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Friday, March 24, 2017
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As we turn our clocks forward this Sunday for Daylight Saving Time our bodies must adjust to one less hour of sleep. Research has shown that this seemingly small time shift can have significant implications for our health.

A 2016 study in Finland found that just two days after the time shift the rate of stroke rose 8%. Those with cancer were 25% more likely to have a stroke during that time, while people 65 and older were 20% more likely to suffer a stroke. A 2012 study from the University of Alabama Birmingham found that the Monday and Tuesday after daylight saving time is associated with a 10% increase in heart attacks. Other studies have linked the hour lost to DSL with more workplace injuries and auto accidents, and decreased cognitive ability.

While the reason isn't clear, it's known that the disruption of the circadian clock do to sleep disruption and shift work increases the risk of stroke. To reduce the side effects of the DSL time shift, the National Sleep Foundation recommends sleeping in Sunday morning and taking a nap that afternoon as well as these other tips for getting a good night's sleep:

  • Most adults need seven to nine hours to function properly
  • Leave a couple of hours between eating and going to bed
  • Turn off mobile devices before you head to bed. Blue light from screens can affect your ability to sleep
  • Make your room all about sleep: Use a comfortable mattress, pillow and bedding, and keep your room dark
  • Create a bedtime ritual. Make deep breathing, stretches and other relaxing exercises part of your preslumber routine
  • Keep a piece of paper next to your bed. Write down any worries before trying to get to sleep
Wednesday, 22 February 2017 14:31

How An Allergy Skin Test Is Performed

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When the cause of an allergy is unknown, a skin prick test (also called a puncture or scratch test) can be performed at the doctor's office to identify possible allergens.
Multiple substances are scratched into to the surface of the skin to detect common allergens,including: mold, pollen, pet dander, dust mites and different types of food.

Allergy testing takes less than an hour and can be performed on adults or children of any age. For children the test is usually performed on the upper back. Adults will usually have an allergy test performed on the forearm. First, the nurse will clean the skin with alcohol and mark the test area. The allergen is then applied next to each mark. The needles used to apply the substance only scratches the surface of the skin, so the test is not painful. A different needle is used for each substance.

To check if the skin is reacting normally, a histamine will also be applied to the skin. If you don't react to histamine, which is uncommon, the allergy test may not identify an allergy even if you have one. In addition, glycerin or saline is applied to test for a reaction. If there is a reaction, it is often an indiction of sensitive skin, which muct e factored into the allergy test results to avoid a false diagnosis.

The skin test may detect an allergic reaction immediately, or the reaction may not occur until several days after exposure. If an allergic reaction is present, there will be a raised, red bump on the skin resembling a mosquito bite. The nurse will measure the size of the bump. The marks will then be removed with alcohol. If an allergen is identified, your doctor will discuss the options for treatment.


Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to weaken and become brittle. It occurs when the natural regrowth of bone tissue slows and new bone does not replace the old bone. As the bones weaken and become brittle, the risk of fractures increases. Fractures are most likely to occur in the hip, wrist or spine. In severe cases, the stress of coughing or beding over can cause a fracture.

While osteoporosis can affect both men and women, older women who are past menopause are at the highest risk. Other risk factors include:

  • Sedentary lifestyle, or sitting for long periods of time
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco use

Certain medical conditions also increase the risk of osteoporosis:

  • Celiac disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Cancer
  • Lupus
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

The first sign of osteoporosis is often a bone fracture. However a diagnoses requires lab tests or imaging. Bone density screening is recommended for postmenopausal women at age 65 and men at age 70.

Other signs may include:

  • Back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
  • Loss of height over time
  • A stooped posture

While there is no cure for osteoporosis, medications, eating a healthy diet and doing weight-bearing exercise can help prevent bone loss and strengthen weak bones. For some women, hormone therapy can also be beneficial.

 

Cold Weather Can Give You a Cold

One of the most common misconceptions about cold weather is that ii can make you sick. The reality is our bodies produce infection-fighting cells as a reaction to the cold puts on your body.

In addition, viruses that cause cold thrive at around 91 degrees; so if you're outside in the freezing cold, your nasal passages are chilled to a point below which viruses can easily survive.

Running in the Cold Burns Improves Performance and Burns More Calories

This is a fact. According to research published in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, cold temperatures improve race times, and this quicker paces burns more calories in a shorter period of time.

Allergies Are Less Common in the Winter

For many people with allergies, spring and summer bring the start of itchy eyes and sneezing and runny noses. However, while pollen is of obviously lower during the winter months, our tightly sealed homes can lead to poor air quality, which can trigger allergies from dust and mold, especially if we share the home with our furry friends.

You Lose Most of Your Body Heat Through Your Head

This is one of the most common myths. Your body will lose heat just as quickly if you're not wearing gloves versus a hat. Any exposed area of skin will lose heat at a similar rate.

Taking Vitamin C Will Prevents Colds

Vitamin C does appear to be helpful in maintaining a healthy immune system. In addition, studies have shown that taking a large dose of vitamin C at the first sign of a cold may help lessen the severity and length of a cold. 

Drinking Alcohol Can Help Warm Your Body When It's Cold Outside

This is a myth. Alcohol may provide the sensation of warmth because it causes your blood to rush to the surface of your skin, but it will actually cause your core temperature to drop. It can also inhibit your body's ability to shiver and create extra heat.

 

Shingles is a viral infection that can affect anyone who has had chickenpox. It isn't known what triggers the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus that causes shingles.

The symptoms of shingles include sensitivity to touch, tingling, itching and a painful rash that often appears as a stripe of blisters along one or both sides of the torso. Pain may persist even after the rash subsides. Shingles is not a life-threatening condition but can cause complications, including:

Postherpetic Neuralgia - A condition where damaged nerve fibers cause exaggerated messages of pain from nerve endings in the skin to the brain.

Vision Loss - When shingles occurs near the eye it can cause painful infections that may result in vision loss.

Neurological Problems - Shingles can cause encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, facial paralysis, or hearing or balance problems.

Skin Infections - When shingles blisters do not heal properly it can result in bacterial infections.

If you suspect you have shingles, see your doctor, especially if any of the following symptoms are present:

  • The pain and rash occur near an eye
  • You are over 70 years old
  • You have a weakened immune system due to another medical condition

Preventing Shingles

The primary defense against shingles is vaccination. Adults 60 years old and older should receive the shingles vaccine.

Children should receive the chickenpox vaccine to reduce their risk of developing shingles in adulthood.

Treating Shingles

Treatments include pain relief and antiviral medications such as acyclovir or valacyclovir. Over-the-counter pain medicines, including acetaminophen and ibuprofen, can also help reduce the pain caused by shingles. 

Sleep apnea is a disorder where breathing is shallow or pauses during sleep. These pauses could last a few seconds or over a minute. Apnea episodes can occur 30 times or more an hour. When normal breathing resumes, it's sometimes accompanied with a loud snort or choking sound.

Common symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apneas include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Episodes of breathing cessation during sleep as witnessed by another person
  • Sudden awakening accompanied by shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth or sore throat during the night
  • Headache in the morning
  • Difficulty remaining asleep
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty maintaining attention
  • Irritability

If you experience any of the following symptoms of sleep apnea, it's important to see your doctor.

  • Snoring that disturbs your sleep or the sleep of others
  • Shortness of breath that wakes you from sleep
  • Gasping for air or choking that wakes you from sleep 
  • Breathing interruptions during sleep
  • Feeling drowsy during the day, which may cause you to suddenly fall asleep

 

Calcium plays an important role in building and maintaining strong bones. It is also important to the health of your heart, muscles and nerves. Children who do not get enough calcium may not reach their full potential height as adults. Adolescent girls in particular are at increased risk if their diet is too low in calcium. Adults over the age of 50 who do not consume sufficient calcium are at risk for low bone mass – a risk factor for osteoporosis.

Because our bodies do not produce calcium, it must be obtained through foods or suppilements, including:

 

  • Dairy products - cheese, milk, yogurt, etc.
  • Dark green leafy vegetables - broccoli, spinach, kale, etc.
  • Fish with edible soft bones, such as sardines and canned salmon
  • Calcium-fortified foods and beverages, such as soy products, cereal and fruit juices, and milk substitutes

Should You Take Calcium Supplements?

A balanced diet is the best way to get calcium, however, calcium supplements are an option for individuals who are not able to consume enough calcium though diet alone.

To absorb calcium, your body also needs vitamin D. A few foods naturally contain small amounts of vitamin D, such as canned salmon with bones and egg yolks.

Various studies suggest that calcium, along with other nutrients such as vitamin D, could have additional health benefits such as protecting against certain types of cancer, preventing diabetes and lowering high blood pressure. These studies are ongoing and are not conclusive at this time.

Before deciding to take calcium or other dietary supplements, it's important to understand how much calcium you need. Calcium supplements come in different forms, each having advantages and disadvantages.

We recommend talking with your doctor before adding calcium supplements to your diet.

 

As the new school year fast approaches parents are busy scheduling doctor visits for physicals and vaccinations. Along with the back to school doctor's visit, there ways you can help your child at home to make the transition back to school as productive and stress-free as possible.

Backpacks

If your child wears a backpack to school, make sure they use both straps to evenly distribute the weight across the body. We recommend that kids carry no more than 10% to 15% of their body weight in their backpacks.

Bedtime Routines

To prepare for the school schedule gradually change the child's bedtime to get to sleep earlier and schedule wake-up time to allow for plenty of time to eat and get ready without feeling rushed. DOn't allow children to use phones or tablets close to bedtime.

Food Allergies

If your child has food allergies, coordinate with your school to ensure the menu is safe, or arrange to pack your child's lunch.

Breakfast

A healthy breakfast is not just important for overall health, studies show it also improves classroom performance.

Regular Exercise

Ensure that your child gets at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day.

 

Sunday, 17 July 2016 22:46

Tips For Heading Off Migraines

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Migraines often cause intense throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on just one side of the head. It's usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. An attack can last for hours or even days, causing debilitating pain. Early warning symptoms known as aura may occur before or during a headache. You may experience flashes of light, blind spots, or tingling on one side of the face or in your arm or leg.

The Mayo Clinic offers these steps to head off migraine pain.

Find a Calm Environment

  1. Turn off the lights. Migraines often increase sensitivity to light and sound. Relax in a dark, quiet room. Sleep if you can.
  2. Try temperature therapy. Apply hot or cold compresses to your head or neck. Ice packs have a numbing effect, which may dull the sensation of pain. Hot packs and heating pads can relax tense muscles. Warm showers or baths may have a similar effect.
  3. Drink a caffeinated beverage. In small amounts, caffeine alone can relieve migraine pain in the early stages or enhance the pain-reducing effects of acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) and aspirin.

Sleep

Migraines are often triggered by a poor night's sleep. Here are some tips to encourage sound sleep.

  1. Establish regular sleep hours. Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day — even on weekends. If you nap during the day, keep it short. Naps longer than 20 to 30 minutes may interfere with nighttime sleep.
  2. Unwind at the end of the day. Anything that helps you relax can promote better sleep: listen to soothing music, soak in a warm bath or read a favorite book.
  3. Watch what you eat and drink before bedtime. Intense exercise, heavy meals, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol can interfere with sleep.
  4. Minimize distractions. Save your bedroom for sleep and intimacy. Don't watch television or take work materials to bed. Close your bedroom door. Use a fan to muffle distracting noises.
  5. Don't try to sleep. The harder you try to sleep, the more awake you'll feel. If you can't fall asleep, read or do another quiet activity until you become drowsy.
  6. Check your medications. Medications that contain caffeine or other stimulants — including some medications to treat migraines — may interfere with sleep.

Eat Wisely

Your eating habits can influence your migraines. Consider the basics:

  1. Be consistent. Eat at about the same time every day.
  2. Don't skip meals. Fasting increases the risk of migraines.
  3. Keep a food journal. Keeping track of the foods you eat and when you experience migraines can help identify potential food triggers.
  4. Avoid foods that trigger migraines. If you suspect that a certain food — such as aged cheese, chocolate, caffeine or alcohol — is triggering your migraines, eliminate it from your diet to see what happens.

Medications can help prevent some migraines and make them less painful. Talk to your doctor about different migraine treatment options if you can't find relief. The right medicines, combined with self-help remedies and lifestyle changes, may help.

In Minnesota we sometimes joke that the mosquito is the state bird. While the number of mosquitoes actually capable of causing infection in humans is fairly small, it is important to take preventive steps to protect you and your family from potentially serious diseases. While the Zika virus is getting a lot of attention today, it is not a threat in the northern part of the U.S. The two most serious mosquito-born diseases found in Minnesota are West Nile virus and La Crosse Encephalitis

West Nile Virus

West Nile virus (WNV) is found in all lower 48 states and was first discovered in Minnesota in 2002. It remains a public health threat because the virus can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in some people. Thankfully, most bites by infected mosquitoes result in no symptoms or only mild illness.

The typical incubation period for West Nile is 2-6 days, although it can be as long as 15 days. West Nile fever symptoms include:

  • Sudden onset of high fever (usually greater than 102°F)
  • Severe headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sore throat
  • Backache
  • Joint pain
  • Prominent muscle aches and weakness
  • Prolonged fatigue
  • Rash (more commonly associated with West Nile fever than encephalitis)
  • Swollen lymph nodes

La Crosse Encephalitis

Like West Nile, La Crosse Encephalitis (LAC) is a virus. Most people infected with this virus will have either no symptoms or a mild flu-like illness. A small percentage of people (especially children) may develop encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).

Most of the severe cases start with headache, fever, nausea, and lethargy. The illness may rapidly progress into disorientation, seizures, and coma. There is no treatment for the illness other than supportive care until the illness is over.


The Minnesota Department of Health Offers These Prevention Tips

  1. Because mosquitos can breed in only a small amount of water, check your yard to ensure there are no containers like old buckets, tires, kid's pools or other containers that can collect water. Remove the containers or turn them upside down.
  2. The riskiest time of year for mosquitos in Minnesota is mid-summer through early fall as disease-carrying mosquitoes are more common at this time of year and the viruses that cause disease have had time to become widespread in these mosquitoes.
  3. Wear mosquito repellent containing DEET (up to 30%).
  4. Concentrations up to 30 percent DEET are also safe for children (according to reports from the American Academy of Pediatrics). Do not use insect repellent on infants under two months of age.
  5. Apply repellents containing permethrin to your clothing or gear. Do not use permethrin on your skin.
  6. Other alternatives are available, including picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus.
  7. Only use products that are registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  8. Wear loose fitting, light colored, long sleeved shirts and pants. Head nets can also be used in areas with high mosquito populations.


For more information on mosquito-transmitted diseases, visit the Minnesota Department of Health website.

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