Monday, January 30, 2012

Health Care and Nutrition

A poor diet can have an injurious impact on health, causing deficiency diseases such as diabetes, scurvy, obesity, heart disease, and more. Nutrition, or the nourishment to the body in the form of food, is essential for a healthy lifestyle. Many common health problems can be prevented or alleviated with a healthy diet. Clinical nutritionists are health professionals who focus more specifically on the role of nutrition in chronic disease, including possible prevention or remediation by addressing nutritional deficiencies before resorting to drugs.

For many people, January is a time to recommit to a healthy diet and lifestyle.  And, there are so many good reasons to eat healthier: to lose weight, to have more energy, to stay healthier. Lots of tips and healthy eating information can be found on this site to help you: Plus, additional very good data about nutrition can be found at this site: . Also, the Harvard School of Public Health has a library of nutrition articles on their site that provides a broad spectrum of material on this subject:

Nutrition is about the study of food and how bodies use food as fuel for growth and daily activities. The macronutrients, or "big" nutrients include proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. The micronutrients, or "little" nutrients are the vitamins and minerals that you need to be healthy.

According to Nutrition Guide, and expert Shereen Jegtvig, whether it's a resolution you set for January 1, or a goal you start mid-year to reach, you can make the next year of your life a healthier one. She provides 10 steps to a healthier you for this year:

1.) The first step is to take a look at what your diet and health have been like for the last 12 months. Think about questions like these and write down your answers in a notebook so that you can look back them again a year from now:

•How does your weight compare with a year ago?
•Do you feel healthy and have a lot of energy or are you tired all the time?
•Do you take vitamins or other nutritional supplements?
•Do you eat at home most of the time? If so, what types of foods? Whole fresh foods, boxed foods or TV dinners?
•If you eat in a restaurant, what types of restaurants do you go to and what types of foods do you choose?
•How physically active are you? Do you exercise regularly?
•Do you eat healthy size portions, or do you stuff yourself with every meal?
•Do you smoke?
•How much alcohol do you drink each week?

It is important to take an honest look at your health and dietary habits in order to set goals for your health and diet. The remaining Nine Steps are found on the site where Shereen regularly contributes material about nutrition and healthy living:
These days, a wealth of nutrition information is at your finger tips. From diet books to newspaper articles, everyone seems to have an opinion about what you should be eating. It's no secret that good nutrition plays an essential role in maintaining health, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). And, while you already know it is important to eat a healthy diet, you may find it more difficult to sort through all of the information about nutrition and food choices. The CDC has compiled a variety of resources to help you start healthier eating habits. Some very good info about the topic is found here: For nutritional facts especially about youth, the CDC has some very impressive data. Here is an overview:
1.) Benefits of Healthy Eating:

--Proper nutrition promotes the optimal growth and development of children.
--Healthy eating helps prevent high cholesterol and high blood pressure and helps reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.
--Healthy eating helps reduce one’s risk for developing obesity, osteoporosis, iron deficiency, and dental caries (cavities).

2.) Consequences of a Poor Diet:

--A poor diet can lead to energy imbalance (e.g., eating more calories than one expends through physical activity) and can increase one’s risk for overweight and obesity.
--A poor diet can increase the risk for lung, esophageal, stomach, colorectal, and prostate cancers.
--Individuals who eat fast food one or more times per week are at increased risk for weight gain, overweight, and obesity.
--Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages can result in weight gain, overweight, and obesity.
--Providing access to drinking water gives students a healthy alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages.
--Hunger and food insecurity (i.e., reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns because a household lacks money and other resources for food) might increase the risk for lower dietary quality and undernutrition. In turn, undernutrition can negatively affect overall health, cognitive development, and school performance.

3.) Eating Behaviors of Young People:

--Most U.S. youth Do not meet the recommendations for eating 2½ cups to 6½ cups* of fruits and vegetables each day.
--Do not eat the minimum recommended amounts of whole grains (2–3 ounces* each day).
--Eat more than the recommended maximum daily intake of sodium (1,500–2,300 mg* each day) .
--Empty calories from added sugars and solid fats contribute to 40% of daily calories for children and adolescents aged 2–18 years, affecting the overall quality of their diets. Approximately half of these empty calories come from six sources: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk.
--Adolescents drink more full-calorie soda per day than milk. Males aged 12–19 years drink an average of 22 ounces of full-calorie soda per day, more than twice their intake of fluid milk (10 ounces), and females drink an average of 14 ounces of full-calorie soda and only 6 ounces of fluid milk.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free and low-fat dairy products for persons aged 2 years and older. The guidelines also recommend that children, adolescents, and adults limit intake of solid fats (major sources of saturated and trans fatty acids), cholesterol, sodium, added sugars, and refined grains. Unfortunately, most young people are not following the recommendations set forth in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Following nutritional guidelines for your everyday health helps to keep you directed toward a healthier diet, lifestyle, and overall personal physical and mental wellbeing. Keeping your focus on ways to maintain healthy eating habits, although not 100% available at some times, should assist you in establishing a good food regimen, and help reduce the potential for most chronic diseases. For more information about nutrition for your personal health, visit your primary care doctor, and get referrals for a nutritionist or a dietician if you have special needs.

Until next time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Health Care and Dandruff

You know that flaky white stuff that shows up on your scalp or in your hair, and often on your shirt or blouse shoulder tops? It can be very embarrassing to most people, and extremely inconvenient at times. That dry skin that drifts down from your head can be very light or, in extreme cases, look like an avalanche on a snow covered mountain. Those white patches showing  up on your clothes around your neck and clothing is called dandruff, which is dry, dead skin that has loosened from your scalp and is causing you to have an itchy head and an unsightly appearance.

According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), Seborrheic Dermatitis is a common, inflammatory skin condition that causes flaky, white to yellowish scales to form on oily areas such as the scalp or inside the ear. It can occur with or without reddened skin. Cradle cap is the term used when seborrheic dermatitis affects the scalp of infants. Seborrheic dermatitis is thought to be due to a combination of an over production of skin oil and irritation from a yeast called malessizia. Seborrheic dermatitis appears to run in families. Stress, fatigue, weather extremes, oily skin, infrequent shampoos or skin cleaning, use of lotions that contain alcohol, skin disorders (such as acne), or obesity may increase the risk.

Neurologic conditions, including Parkinson's disease, head injury, and stroke may be associated with seborrheic dermatitis. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has also been linked to increased cases of seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis can occur on many different body areas. Usually, it forms where the skin is oily or greasy. Commonly affected areas include the scalp, eyebrows, eyelids, creases of the nose, lips, behind the ears, in the outer ear, and middle of the chest. Seborrheic dermatitis in infants, also called cradle cap, is a harmless, temporary condition. It appears as thick, crusty, yellow or brown scales over the child's scalp. Similar scales may also be found on the eyelids, ear, around the nose, and in the groin. Cradle cap may be seen in newborns and small children up to age 3 .

Cradle cap is not contagious, nor is it caused by poor hygiene. It is not an allergy, and it is not dangerous. Cradle cap may or may not itch. If it itches, excessive scratching of the area may cause additional inflammation, and breaks in skin may cause mild infections or bleeding. In general, symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include:

•Skin lesions
•Plaques over large area
•Greasy, oily areas of skin
•Skin scales -- white and flaking, or yellowish, oily, and adherent -- "dandruff"
•Itching -- may become more itchy if infected
•Mild redness
•Hair loss

According to, for the majority of people, dandruff problems begin with the onset of puberty. (If there are flakes visible in a child’s hair before puberty it’s worth consulting your doctor as it may indicate a more serious condition). During puberty, our bodies start producing much more testosterone. This hormone affects more than just hair growth. Testosterone can also have a dramatic effect upon the production of sebum, an entirely natural substance. Sebum is a greasy substance that protects our scalps and makes it difficult for micro-organisms to live there. However, one organism has adapted to live off sebum. It’s entirely natural that it lives on the areas of our bodies where our skin contains more “natural oils”, like the scalp. The microorganism produces oleic acid which it deposits on our scalps. The way our bodies respond to this causes irritation of the top layer of skin and this leads to an increased turnover of skin cells. They also clump together so we see them as flakes of dandruff. So that’s basically what dandruff is: a scalp reaction that leads to a speeding up of your natural cycle of skin replenishment.

The condition can become troublesome when the skin gets infected, according to Home Remedies for There are two main types of dandruff, namely dry dandruff and oily dandruff. Those with an oily skin tend to suffer from oily dandruff while those with dry skin suffer from dry dandruff. The type of dandruff home remedy that one chooses must therefore be decided according to the type of dandruff. Oily dandruff can be a little tougher to treat as it tends to recur quite easily while dry dandruff can be prevented quite easily. Nevertheless, with a suitable dandruff home remedy and a regular hair care regimen, you can get obtain permanent relief from this condition. While most people see dandruff as a purely cosmetic problem that can be embarrassing at times, dandruff can have several serious repercussions.

