Got a Cold?

29 11 2010

Dr. Mary Beth, PKIDs’ advice nurse, offers tips on relieving some of those cold symptoms!

Listen now!

Right-click here to download podcast (5.5 min/4mb)





Teens Score High On Tests and Sex!

22 11 2010

We were scanning headlines the other day and ran across this one on Time.com: Teen Sex Not Always Bad For Grades.

What a relief! As parents, this is what concerns us about our teens having sex.  “Sure,” we boast, “Hannah’s having sex, but  that little highschooler is cranking out As like there’s no tomorrow!”

This study, presented at a recent American Sociological Meeting, confirmed that teens having sex while in a “serious” relationship did much better in school than teens having casual sex.

Does this mean we should be rooting for a committed relationship for our kids? Or rooting for a time machine to take us back before these gosh darn people presented their findings?

What we really fear is that our teens will find out about this and adopt it as their new slogan: Sex = Good Grades!  Wootwoot!

This is a conundrum for us.  Our organization supports science-based information.  We applaud the study—the effort put forth to bring us this piece of information.  But, we are also parents, and many of our offspring are (gulp) teenagers.

We don’t care that having sex while in a “serious” relationship doesn’t affect grades.  It can affect one’s STI status, and make one a parent before the baby fat has gone from one’s cheeks.

This may sound strange but, moms and dads, if your pimply-faced darling’s grades start to improve, maybe it’s time to worry.





Medicine: Modern v. Ancient

18 11 2010

As the number of Americans with no health insurance soars and more people use the emergency room as a primary care clinic, it is no wonder many Americans have the jitters about healthcare.

With all the news coverage and grim forecasts, it’s easy to forget that many aspects of modern medicine are dramatically superior to days of yore.

Take Arcagathus for example: the first doctor in Rome, he was widely admired until word got around that his use of knives and cautery was more likely to bury the patient than heal him.  Thereafter, he was known as the “Executioner.”

Nowadays, we can be grateful that physicians have to go to school and learn all sorts of ways not to harm a patient before they’re allowed near one.

Modern medicine may be expensive and over-prescribed, but as a rule it doesn’t contain heroin.

In the late 1800s, Bayer added heroin to their cough suppressant for kids, and boy did it work.  But after a few years, people noticed the hospitals were filling up with addicts.  They still weren’t coughing, but what a trade-off!  By the early 1900s, Bayer pulled the drug.

On the upside, and at about the same time, Bayer brought aspirin to us, and where would we be without it?

Reports from two centuries ago of experimental treatments by the surgeons of the Royal Navy provide additional perspective on today’s healthcare woes: One pneumonia patient had pints of blood removed in an effort to cure him—it was called bloodletting. He still managed to expire, confounding his surgeon.  Another Royal Navy favorite was “tepid salt water baths.” Surprisingly, there were never any survivors of this therapy.  One poor sod who fell overboard and nearly drowned had tobacco smoke blown on him as a cure.  He did survive, but ended up hospitalized for pneumonia.

In ancient Mesopotamiaa sorcerer would be called in to determine which god caused what illness in a patient. Having identified the god, the sorcerer would attempt to send it away with charms and spells.  We do not have accurate records as to the success rate of this treatment.

The Egyptians believed mightily in the practice of medicine and left copious notes on papyrus for following generations.  Dr. Bob Brier shared some of their cures in his book, Ancient Egyptian Magic. After reading a bit, our mood elevated, our perspective shifted, and we decided to just shut up and soldier on, happy with the modern medicine we have.

In case you’re curious about what was written on some of that papyrus, read on, but do not try this at home:

Cure for Indigestion

  • Crush a hog’s tooth and put it inside of four sugar cakes. Eat for four days.

Cure for Burns

  • Create a mixture of milk of a woman who has borne a male child, gum, and ram’s hair. While administering this mixture say:

Thy son Horus is burnt in the desert. Is there any water there? There is no water. I have water in my mouth and a Nile between my thighs. I have come to extinguish the fire.

Cure for Lesions of the Skin

  • After the scab has fallen off put on it: Scribe’s excrement. Mix in fresh milk and apply as a poultice.

