Contest Time!

28 10 2010

Ever had a family member, neighbor, or friend offer “helpful” home remedies as you lay helpless with flu or a cold?  We’ve heard some weird ones in our time (smell a skunk for combatting cold symptoms anyone?) and bet you have, too.

We’re running a contest to see who has the funniest home remedy.  At the end of November, we’ll narrow it down to the top three and you can vote for the winner online!

At PKIDs, some of our personal home remedy stories include:

Whiskey, honey and lemon (from Trish):

When I was in my 20s, I had a cough that lasted for months and almost turned me inside out.  Yep, it was probably whooping cough.

I had no insurance and couldn’t afford to go to the doctor, so my mom told me about a cough remedy they used when she was growing up in Oklahoma: hot water, honey, lemon and whiskey.

Mix it all together and sip it and eventually, you stop coughing (or at least you stop noticing that you’re coughing).

I sat, I sipped, I mixed, then mixed some more. I ran into walls, giggled when I fell down, and could not figure out what was wrong with me!  I wasn’t thinking “big ole alcoholic drink” I was thinking “medicine.”

The next day, every time I coughed, my head felt like it was going to split open.  Thanks, mom.

Drink orange juice upside down (from Rachael):

When I was a kid, I used to hiccup regularly. Once I made the mistake of hiccupping around grandma, who immediately ran to the kitchen and fetched a glass of orange juice. “Bend over, honey! And drink this upside down. Your hiccups will go away.”

Well the hiccups did go away, after the searing sinus pain of citrus burned my nostrils beyond recognition…

Smothering a fever (from Laura):

For my grandmother, the first plan of defense for any fever was to make yourself even more feverish! So at the first sign of a fever, she would wrap us grandkids in mountains of blankets until everything down to the mattress was soaked with sweat.

Do you have funny tales to tell of your family’s attempts to self-medicate? Email them to us or put them in the comments section of the blog, or post them on our Facebook page.

We’ll track this on our Facebook page and post the top three there for you to vote on.  Winner gets a prize!


25 10 2010

We love the Hepatitis B Foundation and all the folks connected to the organization.  Here’s why: The Hepatitis B Foundation (HBF) has been working for years to find a cure for those infected with HBV and to improve their quality of life. 

To help reach their goals, Joan and Tim Block and their partners at HBF established the Institute for Hepatitis and Virus Research a few years ago. It’s a stunning achievement that continues to give hope to all families affected by HBV. 

The website provides many resources, such as an up-to-date listing of hepatitis B drugs, making it easy for parents and professionals to see what’s been approved by the FDA and what’s happening in clinical trials.

And, a few years ago, HBF received funding from the National Library of Medicine to provide a tutorial on searching for information on the Internet.  It’s a painless way to get an introduction to Medline, PubMed and other sites. Every parent we know wants to find out as much as possible about the virus that’s infected their child.

HBF holds three one-day patient workshops every year, each in a different city.  Workshop goals include increasing liver cancer screenings, informing patients about treatment options, and providing support to those affected by hepatitis b.

The foundation provides copious amounts of information on hepatitis B in English, as well as helpful “chapters” in other languages. 

If you or someone in your life is affected by hepatitis B, you should bookmark this website.  It might come in handy one day.

New Twitter New Functionality?

21 10 2010

Like all social media, it seems Twitter functionality changes almost daily, adding and then removing features, offering a seemingly endless array of ways to make sense of the stream of endless conversation. Here are ways of using Twitter to help you manage your time and resources wisely.

1. Managing Your Twitter Stream

Sometimes the most onerous of all Twitter tasks once you follow and are followed by numerous people, is sorting through the vast streams of incoming content.  Among the newest and niftiest tools, Cadmus holds great promise for the slightly Twitter-whelmed.

It takes a while to upload and sync your account, but once you do, Cadmus has some great features, including ranking tweets by their relevance to pre-selected topics, trending conversations for all of Twitter, and trends within just the groups that you follow. So, for instance, if you’re interested in hepatitis B, you can prioritize those within your Twitter followers who are talking about it.

2. Twitter To Go

iPhones, Androids, and Blackberries, oh my!! As if streaming your Twitter account to your Blackberry weren’t enough, now you can use specialized applications that bring a smarter Twitter to your iPad.  This integration allows Twitter to serve as your intelligence when surfing the web remotely and increasingly allows you to categorize and manage different areas of your life online.

3. New Twitter Functionality

But of course the biggest news is that Twitter is unveiling a brand-new layout with even greater integration with media stars like YouTubeDeviantART, Etsy, and Twitpic.  By adding photos and videos into the Twitter stream, the methods for companies and individuals to use Twitter will expand. Now groups can use pics and videos as well as 140 characters to announce late-breaking news, or promote a new flu-prevention campaign at the state or national levels.  Some argue that Twitter is just becoming Facebook.

