Category Archives: Diseases and injuries

a boy and man holding their hands over a fire

How you should manage a burn injury

This post is the first in a series about skin problems. I frequently see skin rashes, lesions, and trauma in my family medicine practice, and I am a distributor for a skin care product company (see my about page).

Burns are one of the most painful and difficult skin conditions physicians treat. You’ve likely sustained some type of burn yourself, maybe a sunburn, a burn from hot cooking oil, or from accidental contact with open flames. Burns range from minor to life threatening.

HOW YOU SHOULD MANAGE A BURN INJURY-WATERCRESSWORDS.COM

How to ensure effective burn recovery

by Jamie Costello (author bio below)

Identify burn type and severity

The type of treatment for your burn will depend on the cause and severity. There are different types such as

  • chemical
  • electrical
  • scalding
  • thermal/fire
  • ultraviolet light/sun exposure

In general we identify three levels of burnsfirst, second and third degree, based on how deep into the skin the burn extends. You might have one or all of these from a single injury. Each leads to its own unique problems and thus require varying levels of treatment.

Layers of the Skin diagram

The layers of the skin (epidermis and dermis), as well as an inset with a close-up view of the types of cells in the skin (squamous cells, basal cells, and melanocytes). Source: National Cancer Institute Creator: Don Bliss (Illustrator) This image is in the public domain and can be freely reused. Please credit the source and, where possible, the creator listed above.

First Degree Burns-superficial (includes sunburn)

Your symptoms may include things such as

  • redness
  • swelling
  • pain
  • skin peeling during healing.

Treatment is simple for these types of burns as a result. It includes

  • soaking or rinsing the wound in cold water,
  • taking over the counter pain relievers as needed
  • apply aloe vera to soothe the skin
  • applying antibiotic ointment
  • Cover with non stick gauze to protect the area.

Fortunately these burns rarely leave scars.

The wellness site  mindbodygreen lists several other uses of aloe vera gel. 

 

Second Degree Burns-partial- thickness

Second-degree burns are typically worse.

Symptoms are similar to first degree but more painful and includes blistering. The blisters usually pop spontaneously or a physician may open them; after opening, the burn will seep fluid, giving the burn a weeping appearance.

It is vital that this type of burn is kept clean and bandaged so as to prevent infection.Since this is now an open wound, it can more easily become contaminated with bacteria. Otherwise, the treatment is typically the same as superficial burns, with added emphasis on keeping it wrapped.

A second-degree burn will typically heal in around three weeks without scarring, though it may leave permanent skin discolouration.

Third Degree Burns- full-thickness

A third-degree burn is the most severe type of burn you might experience. These burns cause a waxy colouring, charing, dark brown colouration to the skin, leathery texture, as well as blisters which never develop.

These burns require evaluation in a medical facility, preferably an emergency room, and victims usually are admitted to a specialized burn unit in a hospital. Often there are other traumatic injuries such as bruises and broken bones.

If you do receive third-degree burns, then you will always experience scarring and skin contracture(tightening or shrinking).  A lot of the time the only way to treat this is with surgery, in particular, cosmetic surgery  after the fact.

There are only particular treatments that are available to treat a patient for a burn depending on its severity. A common treatment however is skin graft. This is where skin is removed from one area of the body and transferred to another via a skin cutting tool known as a dermatome.

The recovered area is then dressed and repaired with stitches. This can be an option for patients but it’s important to remember that no matter what procedure is chosen, it can take several weeks to recover. During my time of observing and assisting Gary Ross, a cosmetic surgery specialis, the wellbeing of patients after treating scars was evident and patients were strongly advised that they should care for themselves correctly.

 

 

This link from healthline.com shows graphic photos of burn injuries, use caution.

Burns Gallery

man on a beach, his face is red

This man has developed sunburn on his face. Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

Possible Complications

The risk of complications for regular burns are relatively slim, but your chances rise much higher if you suffer from a third-degree burn.These often cause excess blood loss leading to shock which may lead to death in extreme cases.

All burns carry the risk of becoming infected due to bacteria entering the broken skin. This is why it is important to keep more severe burns clean and under wraps to avoid serious complications such as sepsis.

Extensive and/or deep burns may eventually require skin grafting.

If you have anything other than a minor superficial burn, you may need vaccination to prevent tetanus infection.  MedicalNewsToday offers this explanation of tetanus.

“Tetanus, also called lockjaw, is a serious infection caused by Clostridium tetani. This bacterium produces a toxin that affects the brain and nervous system, leading to stiffness in the muscles.

 

If Clostridium tetani spores are deposited in a wound, the neurotoxin interferes with nerves that control muscle movement.

The infection can cause severe muscle spasms, serious breathing difficulties, and can ultimately be fatal. Although tetanus treatment exists, it is not uniformly effective. The best way to protect against tetanus is to take the vaccine.”

 

 

Minimizing  and dealing with scarring

Burns will always naturally heal over time, but they can leave unseemly scarring behind in their wake. Treating the healed burn with aloe vera and other moisturizing type creams may avoid this. For an added benefit this will also likely help with your pain management.

Burns can be extremely painful, but if you treat them correctly as soon as you receive one you can avoid the worst of the pain and scarring.

  • Assess the severity of your burn
  • Treat with initial basic care as described
  • Get help when needed. for more severe burns.

Otherwise, you may end up with burn complications and scarring that could have been minimized or prevented.