Cure for Cataracts

  • Mix brain-of-tortoise with honey. Place on the eye and say:

There is a shouting in the southern sky in darkness, There is an uproar in the northern sky, The Hall of Pillars falls into the waters. The crew of the sun god bent their oars so that the heads at his side fall into the water, Who leads hither what he finds? I lead forth what I find. I lead forth your heads. I lift up your necks. I fasten what has been cut from you in its place. I lead you forth to drive away the god of Fevers and all possible deadly arts.

Modern healthcare certainly has its problems, but at least today’s patients are free of spells, tobacco smoke and bloodletting. Is that better than a 4-hour ER visit? You be the judge.





Pregnant Women and Infants: Flu Targets

15 11 2010

(courtesy of CDC)

The first and second U.S. deaths from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic were in a 22-month-old child and a 33-year old pregnant woman. These deaths were a sad sign of the toll this pandemic would take on young children and pregnant women. While pregnant women and young children have been considered at “high risk of flu-related complications” for years, 2009 H1N1 flu hit them really hard.

The risk from flu is greater for pregnant women because pregnancy can reduce the ability of the lungs and the immune system to work normally. This can be bad for both mother and baby. According to a study done during the first month of the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, the rate of hospitalizations was four times higher in pregnant women than other groups. Also, although pregnant women are about 1% of the U.S. population, they made up about 5% of U.S. deaths from 2009 H1N1 reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from April 14 – August 21, 2009.

Young children, whose immune systems are still developing, are also at-risk for flu-related complications. Each year about 100 flu-related deaths in children are thought to occur in the U.S. During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, more than 300 deaths in children were reported to CDC. CDC believes that many more deaths in children may have gone unrecognized or unreported.

Experts think the 2009 H1N1 virus will be around again this flu season. In fact, one of the three parts of this season’s flu vaccine will protect against the 2009 H1N1 virus. While CDC is now encouraging everyone six months and older to get vaccinated against the flu, there is a special message for pregnant women and parents: “Don’t pass up this easy way to protect yourself and your children against the flu,” says Dr. Anne Schuchat, Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service and CDC Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

“Getting a flu vaccine during pregnancy can reduce the risk of getting the flu while pregnant and after,” says Dr. Schuchat. “And babies younger than six months can get very sick from flu, but are too young to get vaccinated. The best way to protect them is to have their caregivers and close contacts vaccinated.”

Seasonal flu shots have been given safely to millions of pregnant women and children over many years.  Though there is no proof that thimerosal (a preservative) is harmful to a pregnant woman, their babies, or young children, some worry about it. So, as before, vaccine companies are making plenty of preservative-free flu vaccine as an option for pregnant women and small children.

Usually worse than the common cold, the flu can cause fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and weakness. Some people also have diarrhea and vomiting. Pregnant women and parents of children younger than two years of age should call their doctor or nurse right away if they, or their children, become sick. A doctor can prescribe flu antiviral drugs.

Vaccination continues to be the best protection. Get yourself—and all of your children 6 months of age and older—vaccinated against the flu to keep all family members healthy this flu season. One shot will last all flu season, even if you get it early in the season.

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





Chronic health condition? Get a flu shot!

8 11 2010

(courtesy of CDC)

If you are one of the millions of Americans with a long-term health condition like asthma, diabetes, stroke, heart or lung disease, this important information about flu applies to you. When combined with your existing health condition, the flu increases your risk of becoming seriously sick, which could result in an unexpected and expensive trip to the hospital—or even death.

“We have known for years that flu is a serious disease, especially for people with certain chronic health conditions,” said 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.

These health conditions include asthma (even if controlled by medication), lung disease, heart disease, neurologic conditions (like stroke and other conditions related to the nervous system, brain or spinal cord), blood disorders, endocrine disorders (like diabetes, both type 1 and type 2), kidney disorders, liver disorders or weakened immune systems.