While Twitter has always pitched itself as more of an information rather than social network, the integration of multi-media into the streams and additional two-way communication devices (“You both Follow” for example) means Twitter is becoming a major player in the realm of social media destinations.

Whatever happens, one thing is clear, micro-blogging will never be the same.

Got a Cold? Smell a Skunk!

18 10 2010

There’s no cure for the common cold, so the best we can do is find a way to feel better until the virus is gone.

Do you have home remedies that soothe the sick and unstuff the stuffy?  Send them in and we’ll post them!

In the meantime, there are the tricks we all know, like getting lots of rest and putting an extra pillow beneath our head if we’re congested, drinking fluids, and gargling with honey and lemon or warm salt water.

And, there’s every mom’s favorite—chicken soupDr. Stephen Rennard  of the University of Nebraska Medical Center took the in-laws’ chicken soup recipe into his lab and found it actually slowed cold symptoms!

After the tried-and-true tricks, there’s the tried-and-blech, which we may not be so quick to attempt.

A couple of gems gathered by Nurse Peggy Fisher from Glasgow, West Virginia are:

  • Tie a big red onion to the bedpost and it keeps the ones in the bed from having colds.
  • A dirty sock worn around your neck when you go to bed will cure a sore throat. (Peggy says: My grandmother had a dog that had tonsillitis, and she did the above and the dog got well.)

UCLA’s Online Archive of American Folk Medicine is a repository of their years of research spent gathering and recording  folk lore and medicine, providing us with more than 1,000 recipes to ease, prevent or “cure” the common cold, such as:

  • For colds, put mutton suet or tallow on the bottom of the feet, place the feet toward the fire and bake.
  • For colds and other respiratory troubles, use spirits of turpentine; or rub tallow on chest or plaster it on chest.
  • A flannel cloth moistened or soaked in melted beeswax, a small amount of lard, and two or three drops of turpentine will relieve the soreness in a child’s throat and chest caused by coughing.
  • A favorite “bitters” of the Botanics was bruised lobelia and red pepper pods covered with good whiskey, good for cholera infantum, “yaller janders,” phthisic, croup, whooping cough, colds, coughs, and catarrh.
  • Breathing the odor of skunk is effective against colds.
  • Sip turpentine and sugar for colds.
  • In Sussex, the most petted cat is turned at once out of doors if she sneezes, for should she stay and sneeze three times in the house everybody within its walls will have colds and coughs.
  • For colds: boil and inhale vinegar, burn sulphur in the house, ginger tea, peppermint tea, mustard plasters, turpentine on a sugar lump.

So there you have it. Keep this handy in case you get sick and, need we say? Check with your provider before trying any medicine, folk or otherwise, for your cold!

Medical Tourism is Risky

14 10 2010

Skyrocketing healthcare costs in the U.S. have been a boon to medical tourism, with eager patients globetrotting for anything from cosmetic surgery to organ transplantation.

These “medical tourists” often believe they will receive quality care at affordable costs, with the added benefit of recuperating in a vacation spot.  It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?  That’s because it often is.  The quality care they seek may not be what they get.

There are several reasons to pause before packing, including ethical concerns related to organ and tissue donor sources, and legal and physical issues should one be harmed rather than helped by the procedure and follow-up care.

Another worry includes the potential for infection with a superbug that is resistant to most drugs.  Traveling patients could be bringing home serious infections along with their newly formed scars.

Currently, the number of identified cases of infection with a superbug in the U.S. is small.  However, the potential for antibiotic-resistant bacteria (the superbug) to grow in dominance is real.  There has been some success in treating these superbugs with an older drug (Colistimethate), but this drug has a number of toxic side effects.

Potential medical tourists need to ponder the risks, including exposure to a drug-resistant superbug that may not only endanger them, but also contribute to a global public health problem.

Think You’re Not Risk for Flu? You Might Be Dead Wrong

11 10 2010

(The following is courtesy of CDC)

African Americans are more likely to have certain long-term health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease than other racial groups. What many might not know is that having these illnesses puts people at higher risk of getting life-threatening complications from the flu. Having higher numbers of people with these conditions  might help explain, in part, why  African Americans, along with other minority communities, were hit  hard by the 2009 H1N1 (“swine flu”) virus.

The good news is that you can take a simple step to protect yourself and your family from the flu by getting the flu vaccine each year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says a flu vaccine is the first and best way to guard against the flu. CDC now recommends that everyone six months and older get the flu vaccine every year. “The new vaccination recommendation shows the importance of preventing the flu in everyone,” says Dr. Anne Schuchat, Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service and CDC’s Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “The new recommendation will allow us to present one clear message to everyone: get vaccinated.”

Although a yearly flu vaccine is important, vaccine coverage rates remain low in the U.S., particularly in African Americans. Why do so few African Americans get vaccinated? Some people may have concerns about vaccine safety. It is important to know, however, that flu vaccines (both the shot and nasal spray) have excellent safety records. Also, they are closely watched for any possible side effects. The most common side effects reported are minor, and are far outweighed by the vaccine’s benefits. Millions of flu vaccines have been given safely over the years, and vaccine safety remains a priority every single year.

It’s also important to know that the flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. Why? Because the flu shot has killed viruses, and the nasal spray has weakened viruses that cannot cause illness. If you get flu-like symptoms soon after getting vaccinated, it can mean you may have been in contact with the virus shortly before getting vaccinated, or during the two-week period it takes the body to gain protection after getting vaccinated. It might also mean you are sick with another illness that causes symptoms similar to the flu.

By not getting vaccinated, you put yourself and those around you at risk. “People who do not get vaccinated are taking two risks: first, they are placing themselves at risk for the flu, a possibly long and serious illness. Second, if they get sick they are also placing their close contacts at risk for flu,” says Schuchat. “Flu can be especially serious for babies, children, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions. But even healthy people are at risk of the flu and should protect themselves.”

For more information, talk to your doctor or contact CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO or

Nonprofit Social Media Superstars!

7 10 2010

Here at PKIDs we’ve been talking and thinking about social media and nonprofits, particularly health-related nonprofits, for the past year.  Our Communications Made Easy Program focuses on helping immunization educators use social media to reach a broader audience.

 As part of the program, we host how-to webinars for immunization educators.  To listen to any of our social media or social marketing webinars, go here to register and you’ll have access to our library of webinars. To date, we’ve covered a number of topics including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

There are plenty of nonprofit groups who could teach us a thing or two about effectively using social media, so this week marks the beginning of a new blog series we’re calling Nonprofit Social Media Superstars! Once a month we’ll highlight great examples from around the Web of groups using their social media chutzpah to make a difference.

This week’s Nonprofit Social Media Superstar: GAVI Alliance (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation)  for their Facebook page (pictured below):

Even though GAVI has resources not available to many nonprofits, the methods they employ to maximize their organizational presence on Facebook are simple but effective. GAVI’s Facebook page does these four things particularly well:

  1. Customized Page – By adding a banner, a person coming to this page immediately learns something about GAVI (they support children) without reading anything further.
  2. Quality Interaction – GAVI posts regularly (several times daily) about global happenings, including those not directly related to their mission and projects. They also engage their fans (page audience) with conversation starters and discussions.
  3. Organizational Information – Every page allows organizations to post mission statements or brief accountings of work. GAVI adds a simple sentence that engages and challenges the reader to take action. “The world needs changing. Join us.”   
  4. Shameless Self-Promotion (in a good way)  – Many nonprofits are either too swamped or too reticent to promote their good work. GAVI places information about their projects and related pages right on their main fan page (see below).

If you’re doing the work, why not share as much information about it as possible? Facebook makes it very easy, by allowing you to promote your projects and programs in the sidebar.

If your organization has decided to invest time in social media such as Facebook, following GAVI’s example would behoove you.

See a nonprofit doing wonderful things with social media, or think your group deserves nominating? Send an email to and tune in for our next Nonprofit Social Media Superstar!

Haiti Waits

4 10 2010

courtesy Oxfam International

We don’t hear the word “Haiti” crop up in conversations as much as we used to.  The news cycle ended, but the misery in Haiti did not.

The 1.3 million homeless in Port-au-Prince sit and wait for help.  There’s too much rubble for them to rebuild their homes in the city.  They can’t move out of the city to build on vacant land in the countryside, because the land is privately owned, and figuring out who exactly owns the title to a piece of land is challenging in Haiti.

Nor can the Port-au-Princians make a living so far out of the city, even if they’re allowed to move and build homes.  Most are not farmers or ranchers by trade – their livelihoods are urban-based, not rural.

The letters pouring in to the suggestion boxes put out by International Organization for Migration provide a glimpse into the helplessness that is felt by the homeless. In the words of one letter writer: “We are so powerless. It is like we are bobbing along on the waves of the ocean, waiting to be saved.”

The bulk of the promised reconstruction money sits in Washington and other world capitals, with only 15 percent actually in Haiti.

Reports indicate that the U.S. Senate and House have voted for the funding to be available, but they failed to include language indicating how or when the funds should be spent.  So, the money sits.  The State Department is trying to circumvent the bureaucracy, but there’s no word on how that’s going.

If you’d like to help, ask your elected officials in Washington to do whatever needs to be done to get the money for rebuilding Haiti out of D.C. and into the hands of those ready to work.