Prevention of burns and promoting home safety

Not all burns happen because of fires. Household chemicals, scalding water, and household appliances can also cause burns. Here are some fire and burn prevention and safety tips for your home from familydoctor.org

Preventing burns in your home

“Think about how you would get out of your home in a fire emergency. Make a family escape plan and have regular fire drills at home. Designate a meeting place outside your home in case there is a fire.”

a man in a black hoodie tossing a flaming object

Don’t play around with fire! Photo by Henrik Pfitzenmaier on Pexels.com

 

Check out this  First Aid Guide for treating burns at home from skinsight.com

Remember, a third degree and some second degree burns will require professional attention, but here is what to do initially.

Burn First Aid

“It is important to try to assess the seriousness of a burn, which is determined, primarily, by the size of the burn and its depth. When in doubt, treat as a serious burn.”

Be prepared with a  home first aid kit

First aid is important for situations that don’t require a trip to the hospital or emergency room. Besides burns these might be

  • minor cuts and scrapes
  • insect bites and stings
  • bruises
  • minor nose bleed
  • poison ivy rash

Many people put together a first aid kit for home and their car. A well-stocked first aid kit provides you with the supplies you need to be ready for most minor emergencies.

Here are suggestions for putting together a home first aid kit, or you can buy one already put together. It’s important to replace supplies as you use them, and check expiration dates on anything that expires.

First aid kit supply list from familydoctor.org 

Kits available from Amazon-affiliate link

Introducing my guest contributor and a final word

I want to thank my guest contributor Jamie Costello.

photo of Jamie Costello

Jamie Costello, medical University student, Manchester, U.K.

 

 

 

 

Jamie is a medical University student based in Manchester, United Kingdom (this is the U.S. equivalent of college). He is originally from Bristol , a town in the South West of England. He plans to go into Medical/Pharmaceutical Research once he completes his University degree.

 

The inspiration and interest to write about this topic came from Jamie’s previous work experience alongside Gary Ross, MBChB, MD, a specialist in cosmetic surgery based in Manchester England.

As part of his college course, Jamie observed multiple patient cases  at the practice. This helped to develop his knowledge of procedures, including the treatment of burns and scars.  Jamie shadowed Mr. (Dr.)  Ross in  procedures, talking with him through each treatment and learning how they were managed, including the benefit and risk of each.

He was impressed with the clinic staff’s attention to the wellbeing of patients and concern that they would continue proper follow up care of their treatments. I believe he learned a great deal that will help him to be successful in his future medical career.

When not studying he enjoys hanging out with friends, playing soccer, and opportunities to meet new people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jamie and I hope you have learned something useful  from this post . As always, your best source of medical advice is from your own personal physician.

If you have questions about the  seriousness of your injury, seek medical attention immediately. 

Please share this post and follow this blog for more information and inspiration to help you explore the HEART of health.

Dr. Aletha 

 

 

Please consider this affiliate link that helps support this blog. Thanks.


468x60 Discount Medical Supplies

Advertisements
a cruise ship and a small tug boat in a mountainside port

How to stop motion sickness and enjoy a cruise to Alaska

A comment prompted this  post to follow up my recent post about cruising

Safe and healthy cruising-keys to an enjoyable vacation

The conversation went like this:

Rhonda Gales (@RhondaGales) blogger at Mother 2 Mother 

Your photos are great! I want to do a cruise to Alaska next year, but I’m a little leery. The last cruise that I took, I was sea sick the entire cruise. Any advice on how to avoid it this time, and thanks for sharing on Sunday’s Best.

Dr. Aletha

Thanks Rhonda we’ve also cruised to Alaska, it was beautiful. You might look for a facility offering desensitization training for motion sickness. Otherwise drugs work but can cause unpleasant side effects. Talk to your doctor.

Rhonda

Thanks for your advice. Would love to see pictures of your Alaska Cruise. This post was quite popular with my readers.

white and yellow roller coaster

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

What is motion sickness?

Motion sickness is the unpleasant sensation of motion, either with or without motion actually occurring. Those of us prone to it wonder why some people seek out experiences  like roller coasters.  Symptoms include

  • sweating
  • nausea with or without vomiting
  • dizziness
  • imbalance
  • general unwell feeling

Fear of motion sickness causes people to forgo activities like airplane travel, boating, amusement park rides, and car trips. But sometimes these activities are unavoidable or people just want to enjoy them.

 

Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage

 

 

How to stop motion sickness and enjoy a cruise to Alaska-watercresswords.com

 

 

Preventing motion sickness

If you don’t want to completely forgo activities that might cause motion sickness, manipulating the situation to minimize or change the motion can help.

Sitting toward the front of a vehicle and facing forward will help.

  • Airplanes- sit over the wings
  • Boat- sit level with the water facing the waves
  • Bus/Van/Car- nearest the front
  • Train- lowest level

Use your eyes

  • Don’t read
  • Focus on the horizon if possible.
  • Keep eyes closed (especially if not able to see the horizon) and/or wear sunglasses.

Maintain general wellness

  • Be rested, sleep if possible
  • Stay hydrated, eat lightly
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Keep the environment  well ventilated, avoid strong smells
  • Listen to soothing music
a seaplane with a cruise ship in the background

No roads lead into Juneau, the capital of Alaska , so people there depend on boats and airplanes.