The burden of flu on people with these conditions was demonstrated last flu season, as the world faced its first flu pandemic in more than 40 years. Most of the deaths from 2009 H1N1 were in people who had at least one health condition. People with long-term health conditions also were more likely to be hospitalized. CDC estimates that nearly 60 percent of children and more than 85 percent of adults hospitalized with 2009 H1N1 had one or more long-term health conditions or were pregnant.

Of those admitted to the hospital with 2009 H1N1 illness, asthma was the most common long-term health condition followed by diabetes, chronic cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pregnancy, neurological disorders (including stroke or seizure disorders in adults), and neuromuscular disorders. People who were morbidly obese (extremely overweight) also appeared to be at higher risk for severe 2009 H1N1 in some studies.

Experts expect that 2009 H1N1 will be back next season along with other, regular flu viruses. The message is clear: people with long-term health conditions should take action to protect themselves against the flu by getting a flu vaccine. This season’s vaccine will protect against 2009 H1N1 and two other flu viruses. Safe, reliable flu vaccines have been made for decades, and you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine.

Millions of Americans are impacted by these conditions, although many people don’t know that they have a long-term health condition. For example, diabetes impacts an estimated 23.6 million Americans, but 5.7 million people (24 percent of those who have the disease in the United States) don’t even know they have it. Heart disease affects an estimated 26.6 million Americans. And asthma affects 23.4 million Americans. Ask your doctor whether you have a health condition that makes you more vulnerable to flu. If you do, be sure you get a flu vaccine.

Symptoms of flu include fever (though not everyone with flu will have a fever), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting.

Flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through the coughing, sneezing, or talking of someone with the flu. Flu viruses may also spread when people touch something with flu virus on it and then touch their mouth, eyes, or nose. Many other viruses spread these ways too.

For more information, visit www.flu.gov, www.cdc.gov/flu, or call 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).





AIDS.gov Tweets Right!

4 11 2010

AIDS.gov, a coalition of several federal agencies, uses Twitter and other social media such as Facebook as cornerstones of their communications strategy.

These efforts support the President’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which has three primary goals

  1. Reduce new HIV infections
  2. Increase access to care and improve health outcomes for people living with HIV
  3. Reduce HIV-related health disparities

Such broad strokes are perfect for the likes of Twitter, according to the AIDS.gov team.  Twitter as a health communications tool is exemplified by the success of the recent National HIV Testing Day Twitter Town Hall.  

A Twitter Town Hall, a group of people tweeting about the same topic at the same time (and using key hashtags), is an excellent method to reach a wider audience using social media with a relatively low investment of organizational resources.

The types of Twitter interactions may vary—from dialogue, to link and picture-sharing, to retweeting—but one thing is clear: different demographics can be reached using Twitter, versus Facebook, radio and television. 

For health educators, a broader reach is always a good thing.

Try these tips from AIDS.gov to increase your organization’s Twitter effectiveness:

  • Integrating Twitter into an overall communications strategy
  • Consistently tweeting news and updates
  • Promoting your organization’s Twitter work on business cards, websites and other materials
  • Interacting with Twitter and making sure to share links and retweet information from those in your industry

Like this story? Retweet it!





Vote and Vax

1 11 2010

Vote & Vax strongly urges public health and emergency management agencies to pilot immunization stations at polling places in their communities this Election Day. Flu season is almost here and we all have a stake in making sure that as many Americans as possible have a chance to be vaccinated.

While most flu sufferers recover in a couple weeks with no problems, a flu vaccination can prevent severe complications like pneumonia or death in vulnerable populations – such as the very young, the elderly, and those with other serious medical conditions.

Vote & Vax is also a great exercise in emergency preparedness. Improving your agency’s skill in immunizing potentially large numbers of people at community venues helps build your capacity to better respond to emergencies or disasters in the future.

Interested in protecting and preparing your community for flu season?

Participating in Vote & Vax is easy and a great opportunity to increase your community’s awareness of the importance and role of public health providers. Register your agency now and receive a free Election Day event kit — but only while supplies last!

Find out more at www.voteandvax.org or watch our story on YouTube!

Doug Shenson, M.D.
Program Director
Vote & Vax