Posted in Health, news

Allergy Season May Start Early This Year

Multiple states are reporting “early” allergy seasons.

We still have a month left of winter yet grass is sprouting, leaves are growing and flowers are blooming.  Add warmer than normal temperatures to the mix and this is the perfect recipe for an early allergy season.

Allergy season usually begins with the start of Spring in March.  Yet many may start their symptoms as early as February if they are allergic to what’s blooming.

Tree pollens start first in January and then taper off in April.  Grass pollen starts to rise in February and March.   Finally weed pollens join the party by the Spring and extend through the Summer and Fall.

Here are your questions answered:

What are allergies?

Allergies are the result of the immune response to a foreign particulate that our body senses.  One could be allergic to pollen, dust, dander, food, insects, mold, metals, transfused blood, grafts, medicine and anything the body senses as a foreign intruder.  Even though these may be individually harmless, a hypersensitivity reaction occurs as a result of their intrusion into the body.  IgE antibodies find the allergen (intruder) and activate mast cells in the tissue and basophils in the blood.  When these cells get activated, they release substances to help protect the body, including histamines, leukotrienes, and cytokines. These help the body attempt to sneeze and cough the allergen out, wall off the antigen, signal more antibodies, or produce tears and nasal secretions to flush it out.

What are symptoms of seasonal allergies?

Symptoms of allergies could include any or a combination of the following:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Runny nose
  • Eye watering
  • Red Eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Itchy skin
  • Rash
  • Itchy throat
  • Fatigue
  • Congestion….. to name a few.

How do they differ from a cold?

Colds may have very similar symptoms to allergies.  However they are different.

The common cold is caused by a virus.  When one gets infected by the virus they may feel malaise, fever, and achy.  This does not occur with allergies.

Moreover, nasal secretions from allergies are usually clear.  In a cold, the mucous could be thicker and with color.

The same holds true with sputum.  During an allergy the cough may have little to no mucous and if so, be light colored.  Thick mucous could be a sign of an infection.

An allergic sore throat will seem more dry and scratchy.  A sore throat from a cold is more uncomfortable and less easy to soothe.

Allergies may persist or be cyclical.  Cold symptoms will usually subside after a few days and rarely persist longer than 10 days.

Can allergies lead to a cold?

Yes and no.  Allergies should not in and of themselves cause an infection. However they may make one more vulnerable for a virus or bacteria to take over.    Hence a bronchitis, sinus infection, or pneumonia could uncommonly follow an asthma attack.

Are seasonal allergies dangerous?

As stated previously, if one is susceptible to colds, an allergic attack could make them vulnerable. Moreover if one suffers from asthma, an allergy attack could incite an asthma attack.  Very rarely would we see a life threatening anaphylaxis to an allergen such as pollen.

How can we prevent and treat allergies?

Avoiding, or decreasing exposure to the allergen is key.   We suggest the following:

  1.  Be aware of your local weather and pollen counts.  If the weather begins to warm and regional vegetation is blooming, allergy season may be upon you sooner than you know.
  2. Avoid outside pollen from coming into your house.  Avoid the urge to open all the windows during Springtime as wind will bring the pollen in.
  3. Clean your air filters.  Replace air filters frequently and consider using HEPA Filters
  4. Wash off pollen from your hair and clothes before you sit on the couch or jump into bed.
  5. Close your car windows when you park.
  6. “Recirculate” the air in your car
  7. Discuss with your medical provider if you are a candidate for medications such as antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids or leukotriene antagonists.  
  8. If you suffer from respiratory illnesses or a chronic medical condition, discuss with your medical provider if you need to start your allergy medication before allergy season hits. Some of these medications may take a couple of weeks to reach therapeutic levels.

How can I find my local pollen counts?

Local tree, ragweed and grass pollen counts can be obtained here.

 

                                                                                                       

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician

 

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Posted in Health, news

Plane Makes Emergency Landing Due to Passenger’s Farts

A pilot made an emergency landing when a fight broke out between passengers when one wouldn’t stop farting.

According to the NY Post, two Dutchmen sitting next to the flatulent passenger reportedly asked the man to stop, but he refused and continued to break wind aboard the Transavia Airlines flight from Dubai to Amsterdam Schiphol.