Using medications for motion sickness

One option is to use medication, either for prevention or to treat the symptoms once they occur (not as effective.)

Prevention- using the patch

There are herbal patches  but this one is  prescription only, and most likely to be effective.

Transdermal Scopolamine patch (Transderm-Scop)

  1. Apply behind one ear at least 4 hours before travel
  2. Replace patch every 72 hours

 

man and woman standing next to a helicopter on a glacier

When our cruise ship stopped at Juneau, we took a helicopter ride over a glacier-and then landed on it.

 

 

 

 

Other prescription medication

Promethazine (Phenergan) for nausea and vomiting

woman walking over icy terrain near a mountain

exploring the surface of a glacier

 

 

 

Available OTC- over the counter

(These affiliate links are for information only and are not a recommendation to use unless advised by your personal physician.)

 

 

 

 

a village by the shore flanked by mountains, Alaska

Sailing through Alaska’s Inside Passage, we were never far from breathtaking scenery.

Habituation and Desensitization

The more I travel , the less likely I am to suffer motion sickness without using drugs.  I use the tips above- I don’t read in the car, I sit in the front of a bus. If an airplane encounters turbulence, I lean back, close my eyes, and direct the cool air toward me. I have gradually become habituated to motion, although I still do not ride roller coasters.

There are programs available to desensitize people to motion; the military uses these since pilots and sailors will constantly be exposed to motion and must be able to function.

A former NASA flight surgeon  and fighter pilot developed such a method, naming  it after himself. Dr. Sam Puma developed the Puma Method. 

“The PUMA METHOD consists of a series of simple yet very effective warm-up and conditioning exercises.

These exercises raise your tolerance level to a variety of motion sickness producing activities such as reading in a moving vehicle, riding in a small boat or cruise ship, or flying in an airplane. This process is called habituation.

The exercises use your body’s own habituation mechanism to prevent motion sickness. You don’t need any drugs, so there are no negative side effects.”

(quote from the website)

(This is an affiliate link to  the product. Otherwise, I have no personal, professional, or financial connection to Dr. Puma or the Puma Method.)

 

 

 

 

a street in Ketchikan Alaska with a sign-The Salmon Capital of the World

Fortunately for us, we love to eat salmon.

Motion Sickness Treatment Makes Waves

This article from Scientific American explains how NASA and the U.S. Navy are finding new ways to help everyone overcome motion sickness.

“Researchers  and those who work with pilots and the military’s most frequent flyers, are especially keen to find better ways to treat motion sickness. And the many civilians who face nausea in cars, planes, boats or even the tamest amusement park rides would welcome a cure without the common side effects of current medications, such as sleepiness, or the questionable efficacy of alternative treatments, such as pressure bracelets.

The path to those ends remains bumpy and filled with more than a few green faces, but new research is closer to finding the best treatments to keep both side effects and lunch down.”

 

The food as well as the dining service was always excellent, and one of our favorite parts of the cruise.

 

 

If you didn’t visit it already, you may want to read my previous post-

Safe and healthy cruising-keys to an enjoyable vacation

 

 

Travel comments please

Please share your cruise experiences, good or bad.  How have you coped with motion sickness on any trip? I may share some of your insights in a future post.

 

boats in a harbor with a mountain in the distance

 

 

 

Please visit my page

Healthy and Helpful Resources

 

And learn how you can help

Share the HEART of health

 

Thanks for exploring the HEART of health on a cruise ship with me. Please share this post and follow Watercress Words.

Dr. Aletha 

woman standing by pink flowers

At our final stop , Victoria, Vancouver Island, touring Butchart Gardens. Yes, an Alaskan cruise stops in Canada.

The word "Read" written in black paint on a colorful watercolor washed background.

Sharing book reviews from Net Galley

Net Galley helps readers of influence discover and recommend new books to their audiences. If you are a librarian, bookseller, educator, reviewer, blogger or in the media, you can join for free.

I enjoy reading and sharing what I read with my blog followers, so joining Net Galley helps me accomplish both. I try to find books with a health/medical theme although occasionally I will pick something just for fun. But I find that almost any story portrays some  health related issues since it’s a universal concern.

SHARING HEALTH BOOK REVIEWS FROM NET GALEY

Here are two stories, both memoirs, but vastly different. One is a private personal story, the other a public  personal story.

The Best of Us

A Memoir

by Joyce Maynard

Ms. Maynard’s story opened with a  failed marriage/bad divorce saga with adult children torn between the two parents, persistent anger and bitterness, and attempts to ease the pain with a series of bad choices in lovers. Equally sad was her telling of a complicated  and ultimately failed adoption attempt.

Finally she and we can breath a sigh of relief when she meets a man and seems to have found true love at last. But that comes to an abrupt halt when he is diagnosed with cancer.

From then on she poignantly describes a life turned upside down as she enters new territory as a caregiver. As she relates how their lives changed, we the readers are changed also, learning to recognize what is truly important in life. As Ms. Maynard  writes,

“success, money, beauty, passion, adventure, possessions- have become immaterial. Breathing would be enough.”

Read this book if you want your assumptions about life and death to be challenged and changed. You may read an excerpt at this link

The Best of Us-Chapter 1

Tears of Salt

A Doctor’s Story

by Pietro Bartolo; Lidia Tilotta

Dr. Pietro Bartolo practices medicine on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, in the Mediterranean Sea. Lampedusa, known for its friendly people, sunny skies, pristine beaches, and turquoise waters famous for fishing, seems an idyllic place to live, work, and visit.

