Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Health Care and Summer Pet Safety

Summertime is a great time of the year for vacations, and a wonderful opportunity to take time to relax and enjoy the summer months. Getting ready for summer activities can put stress on your family, and it can especially be stressful if you have pets. Doing the right thing in preparation for trips or time away from home during these very warm days prevents problems before they have a chance to happen, or at least minimizes issues that may develop--especially when pets are involved.

According to Today at MSNBC, Summer is a time for the whole family, including your pets, to enjoy the great outdoors. However, just as there are safety precautions to ensure warm-weather safety for humans, there are precautions to make sure pets stay safe and happy. Many of the safety concerns you have for yourself during the hottest months of the year also apply to your pets. Hot weather makes everyone a little uncomfortable. But when it's hot for you, it is probably even hotter for your pet — especially if it has a dark coat, a short muzzle (brachycephalic breeds such as bulldogs and pugs), is in its elder years, or has a tendency to overexert itself. Dogs aren't as efficient at cooling down as you are, since they release most of their body heat through panting and the pads of their feet. Decrease the risks of letting your pet enjoy the outdoors in summer with these tips:

•Adjust their exercise routine by taking them out for playtime in the early morning and evening hours. This is especially important if your dog is your jogging partner. While you can alter the type of clothing you wear, your dog can't. Many dogs will keep running to stay with you, even if they are suffering due to the heat.

•Be cautious when walking your dog on pavement (which can get very hot and may burn your pet's paws) and at the beach. Running on sand is strenuous and can cause injury to a pet that is out of shape. Start with slower, shorter walks and gradually increase according to your pet's ability and health.

•Provide your pet with plenty of water.

•Try a simple keep-cool tactic such as soaking a bandanna in water and putting it in the freezer before you put it on your dog to wear on a walk.

•Make sure your pet has plenty of access to a shady area to rest when outdoors. During supervised playtime in the yard your pet might enjoy access to a child's wading pool to cool off in.

Perhaps most important, be sure never to leave your pet unsupervised in a car. Not only are they are susceptible to being stolen, but even on a mild day a car can heat up quickly and your pet could suffer heatstroke.

Most people are aware that leaving a pet in a locked car on a 100F degree day would be dangerous, according to However, it is the seemingly mild days of spring (and fall) that pose great danger, too. Driving around, parking, and leaving your pet in the car for "just a minute" can be deadly. Cars heat up fast -- even with the windows cracked. Signs of heat stroke include (but are not limited to): body temperatures of 104-110F degrees, excessive panting, dark or bright red tongue and gums, staggering, stupor, seizures, bloody diarrhea or vomiting, coma, death. Brachycephalic breeds (the short-nosed breeds, such as Bulldogs and Pugs), large heavy-coated breeds, and those dogs with heart or respiratory problems are more at risk for heat stroke.

If you suspect heat stroke in your pet, seek Veterinary attention immediately! Use cool water, not ice water, to cool your pet. (Very cold water will cause constriction of the blood vessels and impede cooling.) Do not aid cooling below 103 F degrees - some animals can actually get HYPOthermic, too cold. Offer ice cubes for the animal to lick on until you can reach your Veterinarian. Just because your animal is cooled and "appears" OK, do NOT assume everything is fine. Internal organs such as liver, kidneys, brain, etc., are definitely affected by the body temperature elevation, and blood tests and veterinary examination are needed to assess this. There is also a complex blood problem, called DIC (Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation) that can be a secondary complication to heat stroke that can be fatal.

Jogging is also dangerous this time of year, according to VetMedicine. So your dog jogs everyday with you and is in excellent shape - why alter the routine? As the weather warms, humans alter the type and amount of clothing worn, and we sweat more. Dogs are still jogging in their winter coat (or a slightly lighter version) and can only cool themselves by panting and a small amount of sweating through the foot pads. Not enough! Many dogs, especially the 'athletes' will keep running, no matter what, to stay up with their owner. Change the routine to early morning or late evening to prevent heat stroke.

Consider your pet's housing. If they are kept outdoors, do they have shade and fresh water access at all times? I have treated one case of heat stroke in a dog that did indeed have shade and water while tethered under a deck, but had gotten the chain stuck around a stake in the middle of the yard -- no water or shade for hours. If you live in a warm climate, it is a good idea to hose down the dog before work, at lunch or whenever you can to provide extra cooling (if you dog is not over heated in the first place).

Most people are aware that they need to use sunscreen everyday in order to avoid sun damage, according to Today at MSNBC. The same may hold true for your pet, especially if it has short hair, white fur or pink skin. Limit your dog's sun exposure during the day and talk to your vet about choosing a sunscreen for your pet, which is especially important on the ears and nose. Also, shaving a pet during summer may seem like a good idea, but this can actually make it more susceptible to sunburn. If you and your vet decide shaving your pet is best, try to do it at the beginning of the summer so the hair has time to grown in a bit by the time the hottest days are here.  Additionally, more tips are shown below:

Be sure not to leave your pet unsupervised around water. Even a good swimmer can drown due to exhaustion if it can't figure out how to get out of a pool. Teach your pet where the pool steps are and consider placing a cone or a stick with a little flag on it by the pool steps so it has a highly visible marker of the exit. You can also teach dogs to climb out using a pet ramp such as the Skamper Ramp ( As an extra precaution, they can wear a doggie life vest. Not all dogs are excellent swimmers by nature, according to Today. Especially if Fido has underlying health problems, such as heart disease or obesity to contend with. Consider protecting your pet just as your human family -- with a life preserver. If your pet is knocked off of the boat (perhaps getting injured in the process), or is tired/cold from choppy water or sudden storm, a life jacket could be what saves your pet's life.