Dandruff increases one’s risk of scalp infections, especially dry skin conditions, like psoriasis and it can also cause loss of hair which is generally temporary but which can be permanent. Dandruff can also cause itching on your forehead and face as it settles on your skin. This may explain why some people tend to confuse the itchiness and skin irritation symptoms of lice, or rather head lice with dandruff. A dandruff home remedy needs to be used for a prolonged period to ensure that the condition is successfully treated. Very often, people use home remedies for dandruff for just a week or so and as soon as the dandruff has seemed to have cleared, they stop the treatment.

However, discontinuing treatment before the condition has cleared completely will cause the problem to resurface. A dandruff home remedy is usually made up of natural ingredients and can be used for at least two weeks or so as this will ensure permanent relief.  While information on home treatments and remedies may help you learn how to get rid of dandruff naturally, it’s often not easy to differentiate between dandruff vs dry scalp. You should consult a physician if you have a serious case of dry scalp or dandruff for more professional medical advice. For more home remedies and information about treatment, visit this website:

According to Medical News Today (MTN), most experts do agree that dandruff is not caused by poor hygiene. Here are some probable causes in most individuals:

1.) Not enough hair brushing - People who do not comb/brush their hair regularly have a slightly higher risk of having dandruff - this is because they are not aiding the shedding of skin that combing/brushing provides.

2.) Yeast - People who are sensitive to yeast have a slightly higher risk of having dandruff, so it is logical to assume that yeast may play a part. Yeast-sensitive people who get dandruff find that it gets better during the warmer months and worse during the winter. UVA light from the sun counteracts the yeast. Some say, though, that during winter the skin is drier because of cold air and overheated rooms (exposure to extreme temperatures), making dandruff more likely. So, it is sometimes not that easy to know whether it is yeast or just dry skin.

3.) Dry skin - people with dry skin tend to get dandruff more often. Winter cold air, combined with overheated rooms is a common cause of itchy, flaking skin. People with dandruff caused by dry skin tend to have small flakes of dandruff; the flakes are not oily.

4.) Seborrheic dermatitis (irritated, oily skin) - People with seborrheic dermatitis are very prone to dandruff. Seborrheic dermatitis affects many areas of the skin, including the backs of the ears, the breastbone, eyebrows, and the sides of the nose, not just the scalp. The patient will have red, greasy skin covered with flaky white or yellow scales.

5.) Not enough shampooing - some people say that if you don't shampoo enough there can be a buildup of oil and dead skin cells, causing dandruff. However, many experts doubt this is true.

6.) Certain skin conditions - People with psoriasis, eczema and some other skin disorders tend to get dandruff much more frequently than other people.

7.) Some illnesses - Adults with Parkinson's disease and some other neurological illnesses are more prone to having dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. Patients recovering from heart attacks and strokes, and some people with weak immune systems may have dandruff more often than other people.

8.) Reaction to hair/skin care products - Some people react to some hair care products with a red, itchy, scaling scalp. Many experts say that shampooing too often may cause dandruff as it can irritate the scalp.

9.) Malassezia - Malassezia is a fungus that lives on everybody's scalp. Generally, it will cause no problems at all. However, it can grow out of control. It feeds on the oils our hair follicles secrete. When this happens the scalp can become irritated and produces extra skin cells. These extra skin cells die and fall off; they mix with the oil from the hair and scalp, and turn into what we see as dandruff.

10.) Diet - Some experts say that people who do not consume enough foods that contain zinc, B vitamins, and some types of fats are more prone to dandruff.

11.) Mental stress - Experts believe there is a link between stress and many skin problems.

12.) HIV - A study found that 10.6% of people with HIV have seborrheic dermatitis.

Two factors should be considered when you treat dandruff, according to MTN: 1. Your age. 2. The severity of your dandruff. Shampoos and products for the scalp are available OTC (over-the-counter, no prescription needed) at most supermarkets, pharmacies and many corner shops. It is important to remember that seborrheic dermatitis can be controlled, but not cured with these products. Before using an antifungal shampoo see if you can remove any scaly or crusty patches on your scalp - do this with care. If you manage to remove them the shampoo will be more effective. If you have dandruff on your beard you can use dandruff shampoo on it. Most anti-dandruff or anti-fungal shampoos contain at least one of the following active ingredients:

1.) Zinc pyrithione - an ingredient which slows down the production of yeast.

2.) Selenium sulphide - this reduces the production of natural oils your scalp glands produce.

3.) Coal tar - this has a natural anti-fungal agent. If your hair is dyed or treated remember that long-term coal tar usage can stain the hair.

4.) Ketoconazole - a very effective anti-fungal. Most people who use this are pleased with the results. Experts say shampoos with this ingredient can be used with young and elderly people.

5.) Salicylic acids - these help your scalp get rid of skin cells. It does not slow down the reproduction of skin cells. Many "scalp scrubs" contain salicylic acids. Some people find salicylic acid treatments leave their scalps dry and eventually make the flaking of the skin worse.

6.) Tea-tree oil - This oil comes from the Australian Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia). A growing number of shampoos now include tea-tree oil as one of its ingredients. It has been used for centuries as an antifungal, antibiotic, and an antiseptic. However, some people are allergic to it.

7.) Green Tea potential - Researchers from the Medical College of Georgia in the US found that green tea may have potential for the treatment of dandruff and psoriasis.

Ideally, select a shampoo that has one of the above ingredients and shampoo your hair with it every day until your dandruff is under control. When that happens use them less frequently. You may find a particular shampoo stops being so effective after while, if this occurs switch to one that has another ingredient. Make sure the shampoo has time to stay on your scalp before you rinse it off - perhaps about five minutes. If you rinse it off too quickly the ingredient will not have enough time to work. If after several weeks of treating yourself you still have dandruff, you should consider seeing your doctor or a dermatologist (skin specialist).

A person with dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis will hardly every experience complications. If one were to occur, it would more likely to be caused by one of the dandruff treatments. If you find one of your dandruff shampoos, or scalp treatments is causing irritation, stop using it and ask your pharmacist to suggest another one. Bacteria can get in under your skin if there is a break on the skin of the scalp. If this happens, and you feel unwell, or that area of skin is red, tender and swollen, go and see your doctor.

Until next time.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Health Care and Posture

Are you the kind of person who walks or sits with good posture, or are you guilty of slouching through life? When you sit or stand, is your back aligned with the rest of your body, so that you could support a book on the top of  your head without it sliding off? Have you seen those movies that show someone trying to learn to walk with a perfect gait? Pretty comical, right? But the truth of the matter is that good posture leads to good health.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, posture is the position in which you hold your body upright against gravity while standing, sitting or lying down. Good posture involves training your body to stand, walk, sit and lie in positions where the least strain is placed on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement or weight-bearing activities. Proper posture:

--Keeps bones and joints in the correct alignment so that muscles are being used properly.
--Helps decrease the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that could result in arthritis.
--Decreases the stress on the ligaments holding the joints of the spine together.
--Prevents the spine from becoming fixed in abnormal positions.
--Prevents fatigue because muscles are being used more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy.
--Prevents strain or overuse problems.
--Prevents backache and muscular pain.
--Contributes to a good appearance.

A good posture means maintaining the two natural curves at your back – (1) the concave curve from base of your head to your shoulders and (2) the concave curve from your upper back to the base of your spine. It’s like the shape of 2 C’s on your back, according to Personal Excellence. When you are in the right posture, it should feel almost effortless to maintain the position. When you stand, your weight of your body should be evenly distributed across the balls of feet (not the heels or the front). Take a minute out now and examine your current posture in front of a mirror (full-length if possible; otherwise get one that allows you to see at least the upper half of your body). Does it fit the description of a good posture? Much more detail can be found at their site:

According to the Cleveland Clinic, here are proper posture techniques for the following situations:

1.) Correct Sitting Position:
Sit up with your back straight and your shoulders back. Your buttocks should touch the back of your chair.

--All three normal back curves should be present while sitting. A small, rolled-up towel or a lumbar roll can be used to help you maintain the normal curves in your back.

Here's how to find a good sitting position when you're not using a back support or lumbar roll:
--Sit at the end of your chair and slouch completely.
--Draw yourself up and accentuate the curve of your back as far as possible. Hold for a few seconds.
--Release the position slightly (about 10 degrees). This is a good sitting posture.
--Distribute your body weight evenly on both hips.
--Bend your knees at a right angle. Keep your knees even with or slightly higher than your hips. (use a foot rest or stool if necessary). Your legs should not be crossed.
--Keep your feet flat on the floor.
--Try to avoid sitting in the same position for more than 30 minutes.
--At work, adjust your chair height and work station so you can sit up close to your work and tilt it up at you. Rest your elbows and arms on your chair or desk, keeping your shoulders relaxed.