The airline stated, “Our crew must ensure a safe flight. When passengers pose risks, they immediately intervene. Our people are trained for that. They know very well where the boundaries are. Transavia is therefore square behind the cabin crew and the pilots.”

In July a report surfaced stating an American Airlines jet evacuated all their passengers at Raleigh-Durham International Airport when a passenger “passed gas”, making other passengers sick.  Airline officials however refuted it saying the plane was not evacuated and a medical call came in because of an “odor” on a plane.

Many passengers complained of nausea and headaches, which brings up the question: If someone did pass gas, can farts make you sick?

What’s in a fart?

Flatus, or flatulence, is commonly called a “fart”.  Flatus is made up of multiple gases obtained from swallowing and produced by the microbes lining the intestine. These include hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide and methane.

Flatus odor, however, is caused from minor sulfur gas components including hydrogen sulfide, dimethyl sulfide and others.

flatus.jpg

IMAGE FROM PHYSICS STACK EXCHANGE

Can farts make you sick?

Studies have found that bacteria passed from flatus will grow on a petrie dish but that clothes provide a filter.  Reports of pink eye being obtained from a pillow case soiled in flatus are anecdotal.

However, nausea and headaches can happen.  The hydrogen sulfide, depending on the dose, can cause headaches, nausea, skin and eye irritation.  In toxic doses, hydrogen sulfide (which has the characteristic rotten egg odor) can cause convulsions, delirium and death.  But hydrogen sulfide comprises such a minute amount in flatus that no one would become that ill by smelling it.

Can farts be beneficial?

For the farter, yes.  It assists in movement of the stool and passing it can help prevent bloating and constipation.  However for the recipient of the smell, it may be beneficial too.

In 2014, a study from Exeter University, found the hydrogen sulfide in gas to HELP cells recover from mitochondrial damage, allowing their energy powerhouses to continue working. Researchers believe this could help repair the damage in heart disease, stroke, dementia and many other diseases.

Yet before you ask your buddy to do you a solid, wait for more research. And if you need to exit a plane due to fart smell, breathe into your shirt and wait until the plane lands before disembarking.    I think many of us can admit to loads of experience with this one……

 

                                                                      Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician

Posted in flu, Health, news

Should We Keep our Mouths Shut When it Comes to Guessing Flu Shot Efficacy?

Low flu shot efficacy predictions may be turning people off from getting the life-saving vaccine.

A 3-year-old girl from Indiana who died days after being diagnosed with the flu was never vaccinated against the virus since the family was dissuaded by efficacy reports.

Alivia Viellieux of Muncie, Indiana was diagnosed with Influenza A when she presented to medical providers with a fever of 106 degrees.

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She was hospitalized and when she improved she was sent home. Unfortunately she began feeling worse again at home and died in her sleep the next day to what the family believes was pneumonia.

The number one cause of flu-related death is pneumonia.  Most children are vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia with Prevnar as infants, as are those over 65 who receive the Pneumovax.

Alivia’s grandmother, Tameka Stettler, stated they didn’t give the toddler the flu shot this year due to its purported low efficacy rate.  She states, “Alivia did not have it because they had told us once the flu is going around it’s not going to matter if you got it or not.” She continued, as reported by Fox News, “We just decided not to put those chemicals in the girl’s body if it’s not gonna help.”

The flu vaccine this year has been reported to be approximately 30% effective against this year’s flu strains, including H3N2, H1N1 and an Influenza B strain.  Strong efficacy would range in the 60-65% range. Why not 100%? Virus strains mutate easily as weeks go by and vaccine manufacturers need to rely on data from the Southern Hemisphere who combats the flu season before us.

A November study published in the New England Journal Of Medicine stated that Australia had dealt with the majority of strains this season to be H3N2 and their flu shot was found to only be 10% effective.

US media outlets reported these findings and the public panicked.  However, the medical community still urged everyone over 6 months of age to get the flu shot as any vaccine efficacy can still be life saving.  However, that might have fallen on deaf ears.

Which brings me to ask….Should we be reporting flu shot efficacy before we know the facts?