But for the past 20 years, Dr.Bartolo has cared for not just residents and tourists, but for hundreds of refugees- people who risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean from northern Africa, fleeing poverty and political unrest. The lucky ones land on shore injured and sick. The unlucky ones wash ashore dead, having died en route or drowning after falling from a capsized or wrecked boat, sometimes only a few feet from shore.

In this memoir, Dr. Bartolo shares the stories of many of these people, giving them the names and faces that we don’t see watching news stories about the refugee crisis. He also shares his own life story of growing up on the island, leaving for medical school, and returning to raise a family and to practice medicine.

Dr. Bartolo’s story was also told in the documentary film FIRE AT SEA

 

 

He never expected to become the front-line help for hundreds of desperate people. With no specific training on how to manage an avalanche of desperate, sick, and injured refugees, and with little resources, he manages to put together a system for triaging, evaluating, and treating these people, then sending them on for more advanced medical care or to immigration centers in Europe.

For the less fortunate, he serves as medical examiner, to determine the cause of death for those who do not make it to Lampedusa alive; sometimes taking body parts to extract DNA to identify them, so families can be notified. He states he has never grown comfortable to this aspect of his job.

As a physician myself, I marvel at Dr. Bartolo’s caring and commitment to people who will never be able to repay him for his sacrifice. He approaches his work as a mission of mercy, and treats every person with the utmost respect, no matter their circumstance. Some of the people he treats become almost like family; he has even tried to adopt a couple of orphaned children but cannot due to legalities.

Dr. Bartolo’s story reads like a conversation. I think you will like him, and admire him for his dedication and selfless service.  His life should encourage all of us to consider what we can each do to lessen someone else’s suffering.

 

 

Another book review from Net Galley is at this link-

COURAGE for the UNKNOWN SEASON- a review

 

I also review books for Tyndale Blog Network.  for whom I reviewed FIRE ROAD,   also on Net Galley. Here is the link to that review-

Love conquers fear-a memoir of hope

I received a free digital copy of these books (FIRE ROAD was a paper copy) in return for posting a frank review on my blog and/or social media.

 

 

Get books here

Check your local library or book stores for these books, or consider these affiliate links, through which purchases help support this blog.



http://merchant.linksynergy.com/fs/banners/36889/36889_1070.jpg


eBooks.com Bestsellers

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Amazon and Kindle Books

a cruise ship docked in a port

Safe and healthy cruising-keys to an enjoyable vacation

You’ve probably seen the movie, Titanic. I recently visited the Titanic museum in Branson, Missouri and it was a sobering experience. The loss of so many lives is staggering, especially since it could have been prevented with better preparation, including enough lifeboats for everyone on board.

Titanic museum, replica of ship and iceberg

The Titanic Museum

Earlier this summer I went on a cruise vacation which fared far better than the Titanic. This was the third cruise I have ever been on, but the last one was long ago enough that I had forgotten some of the details.

(This is not a sponsored post, however there are affiliate links not connected with the cruise line. Using them does not cost you extra and will help fund this blog. Thank you. )

As a physician, I tend to view experiences in medical terms and did on this cruise. I was impressed with the rules and procedures that were directed at keeping the guests and crew healthy and safe.

elevators on a ship

I’m not revealing the cruise line’s name, but it is one of the large well known ones, with a good reputation as far as I know. I can’t vouch that this cruise is typical of all cruise companies, so I offer these observations as things that you might want to evaluate if you ever go on a cruise.

BLOGGER'S PIT STOP Featured Winner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Safety drill- lifeboats, jackets

the side of a ship with 2 lifeboats

Before the ship left the dock, we participated in a safety drill where we all had to assemble at our assigned stations where we would go in the case of an emergency. Once there, the crew took role by check our ID cards (more on this later) to make sure we were all there. We had life vests in our room and there would also be life vests at the stations in case we weren’t in our room at the time the alarm sounded. Unlike the Titanic, we were assured there was room on the lifeboats for everyone on board.

Security, photo id, room key

Upon checking in, they issued us a photo ID card that was also our room key and a charge card for onboard purchases. When we left the ship at the ports, we showed the card which was scanned, then showed it again to get back on the ship.

a line of people boarding a ship

showing ID to return to the ship after a day in port

Children-arm bands

We weren’t travelling with children ourselves, but children wore armbands with identification in case of getting separated from their parents.

Food allergies and preferences.

Food is plentiful on a ship and a wide variety of choices. Some venues are buffets but in the sit down dining room the wait staff always inquired about food allergies and special diet needs before we ordered our meal.

a couple sitting at a table by a window with an ocean view

We enjoyed lunch with an ocean view.

Here is a link to my post on How to manage food allergy with confidence

Hygiene

Antibacterial hand gel was everywhere, along with reminders to use it.

Outside of every food venue there were containers and a crew member there to dispense it to you.

There were strict warning about what not to put into the toilets. As we heard at the introductory session, “If one toilet on a cruise ship backs up, they all back up.” Not a pleasant thought.

a sign- IMPORTANT-please do not throw foreign objects into the toilet bowl.

A daily newsletter with cruise information and schedule was delivered to our cabin every day. This note about health was posted daily-

Medical experts tell us that the best way to prevent colds, flu, or gastrointestinal illnesses-such as Norovirus-is to simply wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. After restroom breaks and again before eating.

Should you experience any symptoms of gastrointestinal illness (vomiting, diarrhea) do not go to the ship’s medical facility. Call the medical staff for a complimentary consultation and treatment. A member of the medical staff will see you in your stateroom.

Medical facility on board

If you do need to go the medical station , there is a doctor on duty 3 hours in the morning and afternoon. (On a previous cruise, I visited the medical station for a tour. It looked modern and well stocked.)

Smoking- designated areas only

Smoking is not allowed in any of the cabins or balconies, including electronic cigarettes. There were designated smoking areas outside and in the casino.

Here are some reminders on why it’s wise not to smoke-

7 surprising reasons to be smoke free

Stop Smoking For Dummies

Fitness and Sports

If you wanted to exercise, there was ample opportunity.

Swimming and other water sports

a swimming pool on a cruise shop

  • A fully equipped gym
  • Rock climbing wall
  • Walking/jogging path outside.

exercise equipment on a cruise ship

  • Classes in yoga, stretching, cycling, and dance.
  • Competitions in volleyball, table tennis, dodge ball, basketball
  • Ice skating
  • Dance venues
  • Miniature golf
a mini golf course with a beach theme

beach theme mini golf

Spa services

In addition to the usual spa services  like hair and face treatments, they offered

  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Teeth whitening
  • Anti-aging treatments
  • “Detox”

Safe and healthy cruising-keys to an enjoyable vacation-watercresswords.com

Potential health risks

Were there any aspects to a cruise experience that might be detrimental to one’s health? Consider these things.

Sun

This ship sailed in a tropical climate so there was ample sun, both while on the ship and in the tropical ports. So obviously there was a risk of sunburn, dehydration, and long term development of skin cancer due to sun exposure. Sunscreen was a must if you stayed outside.

Noise

There were multiple musical venues on just about every deck, as well as the general noise generated by thousands of people. For people who have sensory issues to noise, sensitive ears, or hearing loss the noise level might be uncomfortable.

Motion

We were fortunate to have smooth sailing except for a few hours when the sea was rough, causing me to feel off balance but not seasick. If you are highly sensitive to motion, sail on a small ship, or hit rough seas, you may get seasick, which is not pleasant.

Sea and Motion Sickness

Addictions-food, alcohol, gambling, shopping

If you tend to be compulsive or addicted to  activities like eating, drinking alcohol, gambling, or spending money, a cruise may not be the best place to vacation.

Food is abundant, delicious, varied, and “free”- meaning it’s all inclusive with the price you paid (although there were some special meal venues that cost extra.)

a promenade on a cruise ship

On the promenade there were food and shopping opportunities.

Alcohol  is not included  but is easily purchased in the dining venues as well as bars. (However, they strictly enforced not providing alcohol to minors.)

Gambling was available in the centrally located casino , open from morning until late night.

Shopping on the promenade and in the ports- clothes, jewelry, art, liquor, wine , souveniers, and who knows what else.

an art gallery with bright colored pictures

the art gallery, where they had auctions every day

There were so many activities offered it was impossible to try them all. And there were places where one could escape for some quiet time to read, play a game, or just sit and enjoy the view.

a small chapel

The chapel offered a peaceful quiet place or meditation.

Please share your cruise experiences, good or bad. If you’re going on one soon, let me know how it goes. I may share some of your insights in a future post.

Thanks for exploring the HEART of health on a cruise ship with me. Please share this post and follow Watercress Words.

Dr. Aletha 

waves behind a ship

THE END!

 

Featured Blogger-Sundays Beat Linkup -www.mother2motherblog.com

This was a featured post at Sundays Best Linkup at Mother 2 Mother blog.

a plate of food-fish fillet, green beans

How to manage food allergy with confidence

One way I explore the “heart of health” is attending CME -continuing medical education- conferences. All physicians do, to stay current on medical information and maintain licensure and board certification.

One of the most informative lectures I heard recently was about food allergy, a topic often discussed in the lay literature and media. Much of that discussion is based on personal experiences and opinions which, while interesting, may not be scientifically valid.

I welcomed the chance to hear from an expert to help me counsel my patients. I also have a personal interest since my grandson has food allergies; when he visits me, I have to be careful not to feed him foods he may react to.

The speaker, Kirsten Bennett, Ph.D is a registered dietitian (RD) who specializes in counselling patients with food allergies. She presented data from research studies as well as from her clinical practice, and I’m sharing some of what she said with you.

How to manage food allergy with confidence-watercresswords.com

What is food allergy?

You may assume that any symptom due to eating a food is an allergy but there are many ways food can make us sick, including allergy, intolerance, toxic effects, and infection.

Dr. Bennett explained that the difference between food allergy and food intolerance. (The other two will not be discussed here)

Allergy– immune mediated, that is it involves the immune system with the production of antibodies after exposure to a food; celiac disease is due to food allergy.

Intolerance– does not involve the immune system, no antibodies are produced; this occurs in lactose intolerance.

Some foods such as wheat and milk can cause both allergy and intolerance.

cup of milk, plate of bread

Mil and wheat can cause allergy and intolerance.

So how do you know the difference? You can’t, without an appropriate medical evaluation, so it is important to see a physician if you suspect food allergy.

Probably up to 10% of the population have true food allergy, but as many as 50-90% of people who believe they have food allergy may not. An accurate diagnosis is important so the condition can be managed properly when appropriate, but not needlessly.

What causes food allergy?

The BIG 8 cause 90% of food allergy. These are

  1. Milk
  2. egg
  3. peanut
  4. fish
  5. shellfish
  6. soy
  7. wheat
  8. tree nut

Symptoms of food allergy

Almost any symptom can occur with allergy but the most common are

  • Rash with or without itching
  • Swelling of the face, lips, eyes
  • Watery, itchy eyes
  • Nasal drainage and/or congestion
  • Hoarse voice
  • Cough, wheezing, difficulty breathing
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Dizziness, fainting
  • Low blood pressure, fast heart beat
  • Feeling of “impending doom”

How to diagnose food allergy

Although blood and skin testing may be needed, the history is the first and most important step to identify food allergy. The evaluation may start with the answers to these 9 questions-

  • What are the symptoms?
  • What food was eaten that may have caused the symptoms and was it eaten before?
  • How much of the food was eaten?
  • Was the suspect food cooked or raw?
  • Has the food ever been eaten without symptoms?
  • Was else was the person doing or ingesting at the same time, such as exercise, medications, etc.?
  • Have the symptoms occurred without eating the food?
  • How were the symptoms treated and how long did they last?

What You Need to Know About Diagnostic Allergy Testing

by David Stukus, MD,Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Section of Allergy/Immunology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, in Columbus Ohio.

Goals in  managing food allergies

Allow the child (or adult) to live as normal a life as possible while avoiding foods that might cause allergic symptoms.

The fear of a serious food allergic reaction can cause a family to forgo normal activities and keep a child isolated. Dr. Bennett suggested these tactics to minimize food allergy anxiety.

Family of 4 sitting at a dining table.

Read food  labels carefully to avoid inadvertently eating foods that cause allergy.

At home 

  • Cook as a family ; Learn how to cook meat and other protein foods
  • Take children grocery shopping and engage them in food selection
  • Use at least 3 elements of the plate model for meal planning
  • Gather together and celebrate food and eating together
  • Practice manners and table talk
  • Make the home kitchen a safe sanctuary
  • Enjoy the food journey

Travel

  • Take foods along that are safe
  • Identify possible allergy risks in travel itinerary -Restaurants

At school 

  • What does the school staff and administration know about food allergies?
  • Start a conversation Provide reference materials or community resources
  • Create a plan for inclusion
  • Partner with the school
  • Universal supports for all children

Find more Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle from Kids With Food Allergies.org

Be prepared for an emergency allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis

The greatest danger of any allergy is anaphylaxis, a life threatening allergic reaction which impairs breathing and heart function.

a heart monitor showing a heart tracing EKG

Minutes matter with heart emergencies

Anyone who cares for a person with food allergy needs to know what to do in case of a reaction. Schools and work places should have a plan for dealing with such emergencies.

Create and Maintain an Action Plan for school/work-

an individualized Health Care Plan  – which includes strategies for food avoidance

Create and Maintain an Emergency Plan
Food Allergy Emergency Action Plan -Include specific actions to be taken in the event of accidental or purposeful ingestion of the allergenic food

Maintain a current and back-up supply of emergency medication

Specific instruction on transport to ER/ED (emergency room) for follow up care
Emergency medications and plan need to be with child/adult

a speed limit sign with an H for hospital , 5 miles

  • in school
  • at work
  • sporting events
  • field trips

“Eating a little bit won’t hurt.” “Childhood allergies last for life.” True or false? Find out at this link.

Food Allergy Myths and Misconceptions from Food Allergy.org

 

 

 

 

 

Common-Allergen-Free Products available at Discount School Supply


(Affiliate offer- may pay a commission to this blog at no extra cost to you)

 

Home and food blogger Leslie offers these helpful Hostess Tips about

When Your Guest Has Severe Food Allergies 

 

 

I hope you’ve learned something about food allergy that helps you or your family and that you will share this information with friends. Feel free to leave a comment. Do you have food allergies? If so, how do you avoid reactions?

Please consider helping support this blog by using my affiliates. You’ll find links in the side bars, on the home page, and on the resource page.

Thanks for exploring the HEART of health with me again.

Dr. Aletha WATERCRESSWORDS.COM-exploring the HEART of health

Simple and effective ways to manage chronic pain -part 2 of a series

In a previous post I talked about non-drug methods to manage pain in the spine-neck and back. You may want to review it now, but reading  this one first is fine. This post will focus on other painful conditions.

While people often discover methods to relieve pain that work for them, I am focusing here on treatments that are supported in the medical literature or recommended by knowledgeable professionals. For this post, I reviewed many articles which summarized current studies.

Finding trustworthy medical information

How do doctors know what works and what doesn’t? Since medical knowledge has changed since we went to medical school , how do we know what is current information?

We read literature pertinent to our fields on a regular basis, attend conferences, and talk to other doctors. But when we need a specific question answered , we do what you do-we Google it.

shelves in a library with adjacent computers

the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Library, located on the organization’s campus, in Atlanta, Georgia. The CDC collections span the field of public health. Print and electronic resources cover such topics as disease prevention, epidemiology, infectious diseases, global health, chronic diseases, environmental health, injury prevention, and occupational safety and health. The main library in Atlanta and selected branch libraries are open to the public. used courtesy CDC/ Emily Weyant; MSLIS; ORISE Fellow

One of the most frequently reviewed is PubMed listing  more than 28 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. The service is free and anyone can use it. PubMed is a service of  the National Library of Medicine, the largest biomedical library in the world ,located in Bethesda, Maryland,

Another major reference is the Cochrane Library, a collection of databases in medicine and other healthcare specialties ; a fee is charged to use this service.

