Sand, Surf, and What?!

25 04 2011

Kids love to dig in the sand and build castles. They’ll work for hours, crafting structures of dizzying heights, sculpting the turrets and drawbridges just so with their hands.

Oh, and getting buried in the sand? Even better.

Turns out, all that digging and getting buried can expose kids to lots of germs.  Researchers found “… evidence of gastrointestinal illnesses, upper respiratory illnesses, rash, eye ailments, earache and infected cuts. Diarrhea and other gastrointestinal illnesses were more common in about 13 percent of people who reported digging in sand, and in about 23 percent of those who reported being buried in sand.”

Just makes your skin crawl, doesn’t it?  Before you give up on the beach, know that there are things we can do to combat the germs.

Tell the kids they can play in the sand, but not to touch their faces with sandy hands, and make sure they clean their hands with soap or sanitizer when they’re done playing.  Also, send them to scrub down in a shower as soon as possible after play.  There’s no guarantee they’ll avoid an infection, but it’ll help.

Kids (and adults) love to swim in pools, lakes, and oceans. We’re usually swimming in urine,  garbage, or who knows what contaminants.  Due to the reality of raw sewage runoff, we could come down with all sorts of infections, including E. coli, after practicing the backstroke.

Blech, but hey, everything carries a risk. There’s no guarantee we’ll get sick or we won’t get sick from swimming.

So go. Swim. Enjoy and shower when you’re done.

Life is too short not to have fun on vaca!

(Photo from dMap Travel Guide)





HCV+ Teen Tells It

24 02 2011

My name is Sabina, I live in San Diego, and I’m 15 years old. I have had hepatitis C (HCV) for about 13 years now and I have just recently decided to get rid of it and started treatment.

On MLK day I’m happy to say that I celebrated my first full week of being on the treatment. And let me tell you it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

I started the treatment on January 10, 2011, and now I take two drugs. Every Monday I have to give myself a shot at night. When I was about to get my first shot, I was so nervous and scared. I thought the needle was going to be inches big but it wasn’t. The needle was an inch if not half an inch big. And it didn’t hurt one bit. But still I’m scared for every Monday to come.

Every morning I take pills after breakfast, and in the evening I take another dose after dinner. And so far I haven’t gotten any serious symptoms. Though everyday I get headaches in the evening that really hurt, but as I was doing some research I found out that it’s better that you don’t take medicine to try to make it better. Instead you should eat and drink lots of water, and it really does help.

From talking to people that have gone through the process before, some tips I learned were carrying a water bottle around with you is smart so you can always have water to drink, to not overreact if something happens because its happens to everyone, and to make sure you tell your parents everything from itchiness to headaches to how you’re feeling.

Something that I’m always concerned about is forgetting to take my pills every morning and evening. But you don’t need to worry about that. You should know that if you forget to take your pills in the morning you should never take 4 that night at once. All of that medicine at once can put a dent into your body.

Another thing that I’m worried about is my sports. But I was told from the doctor that after a few months I should be ready to go back to my everyday activities and sports. I’m a volleyball player and club season is coming up, and the doctor says I should be healthy enough to play. Great news, huh? So if you are a sports person don’t stress about not playing.





Poop Does the Trick!

3 02 2011

We’re cringing at reports that some doctors are successfully treating an intractable superbug with a poop  transplant.

Apparently, in a small number of cases, fecal transplantation has been successful in conquering “C. diff,” or Clostridium difficile. This pesky bacterium, particularly disabling to the elderly and infirm, scoffs at antibiotics like Superman scoffs at bullets.

As with too many other bugs, C. diff loves hospitals, and also thrives in the community, making control of the infection routes that much more difficult.

Probiotics have been making the rounds for years as one type of treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and the like, on the theory that intestinal disorders are caused by a lack of good bacteria in the gut, and fecal transplantation works along the same lines, placing healthy bacteria from a normally functioning bowel into the bowel of a sick person.

It’s too soon to tell if the risks associated with this bacteriotherapy outweigh the potential rewards.  We don’t even know what all the risks might be—there haven’t been enough studies done on this procedure to prove it safe and effective, or not.





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.





Placebo Effect

14 07 2010

The placebo effect. For some of a certain age, that phrase brings to mind the M*A*S*H TV show, where Col. Potter and his docs ran out of pain medication and ended up using sugar pills until their supply was replenished. It worked!

OK, it was pretend, but it also works in real life.  Sometimes.

Whether it’s called the “meaning response” or the good old “placebo effect,” we end up in the same place—a fake treatment potentially causing a real, positive result.

Dr. Harriet Hall wrote a piece featured in skeptic.com that compares various studies done over the years. In it, she indicates that the placebo effect is real for some.  Sometimes, the problem and the effect are self-reported, but not measurable using objective data. Other times, the results are measurable, suggesting there may be a  neurobiological response causing the positive result.

Some scientists, like Dr. Mark Crislip, do not believe there is a placebo effect.

The whole thing can be rather confusing.

As parents, we know that placebos or something like them work.  How many of us have given a small child a sip of sugar water or a piece of candy and promised it would make the pain go away?  And then it did.  Subjective?  You bet!

Some of us have children living with chronic diseases, and we employ subterfuge on occasion to get over the small bumps in that road—nothing claiming to cure, just a little something to ease the pain or discomfort.

Is it real?  Is it ethical?  We each have our opinions.  What do you think?