Dogs often ingest water when their swimming, according to If they drink seawater, they will often develop vomiting or diarrhea. Most cases will resolve quickly but if your pet continues to experience GI upset for more than 24 hours, seek medical attention. Another potential threat is drinking contaminated water. There are many water-borne parasites and infections that you and your dog can contract from ponds and lakes. Always verify that the water you intend to swim in is safe. Don’t allow your dog to go into any body of water you aren’t certain is safe. In addition to microscopic predators, our area’s ponds are also home to alligators, cottonmouths (also known as water moccasins) and venomous insects. After you enjoy a day cooling off in your favorite watering hole, rinse your dog’s coat with plenty of clean, fresh water and a hypoallergenic pet shampoo. Clean and dry the ears with an ear cleaning solution that contains an astringent or drying agent. Many cases of ear infections are caused by allowing moisture to remain in the ears after swimming or bathing.

Be careful to restrict your pet's access to lawns or gardens that have been recently sprayed with fertilizers or insecticides, as these can be poisonous to animals, too. Also, car antifreeze is a year-round hazard. During the warmer months your car may leak antifreeze whose sweet taste may be inviting, but is also highly toxic to pets. Consider using propylene glycol, which is a safer alternative to ethylene glycol antifreeze. If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Also, in summer, mosquitoes (which can carry heartworm disease), fleas, ticks and other parasites are out in full force. Be sure to talk to your vet about preventives such as Frontline and Heartgard to protect your pet and your family from parasites carried into your home by your pet. Keeping your pet well groomed is especially important during the summer months so you can quickly and easily find any potential parasites.

When the weather warms up, people tend to open their windows. This can be an enticing spot for your pet to sit and enjoy the fresh air and watch the world go by. Whether you live in a house or in a high-rise apartment, be sure to put in screens to prevent your from pet escaping or from slipping and injuring itself in a fall.

Many pets become stressed during summer storms due to the change in air pressure and the sounds of thunder. Calmatives such as Content-Eze ( or Rescue Remedy may help. You should also prepare in advance by teaching your pet to rest calmly in a crate ( If pets are regularly fed their meals and offered special treats and toys when in the crate, it will become a reassuring resting spot during potentially stressful times.

A few great web sources summarizing these points can also be found here: , and  here: . Here is a really good article from Parade about pet safety: .    Even the AKC has great info about pet safety: .

If you are traveling with pets, you definitely need to prepare for their comfort and safety:
--By Air – Many airlines will not ship animals during summer months due to dangers caused by hot weather. Some will only allow dogs to fly in the early morning or in the evening. Check with your airlines for specific rules. If you do ship a dog, put icepacks or an ice blanket in the dog's crate. (Two-liter soft drink bottles filled with water and frozen work well.) Provide a container of fresh water, as well as a container of frozen water that will thaw over the course of the trip.
--By Car – Keep your dog cool in the car by putting icepacks in his crate. Make sure the crate is well ventilated. Put a sunshade on your car windows. Bring along fresh water and a bowl, and a tarp or tent so you can set up a shady spot when you stop. Keep a spray bottle filled with water to spritz on your dog to cool him down.
--By RV – A dog's safety should not depend on the air conditioning and generator systems in an RV or motor home. These devices can malfunction, with tragic results. If you leave your dog in an RV with the generator running, check it often or have a neighbor monitor it. Some manufacturers have devices that will notify you if the generator should malfunction. Never leave an RV or motor home completely shut up, even if the generator and AC are running. Crack a window or door or run the exhaust fan.

Finally, if you are traveling outside of your normal Veterinarian's locale, it is wise to check out the Veterinary clinics/hospitals in the area that you are visiting, before the need arises. It is better to be prepared for an emergency and not have one happen than to panic in an emergency situation, wasting valuable time.

Until next time.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Health Care and Underage Drinking

When adults abuse alcohol, bad things happen. And when teens drink, even worse things happen. Underage drinking is a problem in America, and has been one of the leading causes of death in the country among those under the age of 21--the legal age in most states to consume alcoholic beverages. Since 1982, according to the Century Council, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities on our nation's roadways have decreased 44%, and among persons under 21 these fatalities have decreased 71%. Though progress is being made, underage drinking remains a persistent problem among youth. According to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 10.1 million Americans between ages 12-20 report current alcohol consumption; this represents about 26% of this age group for whom alcohol use is illegal. Among 12-20 year olds, reported rates of past month consumption, binge drinking and heavy alcohol use declined between 2002 and 2008.

Tragic health, social, and economic problems result from the use of alcohol by youth. Underage drinking is a causal factor in a host of serious problems, including homicide, suicide, traumatic injury, drowning, burns, violent and property crime, high risk sex, fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol poisoning, and need for treatment for alcohol abuse and dependence. According to the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, underage drinking cost the citizens of the United States $68.0 billion in 2007. These costs include medical care, work loss, and pain and suffering associated with the multiple problems resulting from the use of alcohol by youth.  Excluding pain and suffering from these costs, the direct costs of underage drinking incurred through medical care and loss of work cost the United States $22.3 billion each year. Youth violence (homicide, suicide, aggravated assault) and traffic crashes attributable to alcohol use by underage youth in the United States represent the largest costs for the State. However, a host of other problems contribute substantially to the overall cost. Among teen mothers, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) alone costs the United States $1.2 billion. Young people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence and are two and a half times more likely to become abusers of alcohol than those who begin drinking at age 21.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), alcohol use by persons under age 21 years is a major public health problem. Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States, more than tobacco and illicit drugs. Although drinking by persons under the age of 21 is illegal, people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. More than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks. On average, underage drinkers consume more drinks per drinking occasion than adult drinkers. In 2008, there were approximately 190,000 emergency rooms visits by persons under age 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol. Youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience the following consequences:

•School problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades.
•Social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities.
•Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.
•Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses.
•Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.
•Disruption of normal growth and sexual development.
•Physical and sexual assault.
•Higher risk for suicide and homicide.
•Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning.
•Memory problems.
•Abuse of other drugs.
•Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.
•Death from alcohol poisoning.