--When sitting in a chair that rolls and pivots, don't twist at the waist while sitting. Instead, turn your whole body.
--When standing up from the sitting position, move to the front of the seat of your chair. Stand up by straightening your legs. Avoid bending forward at your waist. Immediately stretch your back by doing 10 standing backbends.

2.) Correct Driving Position:

--Use a back support (lumbar roll) at the curve of your back. Your knees should be at the same level or higher than your hips.
--Move the seat close to the steering wheel to support the curve of your back. The seat should be close enough to allow your knees to bend and your feet to reach the pedals.

3.) Correct Lifting Position:

--If you must lift objects, do not try to lift objects that are awkward or are heavier than 30 pounds.

--Before you lift a heavy object, make sure you have firm footing.
--To pick up an object that is lower than the level of your waist, keep your back straight and bend at your knees and hips. Do not bend forward at the waist with your knees straight.
--Stand with a wide stance close to the object you are trying to pick up and keep your feet firm on the ground. Tighten your stomach muscles and lift the object using your leg muscles. Straighten your knees in a steady motion. Don't jerk the object up to your body.
--Stand completely upright without twisting. Always move your feet forward when lifting an object.
--If you are lifting an object from a table, slide it to the edge to the table so that you can hold it close to your body. Bend your knees so that you are close to the object. Use your legs to lift the object and come to a standing position.
--Avoid lifting heavy objects above waist level.
--Hold packages close to your body with your arms bent. Keep your stomach muscles tight. Take small steps and go slowly.
--To lower the object, place your feet as you did to lift, tighten stomach muscles and bend your hips and knees.

What is the best position for sleeping and lying down, according to the Cleveland Clinic?

--No matter what position you lie in, the pillow should be under your head, but not your shoulders, and should be a thickness that allows your head to be in a normal position.

--Try to sleep in a position which helps you maintain the curve in your back (such as on your back with a pillow under your knees or a lumbar roll under your lower back; or on your side with your knees slightly bent). Do not sleep on your side with your knees drawn up to your chest. You may want to avoid sleeping on your stomach, especially on a saggy mattress, since this can cause back strain and can be uncomfortable for your neck.

--Select a firm mattress and box spring set that does not sag. If necessary, place a board under your mattress. You can also place the mattress on the floor temporarily if necessary. If you've always slept on a soft surface, it may be more painful to change to a hard surface. Try to do what's most comfortable for you.

--Try using a back support (lumbar support) at night to make you more comfortable. A rolled sheet or towel tied around your waist may be helpful.

--When standing up from the lying position, turn on your side, draw up both knees and swing your legs on the side of the bed. Sit up by pushing yourself up with your hands. Avoid bending forward at your waist.

--The above advice will benefit a majority of people with back pain. If any of the above guidelines causes an increase of pain or spreading of pain to the legs, do not continue the activity and seek the advice of a physician or physical therapist.

There are many websites that provide great information about good posture. The Mayo Clinic even has a slide show with photos about what good posture is. There are illustrations of how you should properly stand and sit, with other pictures that show good posture: Here are some more good sites for valuable material on this health care subject: ;;;;

One element of maintaining good posture, especially when sitting, is to have a good chair that ergonomically supports you. When you sit in a chair that is not designed well, primarily in many cases when you are doing lots of office work at your desk, or sitting in front of a computer screen all day, you can suffer from problems related to that body stress. Extremely good info about this subject can be found at this website at They  recently published an article called "18 Important Ergonomics Tips for Online Students & Workers ". You can find the article here: ( 

Bad posture is no joke. Lots of people think it looks cool to slouch, but the reality is that you are damaging muscles and other parts of your body that suffer both short and long term. There are times that you can get away with posture that is not 100% correct, but don't make it a habit. If you have issues now from bad posture, you should see a physician or physical therapist to help you get control of properly sitting, standing, and sleeping. Good posture makes you look better and feel better.
Until next time.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Health Care and Common Colds

This time of year, many people are afflicted with sore throats, runny noses and sniffles, and other symptoms that physicians refer to as the common cold. When you get one of these, you feel pretty awful for a few days. But life does go on. Dealing with the inconvenience of this malady is what everyone has done no matter whether you are male or female, adult or child, or wherever you live. Colds are common, and they are a nuisance. However, in most cases, they are not fatal. It is possible that with neglect, they could develop into something worse. But, for the most part, colds are limited in scope as to how they affect your health care.

