.Phrases.org.UK.

Bed bugs are increasingly becoming a problem within residences of all kinds, including homes, apartments, hotels, cruise ships, dormitories and shelters. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, bed bugs are small wingless insects that feed solely upon the blood of warm-blooded animals. Bed bugs and their relatives have evolved as nest parasites. Certain kinds inhabit bird nests and bat roosts and await the return of their hosts; others have adapted well to living in the ‘nests’ (homes) of people. Hatchling bed bugs are about the size of a poppy seed, and adults are about 1/4 of an inch in length. From above they are oval in shape, but are flattened from top to bottom.

Their color ranges from nearly white (just after molting) or a light tan to a deep brown or burnt orange. The host’s blood may appear as a dark red or black mass within the bug’s body. Because they never develop wings, bed bugs cannot fly. When disturbed, bed bugs actively seek shelter in dark cracks and crevices. Cast skins of bed bugs are sometimes discovered. Although such a finding confirms that bed bugs had been present previously, it does not confirm that any continue to infest the residence. Thus, inspect carefully for live crawling bed bugs. Because many other kinds of small brown bugs may be discovered, it is critical to ensure that the bugs are correctly identified.

All Bed Bugs feed on blood and come out at night, as they are often averse to sunlight, according to KQED.org. Their most preferred feeding time is an hour before dawn when most hosts are in their deepest sleep. They are attracted by exhaled carbon dioxide as well as the heat a human body gives off. When biting, they inject two hollow tubes. One tube injects saliva into the host which is full of anticoagulants and anesthetics while the other tube withdraws the blood.

This allows the blood to thin and flow freely without disturbing the host. Most often it is several minutes or hours later when a person will feel a bed bug bite, usually because of intense itching caused by a reaction to the agents injected. Though itchy, Bed Bug bites do not appear to carry any pathogens or diseases. Bed bugs prefer to come out and eat every five to ten days but can go up to a year without feeding. Well fed bed bugs will live up to nine months but those that go dormant due to lack of food can live upwards of eighteen months.

Bed bugs infest only a small proportion of residences, but they should be suspected if residents complain of bites that occurred while sleeping. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the bedroom and other sleeping areas should be carefully examined for bed bugs and signs of bed bug activity. Folds and creases in the bed linens, and seams and tufts of mattresses and box springs, in particular, may harbor bed bugs or their eggs.

They may also be found within pleats of curtains, beneath loose areas of wallpaper near the bed, in corners of desks and dressers, within spaces of wicker furniture, behind cove molding, and in laundry or other items on the floor or around the room. Sometimes, characteristic dark brown or reddish fecal spots of bed bugs are apparent on the bed linens, mattress or walls near the bed. A peculiar coriander-like odor may be detected in some heavily infested residences. Adhesive-based traps used for sampling insects or rodents are not particularly effective for trapping bed bugs.

Bed bugs are also very well traveled and fare well in large cities, according to KQED.org. Chicago and New York have seen a great deal of infestations, in part due to international travel. Locales of choice include mattresses, couches, and furniture near their hosts, often found in hotels, motels, hostels and apartment buildings. Given their small size, they can hide easily - even in a picture frame or a battery compartment of a clock! If a suitcase is laid on an infested bed in a hotel, it is easy for bedbugs to hitch a ride. The best prevention to take is to check furniture in hotels and put luggage up on luggage racks and check everything upon returning home. As it turns out, infestations can also be caused by second-hand furniture.

According to Orkin.com, females can deposit one to five eggs a day, and may lay 200 to 500 eggs in a lifetime. Under normal room temperatures and with an adequate food supply, they can live over 300 days. Pest control professionals administer the most effective treatments. It is advised that anyone with a suspected bedbug infestation contact their local expert to arrange an inspection and consultation. Although their bite can cause irritation and even infection, bedbugs do not carry or transmit diseases.

Bedbug bites can become itchy and may leave red bumps and marks. According to www.Orkin.com, Bedbug bites may appear similar to a number of other insect bites. However, unlike those of other insects, bedbug bites appear in tight lines of multiple, small, red marks. Bedbugs are not social insects, so groups of bites are most likely the result of one specimen continuing to feed upon its victim.

Some bites leave large wheals, although these marks are not typically an indication of a serious problem and will fade to small, red marks within a few days. Bedbug bites can cause itchiness. Initially, a victim may detect a slight burning sensation. The burning area then develops red bumps, known as papules or wheals. In extreme cases, bites may swell dramatically or turn into blister-like skin inflammations. However, many bites leave no mark and go completely unnoticed.

The oil of the aromatic cedar wood is sometimes placed around a bed to prevent bedbugs, according to Orkin.com. However, pest control experts advise against the sole use of this method of bedbug control, as it proves largely inefficient in addressing widespread infestations. Cedar wood oil is most effective when used in conjunction with other medications as a treatment for bedbug bites.

Topical or oral corticosteroids and antihistamines can be combined with a few drops of cedar wood oil to address inflammation or irritation caused by bedbug bites. Steam cleaners may be used to remove bed bugs, but they must be used thoroughly to be effective. The entire room should be steam cleaned. If only the mattress is treated, infestations may persist. A commercial steam cleaner is ideal, as it can be used for longer periods of time. However, the most effective bedbug extermination methods are those administered by pest control professionals.

According to the Mayo Clinic, here are some tips to avoid being bitten by bed bugs:
--Cover up. Because bedbugs don't tend to burrow under clothing, you may be able to avoid bites by wearing pajamas that cover as much skin as possible.
--Bug spray. Insect repellents designed to protect against mosquitos or ticks aren't very effective against bedbugs.
--Mosquito netting. Some studies indicate that bed nets impregnated with the pesticide permethrin may help protect sleepers against bedbug bites. However, this practice may be helping bedbugs develop resistance to this pesticide.

Next time you see these pesky little varmints, call an exterminator and load up on a good anti-itch cream from your local pharmacy. Bed bugs used to be the scourge of poor families who were not able to keep their homes clean. And they have been bothering humans for thousands of years. After WW II, they were largely eradicated by the use of DDT. However, since that chemical has been pulled off the market for common use, bed bugs have come back with a vengeance, perhaps to reek revenge on mankind. Now, they are found in many places that anyone can encounter, even in popular hotels and other common areas. Be careful when you travel, and watch for any infestation that might crop up even in your home. They won't kill you, but the bites sure are a nuisance.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.