Reducing underage drinking will require community-based efforts to monitor the activities of youth and decrease youth access to alcohol. Recent publications by the Surgeon General and the Institute of Medicine outlined many prevention strategies that will require actions on the national, state, and local levels, such as enforcement of minimum legal drinking age laws, national media campaigns targeting youth and adults, increasing alcohol excise taxes, reducing youth exposure to alcohol advertising, and development of comprehensive community-based programs.

However, parental involvement remains the single biggest deterrant to teens who want to abuse alcohol. When parents are engaged actively in the life of their teenagers, the likelihood of alcohol abuse decreases. Peers play a major role in teen drug use, but parents also play a big part by influencing who their children hang out with as well monitoring their activities, according to WebMD. Researchers found that when parents were tolerant about drug use, their children were more likely to have friends who used drugs. But children who felt their parents were closely monitoring their activities were less likely to use drugs or alcohol.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, talking with a child about the dangers of substance use and showing disapproval of such behavior is a key factor. It’s also essential to stay involved in a child’s day-to-day activities. See the report online at this address: .

Parents have good intentions, thinking the teenagers won't drink and drive, that they are safer staying at home, but it sends the wrong message. Adolescents interpret this behavior as an approval to drink alcoholic beverages. Teenagers whose parents provided alcoholic beverages for their children and their peers at a party were two times more likely to binge drink and to use alcohol within a 30 day period. Strict consequences of breaking the house rules regarding drinking also helped deter underage drinking among teens. If a teen thinks he or she will receive severe punishment (as perceived by the teen) if they are caught drinking, they are less likely to consume alcoholic beverages.

Also, according to the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, parents’ knowledge or awareness of what’s going on in their child’s life at college is associated with fewer risky behaviors. Specifically, students who said their fathers were in the loop had a lower likelihood of doing drugs or engaging in risky sexual behaviors. When mothers were in the know, students were less likely to drink alcohol. The protective effect of mothers’ awareness was more pronounced when the students also felt close to their mom. Under those circumstances, the researchers found that students were less likely to be involved in any of the three risk behavior categories studied: drugs, alcohol and risky sexual activity. Relationships between parents and children continue to be important during the transition to adulthood.

Children and teens need supervision when it comes to alcohol abuse and underage drinking. Parents and guardians are the most influential at younger ages, but peers tend to be more involved when kids get older into the mid to late teen years. Along with other substance abuse, like drugs and tobacco, adolescents can fall into alcoholic patterns caused by a variety of sources. Personal, family, and community factors increase a teen's risk for using substances and possibly developing a substance abuse problem, according to Much more detail about these issues can be found at this website:,,tp17749_uq2425,00.html .

Underage alcohol consumption is dangerous, and it can be prevented. However, there needs to be strong diligence on the part of those who supervise adolescents. However, when children and teens choose to break the law or to violate the trust of those responsible for them, the consequences are severe. They can be deadly in some cases if the abuse is beyond the norms of health care standards for safe consumption. With children, that bar is set very high by law and by the ethical, moral responsibility of their caretakers. Kids should not drink, for multiple reasons. Parents must be involved. Society knows the cost. Underage drinking most often leads to tragic results. Don't let your kids be the lead story on the nightly news because they were guilty of alcohol abuse or drinking under the legal age.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Health Care and Sinusitis

Your sinuses are acting up, you know it right away. Your nose is stuffy, you’re coughing, and you feel tired and achy. You think you might be getting a cold. Later, when the medicines you’ve been taking to relieve symptoms of the common cold are not working and you now have a terrible headache, you finally drag yourself to the doctor. After listening to your history of symptoms, examining your face and forehead, and perhaps doing a sinus X-ray, the doctor says you have sinusitis, according to the NIH.
When people say, "my sinuses are killing me," they usually are referring to symptoms of congestion and achiness in one or more of four pairs of cavities, or sinuses, known as paranasal sinuses, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). These cavities, located within the skull or bones of the head surrounding the nose, include:

•Frontal sinuses over the eyes in the brow area
•Maxillary sinuses inside each cheekbone
•Ethmoid sinuses just behind the bridge of the nose, between the eyes
•Sphenoid sinuses behind the ethmoids in the upper region of the nose and behind the eyes.

Each sinus has an opening into the nose for the free exchange of air and mucus, and each is joined with the nasal passages by a continuous mucous membrane lining. Anything that causes a swelling in the nose—an infection, an allergic reaction, or an inflammatory reaction to a chemical to which you may get exposed--can affect your sinuses, per the NIH. Air trapped within a blocked sinus, along with pus or other secretions may cause pressure on the sinus wall that can cause the intense pain of a sinus attack. Similarly, when air is prevented from entering a paranasal sinus by a swollen membrane at the opening, a vacuum can be created that also causes pain.

Commonly the symptoms of sinus infection are headache, facial tenderness, pressure or pain, and fever. However, as few as 25% of patients may have fever associated with acute sinus infection. Other common symptoms include:

•Cloudy, discolored nasal drainage,
•A feeling of nasal stuffiness,
•Sore throat, and

Some people notice an increased sensitivity or headache when they lean forward because of the additional pressure placed on the sinuses. Others may experience tooth or ear pain, fatigue, or bad breath. In noninfectious sinusitis, other associated allergy symptoms of itching eyes and sneezing may be common, but may include some of the symptoms listed above for infectious sinusitis. Nasal drainage is usually clear or whitish-colored in people with noninfectious sinusitis. According to, sinus infection is most often diagnosed based on a history and examination made by a doctor. Because plain X-ray studies of the sinuses may be misleading and procedures such as CT and MRI scans, which are much more sensitive in their ability to diagnose sinus infection, are so expensive and not available in most doctors offices, most cases of sinus infection are initially diagnosed and treated based on clinical findings on examination. These physical findings may include:

•Redness and swelling of the nasal passages,
•Purulent (pus like) drainage from the nasal passages (the symptom most likely to clinically diagnose a sinus infection),
•Tenderness to percussion (tapping) over the cheeks or forehead region of the sinuses, and
•Swelling about the eyes and cheeks.

Occasionally, nasal secretions are examined for secreted cells that may help differentiate between infectious and allergic sinusitis. Infectious sinusitis may show specialized cells of infection (polymorphonuclear cells) while allergic sinusitis may show specialized cells of allergy (eosinophils). Physicians prescribe antibiotics if bacterial infection is suspected. Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections; many physicians then treat the symptoms. If sinus infection fails to respond to the initial treatment prescribed, then more in-depth studies such as CT or MRI scans may be performed, according to MedicineNet. More detailed info can be found at .

Sinusitis simply means your sinuses are infected or inflamed, according to the NIH. But this gives little indication of the misery and pain this condition can cause. Health experts usually divide sinusitis cases into the following:

•Acute, which last up to 4 weeks.
•Subacute, which last 4 to 12 weeks.
•Chronic, which last more than 12 weeks and can continue for months or even years.
•Recurrent, with several acute attacks within a year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that close to 31 million adults suffer from chronic sinusitis, resulting in 15 billion doctor visits and more than 200,000 sinus surgical procedures every year. Acute sinusitis is more common, though there are no good estimates for the number of people who experience an episode of acute sinusitis every year. According to, the chief goal of treatment is wiping out bacteria from the sinus cavities with antibiotics. This helps to prevent complications, relieve symptoms, and reduce the risk of chronic sinusitis.

For acute, uncomplicated cases, a synthetic penicillin is used-most commonly amoxicillin (such as Amoxil, Polymox, Trimox). This antibiotic has good effectiveness against the usual microorganisms and is relatively inexpensive. Amoxicillin's main side effects include allergic reactions (throat swelling, hives) and stomach upset. People allergic to penicillin can take a sulfur-containing antibiotic called trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole or TMP/SMX (such as Bactrim, Cotrim, Septra). This drug is not recommended for people who are allergic to sulfur. People who have several episodes of partially treated acute sinusitis or those who have chronic sinusitis may become resistant to amoxicillin and TMP/SMX. Newer synthetic penicillins such as Augmentin, Ceftin, and Lorabid can clear most of the resistant organisms that cause sinus infection. Overuse of these "broader-spectrum" antibiotics will eventually lead to organisms evolving that can resist even the most potent antibiotics currently available. Therefore, simpler antibiotics such as amoxicillin should be used first and taken for the entire duration (14-21 days). The basic rule of thumb is to take the antibiotic until the symptoms disappear, then continue to take the antibiotic for 1 more week.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), Bacterial sinusitis is nearly always harmless (although uncomfortable and sometimes even very painful). If an episode becomes severe, antibiotics generally eliminate further problems. In rare cases, however, sinusitis can be very serious.

--Osteomyelitis. Adolescent males with acute frontal sinusitis are at particular risk for severe problems. One important complication is infection of the bones (osteomyelitis) of the forehead and other facial bones. In such cases, the patient usually experiences headache, fever, and a soft swelling over the bone known as Pott's puffy tumor.

--Infection of the Eye Socket. Infection of the eye socket, or orbital infection, which causes swelling and subsequent drooping of the eyelid, is a rare but serious complication of ethmoid sinusitis. In these cases, the patient loses movement in the eye, and pressure on the optic nerve can lead to vision loss, which is sometimes permanent. Fever and severe illness are usually present.

--Blood Clot. Blood clots are another danger, although rare, from ethmoid or frontal sinusitis. If a blood clot forms in the sinus area around the front and top of the face, symptoms are similar to orbital infection. In addition, the pupil may be fixed and dilated. Although symptoms usually begin on one side of the head, the process usually spreads to both sides.

--Brain Infection. The most dangerous complication of sinusitis, particularly frontal and sphenoid sinusitis, is the spread of infection by anaerobic bacteria to the brain, either through the bones or blood vessels. Abscesses, meningitis, and other life-threatening conditions may result. In such cases, the patient may experience mild personality changes, headache, altered consciousness, visual problems, and, finally, seizures, coma, and death.

The relationship between sinusitis and asthma is unclear, per the UMMC. A number of theories have been proposed for a causal or shared association between sinusitis and asthma. Successful treatment of both allergic rhinitis and chronic sinusitis in children who also have asthma may reduce symptoms of asthma. It is particularly important to treat any coexisting bacterial sinusitis in people with asthma. Patients might not respond to asthma treatments unless the infection is cleared up first. Pain, fatigue, and other symptoms of chronic sinusitis can have significant effects on the quality of life. This condition can cause emotional distress, impair normal activity, and reduce attendance at work or school. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the average patient with sinusitis misses about 4 work days a year, and sinusitis is one of the top 10 medical conditions that most adversely affect American employers. Here are some resources:
• -- American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
• -- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
• -- American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
• -- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease
• -- American Rhinologic Society
• -- National Immunization Program

Sinus headaches can be extremely painful, and sinusitis can be even more discomforting. If not treated right away, sinusitis can lead to more severe health care issues. If you feel that you are suffering from a sinus infection, go see your doctor or visit an urgent care clinic. Don't waste time feeling bad. The faster you are able to get medical attention, and perhaps applicable medication, the quicker you'll be on the road to recovery.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Health Care and Tattoos

When you start thinking about how cool it might be to have your body turned into a walking art gallery, it may be in your best interest to stop and think about the effects that a tattoo has on your skin and your health.  Apart from any social aspect relative to getting a permanent picture of your favorite relative, friend, animal, saying, or any other item you can think of placed on your skin, remember that this form of personal expression can create certain health issues both immediate and long term. For generations, people have been getting tattooed, and the science of this art form has improved since the days of natives getting their skin pierced with bamboo needles and natural pigmentation from home made dyes. And for the most part, assuming you are having the tattoo done by a reputable artist, the tattoo business is a fast growing and somewhat safe industry. 

According to, the word tattoo is said to has two major derivations- from the polynesian word ‘ta’ which means striking something and the tahitian word ‘tatau’ which means ‘to mark something’.
The history of tattoo began over 5000 years ago and is as diverse as the people who wear them. Tattoos are created by inserting colored materials beneath the skins surface. the first tattoos probably were created by accident. someone had a small wound, and rubbed it with a hand that was dirty with soot and ashes from the fire. once the wound had healed, they saw that a mark stayed permanently. Despite the social sciences' growing fascination with tattooing, and the immense popularity of tattoos themselves, the practice has not left much of a historical record. Evidence, though, has been found in Europe, Egypt, Asia, and other parts of the world where tattooing was a popular or often used way to declare social status.

The purpose of tattooing has varies from culture to culture and its place on the time line, according to But there are commonalties that prevail form the earliest known tattoos to those being done on college students and adults today all over the world. Tattoos have always had an important role in ritual and tradition. Throughout history tattoos have signified membership in a clan or society. Even today groups like the Hells Angels tattoo their particular group symbol. TV and movies have used the idea of a tattoo indication membership in a secret society numerous times. It has been believed that the wearer of an image calls the spirit of that image. The ferocity of a tiger would belong to the tattooed person. That tradition holds true today shown by the proliferation of images of tigers, snakes, and bird of prey.

Although tattoos are very popular now, tattoos involve needles and blood, and they carry several risks. These include transmission of diseases like hepatitis, tuberculosis and possibly HIV. When tattoo artists follow all the correct sterilization and sanitation procedures, risks for disease transmission are relatively low. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there has not been a documented case of HIV transmission from a tattoo. However, doctors warn that non-sterile tattooing practices can lead to the transmission of syphilis, hepatitis B and other infectious organisms.  Infections can occur in new tattoos, especially without appropriate aftercare. Some people also experience allergic reactions to tattoo inks.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a tattoo is a permanent mark or design made on your skin with pigments inserted through pricks into the skin's top layer. Typically, the tattoo artist uses a hand-held machine that acts much like a sewing machine, with one or more needles piercing the skin repeatedly. With every puncture, the needles insert tiny ink droplets. The process — which is done without anesthetics and may last up to several hours for a large tattoo — causes a small amount of bleeding and slight to potentially significant pain.

Although the pigments used may have U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for other purposes, the FDA does not regulate tattoo inks. Finally, some people experience pain or burning during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examinations because of metallic pigments. Some doctors have also reported interference and distorted MRI images from permanent makeup pigments. In addition, most states place restrictions on whether people who have tattoos can donate blood. Because of the danger of hepatitis, the American Red Cross will not accept blood from someone who has been tattooed in the past year unless the tattoo parlor is state-regulated. Most states do not regulate tattoo parlors.

According to Discovery Health, tattoo artists must also take special safety measures regarding their hands. Gloves help prevent disease transmission from bodily fluids, but bacteria thrive in the warm, damp environment they create. This means that artists must:
•Wash hands thoroughly and often.
•Inspect hands for cuts or sores and cover them with bandages.
•Remove hangnails and keep nails short to prevent punctures to gloves.
•Refrain from tattooing when experiencing lesions, dermatitis or allergic reactions.

Laws require minors to have a parent's permission to get a tattoo. So, some adolescents get tattoos from friends or amateurs, who use makeshift tools like pens and paper clips with little if any sanitary precautions. This is extremely dangerous, since proper equipment and sanitary measures protect people from disease and infection.

According to, it is extremely important to make sure that all tattooing equipment is clean and sterilized before use. Even if the needles are sterilized or never have been used, it is important to understand that in some cases the equipment that holds the needles cannot be sterilized reliably due to its design. In addition, the person who receives a tattoo must be sure to care for the tattooed area properly during the first week or so after the pigments are injected. There have been reports of people with tattoos or permanent makeup who experienced swelling or burning in the affected areas when they underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This seems to occur only rarely and apparently without lasting effects.  However, the risks of avoiding an MRI when your doctor has recommended one are likely to be much greater than the risks of complications from an interaction between the MRI and tattoo or permanent makeup. Instead of avoiding an MRI, individuals who have tattoos or permanent makeup should inform the radiologist or technician of this fact in order to take appropriate precautions, avoid complications, and assure the best results.