We don’t really know how effective the flu shot is until late until the season.  Moreover in those of us who received the flu shot and did not get the flu this season, was it due to the shot or our good health, or luck?  And who reports to the CDC that they were “all clear” this flu season?  If data on flu shot efficacy is not able to accurately collected on those who did not get the flu, how are we getting a true estimate of vaccine effectiveness?

I understand that media outlets want to warn us of a deadly flu season without an ideal vaccine but the panic may work against us with many NOT taking precautionary measures.

I suggest at the start of next flu season, the media reminds viewers, listeners, readers that flu shots are never 100% effective but can provide protection without giving a “guestimate” percentage. Reporting what happened in the Southern Hemisphere the season before is fine with a caveat that we may not know our vaccine’s true effectiveness till later in the season.  Emphasizing good hand washing, avoiding others who are sick, good nutrition, being well rested and getting vaccinated will do more good than grabbing people’s attention with a scary headline that may not be entirely accurate.

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician

Posted in food, Health, news

Eat Slower to Lose Weight

Another study has found eating too fast may lead to weight gain and metabolic syndrome.

In a recent study published in BMJ Open, researchers looked at 60,000 patients, analyzing their BMI and waist circumference and found 22,000, or 1/3 gobbled down their food at a fast rate. Those who ate at a normal speed were 29 percent less likely to be obese than the gobblers and those who ate slowly were 42 percent less likely to be overweight.  BMI and waist circumference were noted to be higher in the fast eating groups.

One reason for this is fast eaters may be more likely to consume more calories before they feel full. Their food choices may also be those that you can eat quickly (like a cheeseburger) rather than a salad that takes forever to get through.

Last year, researchers from Hiroshima University in Japan also found that those who ate their meals quicker were more likely to suffer from metabolic syndrome.

What is metabolic syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is comprised of a group of risk factors that puts one at risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke.  Any three of the following classify as one having metabolic syndrome:

  • Large waistline or apple shaped habitus
  • High blood pressure (over 130/80)
  • High fasting blood sugar (over 100)
  • High triglyceride level
  • Low HDL (good cholesterol)

Researchers looked at 1000 people in 2008 who didn’t have metabolic syndrome and rated them as slow eaters, normal eaters and fast eaters. Those who scarfed down their food were more likely to develop metabolic syndrome within 5 years.

Previously I discussed how our eating speed has helped fuel our obesity crisis.

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Fast food has become the staple of many American and European diets and we’ve seen obesity rise.  True more people take public or private transportation to work over walking, and many have given up smoking every time they had a hunger itch, but the most popular reason for our waistline increase is fast food.  But is it the caloric content of the fast food that’s fueling the obesity epidemic, or the speed at which its ingested?

What is Fast Food?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Fast Food is “food that can be prepared and served quickly”.  A burger, shake and fries is considered fast food but so is a take away salad or sandwich.  It’s implied that fast food is a meal that is not made fresh but made previously and preserved such that it can taste fresh when needed to be served.

How Caloric is Fast Food?

According to CalorieKing, a McDonald’s Big Mac is 540 calories.  A large order of fries is 510 calories.  So a meal over 1000 calories is obviously not the healthiest choice.

But let’s return back to the sandwich alone.  While a Big Mac is 540 calories, CalorieKing finds Chick-Fil-A’s Cobb Salad (without dressing) 500 calories.  Bob Evans Restaurant’s Cobb Salad is 516 calories.

fast food.jpg

Now on the same site a Tuna Salad Sandwich (5 oz) w. mayo, 3 oz Bread is 679calories.

So are we becoming obese eating cobb salads and tuna salad for lunch just as one would eat a Big Mac?  We don’t know since people don’t study cobb and tuna salad eating consumers.  My guess is No.

Are we eating too fast?

Yes, and so fast that I believe it could be messing with our metabolism.

Think back to caveman days.  We had to chew.  And not on a soft sesame seed bun, but chew our meat.  Nuts and vegetables took a chewing as well.  Food was more scarce so it was savored and meals weren’t on the run while on a subway or at a stop light in one’s car.