Basic points about complementary treatments for pain management

We should use medication and surgery when appropriate, but when these can’t be used or are not helpful, we can consider alternative methods, or what I and other doctors prefer to call complementary or integrative treatment.

This post focuses on symptom relief, not necessarily curative treatment.

Herbals and supplements are drugs and can be effective for certain conditions, but this post will discuss non-drug treatments only.

Many cases of pain improve spontaneously with no specific treatment.

Almost everything works sometimes.

There are few if any down side to any of these treatments. Used under supervision they are unlikely to have adverse side effects or result in long term complications.

The most important ingredient in managing a chronic or persistent condition is having a therapeutic relationship with your physician and other healthcare professionals- physical therapist , mental health counselor, nutritionist.

SIMPLE AND EFFECTIVE WAYS TO MANAGE CHRONIC PAIN-WATERCRESSWORDS.COM

Migraine

Migraine is more than just a bad headache; it is a disorder of the brain which causes pain as well as other common symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and noise.  Dizziness, numbness, and  loss of vision occur less frequently.

diagram of the human brain.

The major parts of the brain, including the pineal gland, cerebellum, spinal cord, brain stem, pituitary gland, and cerebrum are labeled. I photo courtesy of Source: National Cancer Institute Creator: Alan Hoofring (Illustrator)

Most people with migraine require some type of medication for relief, but non-drug treatments can supplement meds and can be helpful for prevention. Integrative treatments that work according to studies include

  • acupuncture
  • biofeedback
  • CBT-cognitive behavioral therapy
  • exercise
  • meditation
  • relaxation training
  • yoga

Fibromyalgia

I mentioned fibromyalgia in my post about back and neck pain, but  include it here  since it causes pain in other body areas.

Fibromyalgia seems to be a disorder of nerves which makes them super sensitive, leading to diffuse muscle and joint pain that can become disabling. Complementary treatments recommended include

  • Mind-body-guided imagery, hypnosis, biofeedback, mindfulness meditation , relaxation
  • Tai chi
  • Hydrotherapy, balneotherapy

Osteoarthritis of the knees (degenerative arthritis)

It is likely that arthritis in other joints responds to these therapies but there aren’t enough large studies to confirm.

  • Acupuncture,
  • tai chi
  • walking and  strengthening exercises
  • Balneotherapy-bathing in hot water mineral baths
people in a gym exercising

photo courtesy Amanda Mills, CDC.gov, Public Health Image Library

 

 

 

 

Tessa Frank  discusses how she became frustrated when increasing doses of opioids didn’t relieve her chronic pain, and what she’s doing now to manage her pain.

How I’m Managing My Chronic Pain Without Opioids

“While I no longer use opioids, I do use non-opioid prescription medications and a spinal cord stimulator to provide pain relief for my CRPS, complex regional pain syndrome, a chronic, debilitating neuropathic pain condition.

I’m also hyperaware of how stress triggers my increased feelings of pain, so to mitigate stress, I personally have found relief in meditation, relaxation and yoga among other approaches.” (excerpt)

 

 

 

 

If you didn’t read it earlier, here’s a link to the previous post about treating pain, along with a brief excerpt.

Surprising effective ways to relieve back pain

“Pain in the spine results from many medical conditions, ranging from minor to life threatening. Most cases are due to routine or excessive physical activity or a minor injury causing strain of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and will go away with no or minimal intervention in less than 12 weeks.”

 

 

The affiliate product links in this post are for illustration and information only, and do not imply endorsement.

I am grateful when you like and share this post on social media.

Please consider helping support this blog by using my affiliates. You’ll find links in the side bars, on the home page, and on the resource page.

In a future post I will talk about  non-drug treatments for other conditions.

always exploring the HEART of health with you.

                       Dr. Aletha  WATERCRESSWORDS.COM-exploring the HEART of health

statue of 4 athletic people jumping in celebration

Surprising effective ways to relieve back pain

What is the most common disability world wide? What most commonly causes workplace absence?

Would you be surprised that it is low back pain?

Pain in the spine, including the neck and back, affects 85% of people at some time. I’ve had it, my husband has had it, and likely you have too. Low back pain causes $7.4 billion in lost revenue from lost or decreased workplace productivity. Add to that the health care costs and it exceeds $100 billion.

Let’s explore  what causes back pain, and what we can do about it, focusing on non-drug non-surgical methods.

 SURPRISING EFFECTIVE WAYS TO RELIEVE BACK PAIN -WATERCRESSWORDS.COM

BASIC POINTS

This post will explain some of the treatments which are backed by medical studies and recommended by medical experts.

We should use medication and surgery when appropriate, but when these can’t be used or are not helpful, we can consider alternative methods, or what I and other doctors prefer to call complementary or integrative treatment.

This post focuses on symptom relief, not necessarily curative treatment.

Herbals and supplements are drugs and can be effective for certain conditions, but this post will discuss non-drug treatments only.