According to the Health section in the NY Times, It is called the “common cold” for good reason. There are over one billion colds in the United States each year. You and your children will probably have more colds than any other type of illness. Colds are the most common reason that children miss school and parents miss work. Parents often get colds from their children. Children typically get up to eight colds every year. They usually get them from other children. A cold can spread quickly through schools or daycares. Colds can occur at any time of the year, but they are most common in the winter or rainy seasons. A cold virus spreads through tiny, air droplets that are released when the sick person sneezes, coughs, or blows their nose. People are most contagious for the first 2 or 3 days, but not usually after the first week of the cold. You can catch a cold if:

--A person with a cold sneezes, coughs, or blows their nose near you
--You touch your nose, eyes, or mouth after you have touched something contamined by the virus, such as a toy or doorknob.

According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), Cold symptoms usually occur within 2 or 3 days after you came in contact with the virus, although it could take up to a week. Symptoms mostly affect the nose. The most common cold symptoms are:

•Nasal congestion
•Runny nose
•Scratchy throat

Adults and older children with colds generally have a low fever or no fever. Young children often run a fever around 100-102°F. Depending on which virus caused your cold, you may also have:

•Decreased appetite
•Muscle aches
•Postnasal drip
•Sore throat

There are a variety of treatments when you get a cold. According to NIH,  you should get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids.

1.) COLD MEDICINES: Over-the-counter cold and cough medicines may help ease symptoms in adults and older children. They do not make your cold go away faster, but can help you feel better. Over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines are not recommended for children under age 6. Talk to your doctor before giving your child any type of over-the-counter or nonprescription cough medicine, even if the label says it is made for children. These medicines likely will not work for children, and may have serious side effects.

2.) ANTIBIOTICS: Antibiotics should not be used to treat a common cold. They will not help and may make the situation worse. Thick yellow or green nasal discharge normally occurs with a cold after a few days. If it does not get better within 10 to 14 days, then your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

3.) OTHER MEDICINES: Newer antiviral drugs used to relieve flu symptoms do not help reduce cold symptoms.

4.) ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS--Alternative treatments that have been used for colds include:
•Chicken soup--this remedy has been used for centuries, and it really helps. The heat, fluid, and salt helps to fight infection.
•Vitamin C--very popular. Research shows it does not prevent colds in many adults, but those who take it regularly seem to have slightly shorter colds and milder symptoms. Taking Vitamin C after you have the cold does not seem to be helpful.
•Zinc--Supplements taken for at least 5 days may reduce your risk of catching the common cold. Taking a zinc supplement within 24 hours of when you first feel sick may make your cold symptoms less severe and help them go away faster.
•Echinacea--this herb has been promoted as a natural way for preventing colds and the flu, and for making symptoms less severe. However, high quality studies have failed to show that echinacea helps prevent or treat colds.

Alternative treatments are safe for most people. However, some alternative treatments may cause side effects or allergic reactions. For example, some people are allergic to echinacea. Herbs and supplements may also change the way other medicines work. Talk to your doctor before trying an alternative treatment.

You may not be able to cure your common cold, but you can make yourself as comfortable as possible. According to the Mayo Clinic, these tips may help:

--Drink lots of fluids. Water, juice, clear broth or warm lemon water are all good choices. They help replace fluids lost during mucus production or fever. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can cause dehydration, and cigarette smoke, which can aggravate your symptoms.

--Try chicken soup. Generations of parents have spooned chicken soup into their sick children's mouths. Now scientists have put chicken soup to the test, discovering that it does seem to help relieve cold and flu symptoms in two ways. First, it acts as an anti-inflammatory by inhibiting the movement of neutrophils — immune system cells that help the body's response to inflammation. Second, it temporarily speeds up the movement of mucus through the nose, helping relieve congestion and limiting the time viruses are in contact with the nasal lining.

--Get some rest. If possible, stay home from work if you have a fever or a bad cough, or are drowsy after the medications. This will give you a chance to rest as well as reduce the chances that you'll infect others. Wear a mask when you have a cold if you live or work with someone with a chronic disease or compromised immune system.

--Adjust your room's temperature and humidity. Keep your room warm, but not overheated. If the air is dry, a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer can moisten the air and help ease congestion and coughing. Be sure to keep the humidifier clean to prevent the growth of bacteria and molds.

--Soothe your throat. A saltwater gargle — 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon (1.2 milliliters to 2.5 milliliters) salt dissolved in an 8-ounce (237 milliliters) glass of warm water — can temporarily relieve a sore or scratchy throat. Use saline nasal drops. To help relieve nasal congestion, try saline nasal drops. You can buy these drops over-the-counter, and they're effective, safe and nonirritating, even for children. In infants, experts recommend instilling several saline drops into one nostril, then gently suctioning that nostril with a bulb syringe (push the bulb in about 1/4 to 1/2 inch, or about 6 to 12 millimeters). Doing this before feeding your baby can improve your child's ability to nurse or take a bottle, and before bedtime it may improve sleep. Saline nasal sprays may be used in older children.

Here are five proven ways, according to the NY Times, to help lower your chances of getting sick:

--Always wash your hands: Children and adults should wash hands after nose-wiping, diapering, and using the bathroom, and before eating and preparing food.
--Disinfect: Clean commonly touched surfaces (such as sink handles, door knobs, and sleeping mats) with an EPA-approved disinfectant.
--Choose smaller daycare classes: Attending a day care where there are six or fewer children dramatically reduces the spread of germs.
--Use instant hand sanitizers: These products use alcohol to destroy germs. They are an antiseptic, not an antibiotic, so resistance can't develop. A little dab will kill 99.99% of germs without any water or towels.
--Use paper towels instead of sharing cloth towels.

The immune system helps your body fight off infection. Here are six ways to support the immune system:
--Avoid secondhand smoke: Keep as far away from secondhand smoke as possible. It is responsible for many health problems, including colds.
--Avoid unnecessary antibiotics: Using antibiotics too often leads to antibiotic resistance. The more you use antibiotics, the more likely the medicines may not work as well for you in the future. That means, you have a higher chance of getting sick with longer, more stubborn infections.
--Breastfeed: Breast milk is known to protect against respiratory tract infections in children, even years after you stop breastfeeding. Kids who are not breastfeed get about five times more ear infections than those who are.
--Drink water: Fluids help your immune system work properly.
--Eat yogurt: Certain yogurst contains "active cultures," or beneficial bacteria that helps prevent colds.
--Get enough sleep: Not getting enough sleep makes you more likely to get sick.

The common cold is going to happen to you at some point in your life, and more than likely multiple times. Following practical advice about prevention and exposure helps to keep you healthier over time, but sooner or later, you are going to get another cold. Do your best to muddle through when you have one, and be careful with your actions to not spread your cold to others. See your doctor if necessary, but know that the average cold runs about 7-10 days in length. In the mean time, stock up on tissues and cough lozenges.
Until next time.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Health Care and Athlete's Foot

Ever have that itchy feeling between your toes? Have you ever been tempted to take your shoes and socks off, even in public, to scratch those tender areas between those digits at the front end of your feet? Occasionally, with the itching and burning, have you tried to medicate your feet with creams and powders to alleviate that incessant feeling? Have you even been to the doctor at some point to find relief, or just been content to try some home remedies?  That constant or intermittent feeling under your footware is commonly called Athlete's Foot.

Don't let the name fool you. Athletes aren't the only ones who get the itchy condition known as athlete's foot, according to Anyone can get athlete's foot if two things happen:

1. Their bare feet are exposed to a kind of fungus.
2. That fungus has the right environment to grow — like hot and sweaty sneakers!

A fungus is a microorganism. Athlete's foot, or tinea pedis, is a common skin infection that is caused by a fungus, a plant-like microorganism too small to be seen by the naked eye. This fungus eats old skin cells. And plenty of them can be found on the feet! Although athlete's foot occurs mostly among teen and young adult men, kids and women can get it, too. People with sweaty or damp feet are at risk. Walking barefoot where others also walk barefoot is one way the fungus can get on your feet in the first place. That's why you should wear your sandals when you're showering in a public shower.

Why Is It Called Athlete's Foot?

Athlete's foot gets its name because athletes often get it. Why? The fungus that causes it can be found where athletes often are. The fungus grows on the warm, damp surfaces around pools, public showers, and locker rooms. People walk barefoot on these surfaces and fungus ends up on their feet. Or they might use a damp towel that has the athlete's foot fungus on it. But just having the fungus on your feet isn't enough to cause the infection. The infection happens if conditions are right for the fungus to grow. The fungus likes it wet, so:

•Dry your feet properly after swimming, showering, or bathing.
•Do not wear tight shoes when your feet are sweaty.
•Do not wear the same pair of shoes or socks day after day

The most common symptom is cracked, flaking, peeling skin between the toes or side of the foot, according to the US National Library of Medicine. Other symptoms can include:

•Red and itchy skin
•Burning or stinging pain
•Blisters that ooze or get crusty

If the fungus spreads to your nails, they can become discolored, thick, and even crumble. Athlete's foot may occur at the same time as other fungal skin infections such as ringworm.

A simple fungal infection such as athlete's foot can become "super-infected" with bacteria, according to If this should happen, the rash will become increasingly painful and red. Your foot may become swollen, and you may develop blisters and even open sores in the infected area. These are indications that you may need oral antibiotics and will need to call your doctor. It is unlikely that athlete's foot would ever become severe enough that a trip to a hospital's emergency department is required.
However, if you have diabetes or any other type of illness that will make it hard for your body to fight off an infection, athlete's foot may become an emergency. If you develop severe pain, redness, or swelling, notice a puslike drainage, see large blisters or ulcers on your foot, or if you develop a fever, you should be seen as soon as possible by your doctor, who may direct you to an emergency department.

The best treatment for athlete's foot, is prevention. If you're reading this, it is likely that this particular step of treatment has either been passed, or has not worked--keep reading! Once you do get rid of athlete's foot, you're going to want to know how to prevent it from happening again in the future.

•Wear sandals in the locker room. Make sure they have a non-stick sole so you won't have to search the Internet for information on caring for broken bones...

•Wear cotton socks, and change them often. Once you're done sweating, clean off and put on a fresh pair. If you're shoes are wet or sweaty, make sure you dry them before lacing up again.

•Wash your feet and dry them well. Fungi from athlete's foot will live in a warm, moist environment. If you keep your feet dry, they will have a hard time enjoying you. Application of a talc powder can help keep your feet dry over the course of the day.

The best treatment for a simple case of athlete's foot is an over-the-counter medication. Ask the pharmacist to direct you towards a medication for athlete's foot (not necessarily the most expensive), and be diligent about applying the medication. You'll have to do this for at least several weeks, twice a day, for athlete's foot treatment to be effective. Of course, also perform the above recommendations, in addition to applications of the medication, according to the American Family Physician.

According to the Mayo Clinic, There are numerous over-the-counter (OTC) medications on the market. Medicated powders also will help keep your feet dry. OTC medications include:

--Butenafine (Lotrimin Ultra)
--Clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF)
--Miconazole (Desenex, Zeasorb, others)
--Terbinafine (Lamisil AT)
--Tolnaftate (Tinactin, Ting, others)

If athlete's foot is severe or doesn't respond to over-the-counter medicine, you may need a prescription-strength topical or oral medication.

--Topical medications: These include clotrimazole and miconazole.
--Oral medications: These include itraconazole (Sporanox), fluconazole (Diflucan) and terbinafine (Lamisil). Side effects from oral medications include gastrointestinal upset, rash and abnormal liver function. Taking other medications, such as antacid therapies for ulcer disease or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), may interfere with the absorption of these drugs. Oral medications for athlete's foot may alter the effectiveness of warfarin, an anticoagulant drug that decreases the clotting ability of your blood. Your doctor may prescribe an oral antibiotic if you have an accompanying bacterial infection. In addition, your doctor may recommend wet dressings, steroid ointments, compresses or vinegar soaks to help clear up blisters or soggy skin.

Consult Your Podiatrist: If an apparent fungus condition does not respond to proper foot hygiene and self care, and there is no improvement within two weeks, consult your podiatrist. The podiatrist will determine if a fungus is the cause of the problem. If it is, a specific treatment plan, including the prescription of antifungal medication, applied topically or taken by mouth, will usually be suggested.

Such a treatment appears to provide better resolution of the problem, when the patient observes the course of treatment prescribed by the podiatrist; if it's shortened, failure of the treatment is common.
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), if the infection is caused by bacteria, antibiotics, such as penicillin, that are effective against a broad spectrum of bacteria may be prescribed. Your podiatric physician/surgeon has been trained specifically and extensively in the diagnosis and treatment of all manner of foot conditions. This training encompasses all of the intricately related systems and structures of the foot and lower leg including neurological, circulatory, skin, and the musculoskeletal system, which includes bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves.

Typically, if treated properly, most cases of Athlete's Foot will go away within 2-4 weeks. If symptoms persist, it's definitely time to visit a physician. Don't wait if you are dealing with this infection and you have diabetes or a weakened immune system, as the results can be detrimental to your overall health. The need to take care of your feet is critical if you want to minimize discomfort and not suffer any more severe medical issues.
Until next time.