Previous studies have shown that eating slowly and chewing it multiple times allow the body’s signals to trigger the satiety sensation sooner, hence one would eat less.

So gulping down a burger in 5 bites could be accomplished prior to the brain receiving the signal that it should be satisfied.

Now the metabolism issue.  Fast food could contain sugars, fats and preservatives that alter metabolism.  But eating on the run could cause metabolism issues in and of itself.

When a body senses that the food source is short-lived, unpredictable, and coming at a speed preventing proper absorption of nutrients, it may slow down metabolism to allow the body to make the most of what it has.  Eating a meal slow and methodical may be the most successful way to not only feel full but to eat less and lose weight.

I suggest a study be done looking at two groups of people eating the same food with the same caloric content but differing on the speed at which they eat it.

I suggest to you all to take an extra 15 minutes to complete your meal than what you’re accustomed to and determine if you see results after a few weeks.

Of course avoiding fast food would be the most beneficial for our weight but if you must eat fast food, eat it slowly.

 

                                                                                                         LearnHealthSpanish.com

                                                                                                         Medical Spanish made easy

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician

Posted in Health, news

Valentine’s Day: The Least Liked Holiday of the Year

Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest holidays of the year, with consumers spending more than $18 billion a year buying cards, chocolates, flowers, and teddy bears.  But what no one admits to is it is one of the most anxiety producing and miserable holidays of the year.

If you’re single….

When you’re single the last thing you need to be reminded of is just that….you’re single.  Valentine’s Day inundates us with the “normalcy” of being in a relationship such that anyone who’s single feels there’s something wrong with them.  Single people feel forced to shut off the TV, avoid shopping, avoid others and remain indoors for the week surrounding Feb. 14th.

If you’re married….

If you’re married, and have been so for some time, Valentine’s Day reminds you of how much you are lacking in sex and romance.  But worse yet, you are now compelled to do something for Valentine’s Day.  No credit for spontaneity.  No credit for being romantic, since the whole world seems to be celebrating Valentines.  And… it’s all pain, no gain.  If you mess up, and your gift or celebration is not very romantic, you’re in the dog house.  And if you forget about the holiday all together…Whoa Nelly…..

The candy….

When one thinks of candy they think of chocolate, lollipops, vibrant colors…..Valentine’s heart candy is the worst candy out there.  They’re pale, hard, practically crack your teeth, not very tasty and force you to read them before you eat.

candy.jpeg

Be Mine?  Be my Valentine?

Don’t give me anymore work to do. You could be pretty high maintenance.  And what if I’m not ready to commit?

Your gift better measure up….

Valentine’s Day gifts are made to be publicized.  And even if you gave your sweetheart the gift in private, it will be posted on social media or broadcast at work the next day.  In fact, not sending the gift to their work could be a major faux pas.

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So how do we make this holiday more tolerable?

If you’re single….

If you’re single, use this holiday to celebrate the friendships you have.  Make it a singles night out and celebrate your freedom.  Or make a friend feel special by sending a “friend” valentine.  These could include:

  • a bottle of wine
  • a stuffed toy (with no heart attached)
  • a book
  • a gift certificate
  • a funny poem/desk calendar

If you’re married…..

Since the gift of spontaneity has already been hijacked by this holiday, do something creative and unpredictable.  Candlelight dinner, a poem, luxury bath, weekend trip, something sappy…..but do it right and you’ll get bonus points.

Don’t spend a lot

Here’s the silver lining. Most Valentine’s Day gifts/gestures do not have to cost a lot.  Valentine’s Day is about the heart and showing one how much you care.  So a note, poem, song, personalized song list, or even a cute little doodle can go along way.

Arteries are red
Venules are blue
My gonorrhea has cleared up
How about you?

 

What to buy a man?

We make the mistake of thinking men want what we want. Let’s take cologne for that matter….men don’t want to smell like perfume or “parfume”y….they like smelling like men.  Forcing them to use toilet water is not cool.

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Another common gift given to men is a shaving set.  Does the average man like shaving, let alone every day? Top that off with wasting an opportunity for them to get a cool gift with one that includes shaving products???  Cruel, just cruel.