Although allergic reactions to tattoo pigments are rare, when they happen they may be particularly troublesome because the pigments can be hard to remove. Occasionally, people may develop an allergic reaction to tattoos they have had for years. Although tattoos may be satisfactory at first, they sometimes fade. Also, if the tattooist injects the pigments too deeply into the skin, the pigments may migrate beyond the original sites, resulting in a blurred appearance. Another cause of dissatisfaction is that the human body changes over time, and styles change with the season. The permanent makeup that may have looked flattering when first injected may later clash with changing skin tones and facial or body contours. People who plan to have facial cosmetic surgery are advised that the appearance of their permanent makeup may become distorted. The tattoo that seemed stylish at first may become dated and embarrassing. And changing tattoos or permanent makeup is not as easy as changing your mind. Despite advances in laser technology, removing a tattoo is a painstaking process, usually involving several treatments and considerable expense. Complete removal without scarring may be impossible. 

Temporary tattoos, such as those applied to the skin with a moistened wad of cotton, fade several days after application. Most contain color additives approved for cosmetic use on the skin, according to However, the FDA has issued an import alert for several foreign-made temporary tattoos. In a similar action, the FDA has issued an import alert for henna intended for use on the skin. Henna is approved only for use as a hair dye, not for direct application to the skin. Also, henna typically produces a reddish brown tint, raising questions about what ingredients are added to produce the varieties of colors labeled as "henna," such as "black henna" and "blue henna."

Medication or other treatment may be needed if you develop an allergic reaction, infection or other skin problem, according to the Mayo Clinic. In some cases, the tattoo may need to be removed. Keep in mind that tattoo inks are classified as cosmetics, so they aren't regulated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  To make sure your tattoo will be applied safely, answer these questions:

--Who does the tattooing? Go to a reputable tattooing studio that employs only properly trained employees. Keep in mind that regulation requirements and licensing standards vary from state to state. Check with your city, county or state health department for information on local licensing and regulations.

--Does the tattoo artist wear gloves? Make sure the tattoo artist washes his or her hands and wears a fresh pair of protective gloves for each procedure.

--Does the tattoo artist use proper equipment? Make sure the tattoo artist removes a needle and tubes from sealed packages before your procedure begins. Any pigments, trays and containers should be unused as well.

--Does the tattoo artist sterilize nondisposable equipment? Make sure the tattoo artist uses a heat sterilization machine (autoclave) to sterilize all nondisposable equipment after each customer. Instruments and supplies that can't be sterilized with an autoclave — including drawer handles, tables and sinks — should be disinfected with a commercial disinfectant or bleach solution after each use.

Also ask yourself whether you truly want to invest in permanent body art. Choose the location of the tattoo carefully. Don't get a tattoo if you're under the influence of alcohol or drugs or worry that you might regret the tattoo later.  How you care for your new tattoo depends on the type and extent of work done, according to the Mayo Clinic. Typically, however, you'll need to:

--Remove the bandage after 24 hours. Apply an antibiotic ointment to the tattooed skin while it's healing.
--Keep the tattooed skin clean. Use plain soap and water and a gentle touch. Pat — don't rub — the area dry.
--Use moisturizer. Apply a mild moisturizer to the tattooed skin several times a day.
--Avoid sun exposure. Keep the tattooed area out of the sun for at least a few weeks.
--Choose clothing carefully. Don't wear anything that would stick to the tattoo.
--Allow up to 2 weeks for healing. Don't pick at any scabs, which increases the risk of infection and can damage the design and cause scarring.

If you think your tattoo may be infected or you're concerned that your tattoo isn't healing properly, contact your doctor. If you're interested in tattoo removal, ask your dermatologist about laser surgery or other options for tattoo removal. REMEMBER, a tattoo that you think may be cool could cause long term damage to your skin and complicate your health. Don't make the decision lightly, but consider all the options before you go under the needle.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Health Care and Teen Sex

Sex is not a simple matter. Biologically speaking sex has but one purpose, to continue the species, but the psychological impact of being sexually active is where things get complicated, according to Why is sex such a big deal? Culturally speaking why have we turned a biological necessity in to a social conundrum? Sex is an essential part of the cycle of life and yet society teaches teens to avoid it for as long as possible. We teach teens that sex is dangerous and shameful, that engaging in it requires extreme caution and that there is more harm than good to be found in doing it. Is this a fair portrayal of something that is a very basic part of being human? Yes and no.

If you are a teen, how, when, where, why and with whom you have sex for the first time will have lasting psychological implications and will shape your attitude toward sex for the rest of your life. Take sex too seriously and you may grow up repressed, take it too lightly and your adult lifestyle could become overly promiscuous. This is the core reason why adults make sex out to be such serious and risky business. The physiological risks of having sex are obvious (pregnancy, STDs, etc…) but having sex will effect your emotional and psychological development as well and this is why adults urge you to abstain. You should wait until you are reasonably sure of how having sex will change your life and worldview; and being able to understand how sex may affect you requires a degree of self-awareness and maturity that most teens don’t yet have.

Teen pregnancy is by far the most publicized danger of underage sex, according to Statistics reveal that every year in the US, over 850,000 girls between the ages of fifteen and nineteen become pregnant. Equally worrying are the figures that suggest 20,000 girls under fourteen become pregnant annually; of those 8,000 go on to give birth. Promiscuity is an urgent issue. Teenagers are much more likely to engage in unprotected sex with multiple partners. Half of all people infected with the HIV virus annually are thought to be between the ages of 15 and 24. About 25 percent of all sexually active teens contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD) annually. Of those, eighty percent do not know they have a disease and run the risk of long-term health effects, such as infertility. Two percent of all girls between fifteen and nineteen have been diagnosed with Chlamydia.

Social liberals in the country’s “blue states” tend to support sex education and are not particularly troubled by the idea that many teen-agers have sex before marriage, but would regard a teen-age daughter’s pregnancy as devastating news. And the social conservatives in “red states” generally advocate abstinence-only education and denounce sex before marriage, but are relatively unruffled if a teen-ager becomes pregnant, as long as she doesn’t choose to have an abortion, according to Religion is a good indicator of attitudes toward sex, but a poor one of sexual behavior, and that this gap is especially wide among teen-agers who identify themselves as evangelical.

Evangelical Protestant teen-agers are significantly less likely than other groups to use contraception. This could be because evangelicals are also among the most likely to believe that using contraception will send the message that they are looking for sex. It could also be because many evangelicals are steeped in the abstinence movement’s warnings that condoms won’t actually protect them from pregnancy or venereal disease. More provocatively, only half of sexually active teen-agers who say that they seek guidance from God or the Scriptures when making a tough decision report using contraception every time. By contrast, sixty-nine per cent of sexually active youth who say that they most often follow the counsel of a parent or another trusted adult consistently use protection, according to

Parents dread the day that their child becomes sexually active. Girls in particular, seem to cause more concern because of the risk of teen pregnancy. Understanding why teenagers have sex is one of the most important steps towards dealing with the situation. No single factor can be blamed for all possible occurrences of teenage sex, according to However, some of the more common issues raised by teenagers include:

--Peer pressure — a feeling that everyone else is having sex.

--In girls more than boys, a belief that sex will keep their partner interested in them and will provide the love they crave.

--Media influence such as television, music and the Internet.

--A negative self-image, believing that participating in sexual activity can increase their popularity.

--A belief that having sex will make them more adult.

--Overly strict parents, increasing the chances of promiscuity when the opportunity arises.

Talking to teens about sex and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), according to, can be difficult for parents. Teens want to make their own decisions, but they are also influenced by their parents and their peers. Open communication between teens and parents is very important and helps teens to make healthy decisions. Studies show that young people whose parents talk to them about sex are less likely to engage in sexual activity.

According to, experts have this advice:

--Discuss sex with your child, from an early age, ideally pre-teen. Talking to your teen about sex encourages responsible behavior when it comes to sexual activity.

--Believe it or not, many teens feel that their parents are the most influential source of information on sex.

--Offer guidance, care and supervision. Teenagers are in need of parenting and feel more secure when boundaries are clear.

--Keep in mind that your teen gains a lot of information from simply watching how adults behave.

Sexuality is an important topic for your teenager. Tackle it early, sensitively and in a matter-of-fact manner. Keep the lines of communication open as much as possible. Help your teenager understand normal sexual urges and strategies for managing them healthfully.

True Love Waits, a Christian abstinence movement, has been clear about telling teens that sexual purity means abstaining from all sexual activity, including oral sex, according to Their support materials challenge teenagers to live Christ-like and pure in all ways in all relationships, with the promise itself centered around a lifetime of purity including sexual abstinence from the promise day until the day teens enter a biblical marriage relationship as adults. Church leaders and parents must avoid two extremes in dealing with teenagers' sexuality.

For most parents, the "birds and the bees" talk is one they dread. Yet, take a moment to think about what your child would learn if he or she did not hear it from you, according to With AIDS, STDs, pregnancy, and more all traps of a sexual world, it is important for teenagers to be educated about sex - and not just about abstinence. Having a conversation about sex thinking that your teen doesn't live in the information age will make your talk seem antiquated and lose its edge. Know that your teen is probably exposed to a lot of sexual information every day. There are ads that about on the Internet. Sex is on the cover of almost every magazine in the store. Boys and girls at school are probably talking about it regularly. Before you sit down with your teen, look around. Your teen is probably not as sheltered as you'd like to think.

When you actually look at the intimate life of America's youth, you find this heterodoxical pattern: People can seem raunchy on the surface but are wholesome within. In other words, American pop culture may look trashy, but America's social fabric is in the middle of an amazing moment of improvement and repair, according to Teenagers are starting to realize that the extreme sexuality they see in the movies, on television and in music videos is make-believe when what matters is reality. For those teens confused about where to draw the line on the broad scale from holding hands to intercourse, sexual purity in every dimension should be the goal. While sexual purity certainly includes abstaining from sexual intercourse until marriage, it is more than just setting limits on one's behavior. A Christian perspective guides teens toward purity and to seek it in their attitudes and actions.

Avoid going over a laundry list of reasons not to have sex. Sit down with your teen and have a real conversation. If you need to write things down, go ahead, but avoid giving a speech. Make it a dialogue about sex. Listen when your teen has something to say, and avoid making it an argument. Understand your teen lives in a very different generation that is far more open about sex than previous generations, according to While the dialogue may be shocking at first, the conversation will stay with your teen for years to come.

While most parents of teens would like to think that talking about abstinence is enough, the unfortunate fact is that many teens (Christian and non-Christian alike) have sex before marriage. While it is important to tell your teens why not having sex before marriage is ideal, you cannot just skip over the talk about having safe sex. Be prepared to talk about condoms, birth control pills, and more. Don't be afraid to discuss STDs and AIDS. Understand your facts about rape and abortion, according to Be educated about those topics, before you talk about them so you aren't taken off guard when you're asked. If you don't know - then take the time to look it up. There will be a lot of talk floating around them about sex, make sure they have the right information.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Health Care and Parkinson's

Parkinson's disease is one of a larger group of neurological conditions called motor system disorders. Historians have found evidence of the disease as far back as 5000 B.C. It was first described as "the shaking palsy" in 1817, by British doctor James Parkinson. Because of Parkinson's early work in identifying symptoms, the disease came to bear his name, according to If you or someone you know has Parkinson's disease you are not alone.  In the United States, 50-60,000 new cases of PD are diagnosed each year, adding to the one million people who currently have PD.  In fact, it is estimated that four to six million people around the world suffer from the condition. There is hope, however, as scientists work towards a cure and make progress in identifying the best treatment options for patients, according to the National Parkinson's Foundation.

In the normal brain, some nerve cells produce the chemical dopamine, which transmits signals within the brain to produce smooth movement of muscles. In Parkinson's patients, 80 percent or more of these dopamine-producing cells are damaged, dead, or otherwise degenerated. According to, this causes the nerve cells to fire wildly, leaving patients unable to control their movements. Symptoms usually show up in one or more of four ways:
  • tremor, or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face
  • rigidity, or stiffness of limbs and trunk
  • bradykinesia, or slowness of movement
  • postural instability or impaired balance and coordination.
Though full-blown Parkinson's can be crippling or disabling, experts say early symptoms of the disease may be so subtle and gradual that patients sometimes ignore them or attribute them to the effects of aging. At first, patients may feel overly tired, "down in the dumps," or a little shaky. Their speech may become soft and they may become irritable for no reason. Movements may be stiff, unsteady, or unusually slow.

As these symptoms become more pronounced, patients may have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), PD usually affects people over the age of 50.  Early symptoms of PD are subtle and occur gradually.  In some people the disease progresses more quickly than in others.  As the disease progresses, the shaking, or tremor, which affects the majority of PD patients may begin to interfere with daily activities.  Other symptoms may include depression and other emotional changes; difficulty in swallowing, chewing, and speaking; urinary problems or constipation; skin problems; and sleep disruptions.  There are currently no blood or laboratory tests that have been proven to help in diagnosing sporadic PD.  Therefore the diagnosis is based on medical history and a neurological examination.  The disease can be difficult to diagnose accurately.   Doctors may sometimes request brain scans or laboratory tests in order to rule out other diseases.

PD is both chronic, meaning it persists over a long period of time, and progressive, meaning its symptoms grow worse over time, according to the NIH.  Although some people become severely disabled, others experience only minor motor disruptions. Tremor is the major symptom for some patients, while for others tremor is only a minor complaint and other symptoms are more troublesome.  No one can predict which symptoms will affect an individual patient, and the intensity of the symptoms also varies from person to person.

This may come as a surprise to you, but there is no PD test to confirm whether or not a person has PD, according to PD is a clinical diagnosis and most of the time, the neurologist may order brain scans and blood tests to rule out any other medical conditions, that may have symptoms similar to PD. So, a neurologist will make the diagnosis based on:
  • A detailed medical history and physical examination.
  • A detailed history of your current and past medications, to make sure you are not taking medications that can cause symptoms similar to PD.
  • A detailed neurological examination during which a neurologist will ask you to perform tasks to assess the agility of arms and legs, muscle tone, your gait and your balance. 
  • You may notice that a neurologist records your exam into a table, called United Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS). UPDRS is a universal scale of PD symptoms and it was created to comprehensively assess and document the exam of the patient with PD and be able to compare it with patient’s future follow up visits, or to communicate about the progression of the PD symptoms in each patient with other neurologists. 
  • The response to medications (that imitate or stimulate the production of Dopamine) causing a significant improvement in symptoms is how the diagnosis of PD is made clinically.
Since the late 1990s, deep brain stimulation (DBS) has proven to be a lifeline for some patients suffering from Parkinson's disease, according to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. The procedure is used only for patients whose symptoms cannot be adequately controlled with medications. A neurosurgeon uses magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography to identify the exact target within the brain where abnormal electrical nerve signals generate the disease's tremors and other symptoms, and a neurostimulator is then surgically implanted to deliver electrical stimulation to that area to block the signals. The goal, ultimately, is to improve the patient's quality of life.Yet despite its effectiveness, there has been no consensus on several aspects of the use DBS, including which patients make the best candidates, where the optimal location for the placement of electrodes is, and the role that still exists for surgical removal of the damaged areas of the brain.

Managing your care, if you have PD, means not only finding the right doctor, but ensuring you are prepared for your visit and talking to your doctors about the right issues. It means, not just taking your medications, but keeping track of when you need to take them. According to the Parkinson's Foundation, it also might mean using other complementary therapies (speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy). People with Parkinson’s are best served by a multi-disciplinary approach that provides not only the expertise of a PD specialist, but also the help of a physical therapist, speech therapist, nutritionist and social worker. Some people also require medical consultants in areas such as psychiatry and neurosurgery. It is important that these healthcare professionals are aware of each other and communicate regularly, and that they all know the full list of treatments and medications that each is prescribing. Start managing your care today by doing the following:

--Work with your Doctor.
--Learn to cope with symptoms.
--Manage your medications.
--Learn more about proper nutrition.
--Use Complementary Therapies.
--Find Support.
--Stay Independent.
--Become an Advocate.

Parkinson's Disease is very debilitating, and can cause long term health care issues. Learn more from your health care provider if you suspect that you or someone you know may be exhibiting symptoms. Although PD has no cure, you can learn to live with the disease.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.