Many cases of back pain improve spontaneously with no specific treatment.

Almost everything works sometimes.

There are few if any down side to any of these treatments. Used under supervision they are unlikely to have adverse side effects or result in long term complications.

The most important ingredient in managing a chronic or persistent condition is having a therapeutic relationship with your physician and other healthcare professionals- physical therapist , mental health counselor, nutritionist.

doctor holding a patient's hand

I do not recommend you pursue any of the treatments mentioned in this post without first consulting a qualified health professional about your condition.

What causes back and neck pain

Pain in the spine results from many medical conditions, ranging from minor to life threatening. Most cases are due to routine or excessive physical activity or a minor injury causing strain of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and will go away with no or minimal intervention in less than 12 weeks.

a human skeleton

The spine connects the head to the rest of the body. It extends from the skull to the pelvis and legs, and along the way attaches to the shoulders and rib cage.

Some cases are due to serious but treatable conditions like

  • Infection
  • Major injury, causing broken bones (fractures) or more severe injury to the muscles and nerves.
  • Cancer of the spine, which may have started somewhere else in the body and spread to the bones, called metastasis.
  • Various forms of arthritis- degenerative, rheumatoid, psoriatic
  • Disorders of the intervertebral discs, the soft jelly like cushions between the bones of the spine, the vertebrae
  • Fibromyalgia– a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.

Managing pain in the neck or spine

The first step in treating back pain is to identify the underlying cause and treat that appropriately, which might involve anti-inflammatory medication, antibiotics, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and/or injections.

But sometimes pain persists after these treatments, or none of those treatments are appropriate or effective.

Medications for back pain

Patients often expect, and doctors have traditionally turned to pain relieving medications starting with the non prescription drugs like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and the anti-inflammatories called NSAIDS. A muscle relaxer might be added if muscle spasm is present. If those are not sufficient, the next step was often narcotics or opioids.

But we know that the benefit and effectiveness of these drugs do not always outweigh the side effects and risks so we look harder at non-drug methods to relieve pain. And studies comparing them indicate they can be as effective if not more so than drugs.

More about this at my related post

7 overused drugs

Integrative medical treatments for back pain

Lifestyle changes

Back pain sufferers should start by avoiding or modifying activities that cause or aggravate back or neck pain .

  • In  the workplace- more frequent breaks, limits on lifting, a different chair, adjusting the height of a desk or computer monitor or keyboard.
  • At home- changes in performing chores like vacuuming, mopping, gardening, laundry.
  • Smoking may not cause back pain, but use of tobacco seems to increase the risk of developing back pain. Another good reason to not start or to stop if you already start.     7 surprising reasons to be smoke free
  • Excess weight also contributes to back problems,maybe by putting more stress on the spine, or by limiting physical activity. Losing those extra pounds or kilograms may decrease pain. Obesity and pain- you can lose both this year

sign says NO smoking, wilderness area

When walking, wear proper shoes; and NO smoking.

Physical activity/Exercise for spine pain

All guidelines for back pain treatment encourage continued physical activity rather than bedrest, and agree than any activity is better than nothing.

a bed in a room

Rest in bed only for severe pain and for short intervals.

Some of the frequently recommended activities include

Meditative movement therapies are exercises that include body movement or positioning and focus on breathing and relaxation. Examples include Tai chi and yoga.

Other types of exercises which involve a combination of stretching and strengthening, as well as aerobic conditioning. This includes Pilates and other exercise, walking, jogging, dancing, swimming, and many sports.

jogging trail sign

Get up and move more.

When using any exercise to treat back pain you should consider working with a certified instructor who is aware of your condition. Don’t do any positions or movements that cause or aggravate the pain.

Topical therapies

    • Heat and/or ice applications
    • Hydrotherapy or aquatics – the use of water or an aquatic environment (includes exercise in water)

 Manual therapy

  • Massage
  • Spinal manipulation, osteopathic or chiropractic

Acupuncture

Acupuncture, a staple of traditional Chinese medicine, which is becoming more popular in the Western world, uses very fine needles to stimulate various pressure points around the body and re-shift the body’s balance of energy. The practice is also thought to improve blood flow and increase levels of the body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals.

Dr. Michelle Ramirez explains more about  acupuncture and its uses at this link.

A look at acupuncture

Mindfulness based stress reduction/CBT(cognitive behavioral therapy)

Does the way you think affect pain? Apparently so. Studies show that “mind-body” approaches that reduce stress and enhance relaxation can reduce functional limitations and distress from back pain.

WebMD explains how this works-

“Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that helps people identify and develop skills to change negative thoughts and behaviors.

CBT says that individuals — not outside situations and events — create their own experiences, pain included.

And by changing their negative thoughts and behaviors, people can change their awareness of pain and develop better coping skills, even if the actual level of pain stays the same.”

Managing Chronic Pain: A Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Approach

 

 

 

 

 

The North American Spine Society offers

10 Tips for a Healthy Back

feet in sports shoes

Don’t let back pain keep you from  being active and enjoying life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The product links in this post are for illustration only, and do not imply endorsement.

Please share this post on social media and follow this blog.

In a future post I will talk about how to manage other types of pain, and use of non-drug treatments for other conditions.

exploring the HEART of health with you.

    Dr. Aletha  

 

 

 

I’m pleased to share this post at

Encouraging Hearts and Home

a link up of family friendly blog posts every Thursday