For men, many prefer steak for dinner, time alone in their man cave, or sex.  I think that’s about it.  Pretty easy.

 

So hope this helps you get through Valentine’s Day anxiety free and worry free.

And remember…. its only one day…just one day…. and will all be over Feb. 15th.

 

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Health, news

Man’s Rectum Falls Out While Playing Video Games on the Toilet

The Daily Mail reports a Chinese man suffered a case of rectal prolapse while he sat on the toilet for 30 minutes playing video games.

The unnamed patient went to the hospital Feb. 4th with his rectal tissue, still attached, hanging outside of his body.  He was treated by Dr. Su Dan from the Sixth Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University.

The patient had issues with constipation and previously suffered a partial prolapse that was not treated.

Video game use during pooping has replaced using a magazine as the games are more enjoyable and “distracting”, allowing for some easy passage of stool.  However, video games could interfere with one’s bowel movements as stress and anxiety may take over while playing the game causing one to “clamp up”.

Others choose to play video games in the toilet to avoid family members who may interrupt or interfere with the game.  The bathroom may be our only “man/woman cave”.

What is rectal prolapse?

rectalprolapse_vs_hemorrhoid

The rectum is the most distal, final part of the colon before opening to the outside through the anus.  The lining (partial) or the entire (full) wall of the rectum can slide distally to the outside, but still stay attached to the body.

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While some prolapses may resolve on their own, many need surgery.  Avoiding constipation by eating a diet balanced with fiber and plenty of water helps prevent the need to strain and hence a possible rectal prolapse.  Kegel, pelvic and anal floor exercises may help to strengthen the muscles that keep the rectum from prolapsing.  However, avoiding forceful straining and longer term toilet sitting is paramount.  The moral, don’t bring your smartphone into the potty with you.

 

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician

 

Posted in Health, news

Peek At Your Pulse: May Save Your Life

Heart disease is the number one leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.  In an attempt to be proactive with one’s heart health is the “Peek at your Pulse” campaign.  Multiple studies have shown a high resting pulse could signify future heart risk. Testing one’s pulse is quick and easy, and unfortunately not done as frequently as it should.  Hence “Peek at your Pulse” explains why its important and how easy it can be.

What is a pulse?

A pulse is the heart rate felt in an artery such as in the wrist, neck, top of the foot etc.  Feeling the pulse allows us to determine the heart rate, feel the strength of blood flow, and learn the rhythm (irregular, slow, fast, etc).

What’s normal and abnormal for a pulse?

A normal adult pulse ranges from 60-100 beats/minute with the average 70-80 beats/min.  An athlete may have a lower resting heart rate due to his/her cardiac conditioning.

The following table from quora.com breaks down the various pulse categories by age and sex.

pulse-chart

Why are higher pulse rates less favorable?

In 2013 a study found for every 10 to 22 additional beats per minute in resting heart rate raised the likelihood of death by 16%. Then in 2015, a study out of China found a high resting heart rate increased the chance of early death.  Per lead researcher Dr. Dongfeng Zhang, of the department of epidemiology at the Medical College of Qingdao University in Shandong, China, “higher resting heart rate is an independent predictor of all-cause and cardiovascular death.”

So the cause of the high heart rate could be a cause of mortality or the high heart rate could be the harmful factor. If a heart needs to beat an extra 20 beats per minute, and does this 60 minutes each hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year……you see where this is going.  The heart beats and expends more energy, possibly weakening it later in life.

How can I find my pulse?

Four locations make finding a pulse easy.

The neck along the side under your jaw (the carotid artery)

Your wrist along the same line as your thumb (the radial artery)

Your inner elbow (the brachial artery)

The top of the foot (the dorsalis pedis artery)

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Calculating your pulse

With a timer or watch count the beats you feel in 60 seconds. This will be your pulse rate.

OR

You can count the number of beats in 10 seconds and then multiply by 6

Or

You can count the number of beats in 6 seconds and then multiply by 10.

There’s no official recommendation on when to check your pulse but this month, check it on 10 different days and calculate the average.  Make sure to check your pulse when you’re resting and sitting comfortably in a chair. Good luck!!!  #peekatyourpulse

 

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician