Health & Fitness
‘Study Drug’ Won’t Make You Smarter PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 January 2016 16:37

012816hBy Rachel N. Lipari & Rachel Rush • Special to the Times

A myth on many college campuses is that “study drugs” help students succeed in preparing for and taking exams.

These study drugs are typically prescription stimulants that people take to lose weight, to stay awake or to combat attention deficit disorders. However, research has shown that no drug can make a student smarter or help ace an exam.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health collects information on substance use among civilian, noninstitutionalized adults in the United States. Based on the data, an annual average of 137,000 full-time college students misused prescription stimulants for the first time in the past 12 months. This means that over 12 months, an average of 400 students start misusing stimulants each day. Prescription stimulant misuse is when someone uses a drug without a prescription or simply for the feeling the drug caused.

College students start misusing prescription stimulants mostly during the academic year, especially in April, November and December. In contrast, first use of  alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana for college students peaked during summer break.

Parents, prevention specialists and college staff can help by being aware of how students may be misusing prescription stimulants for academic gain, particularly during the peak months that coincide with fall midterms and finals.

For information about stimulant use, go to www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_2049/ShortReport-2049.html. Prevention information for students can be found at www.samhsa.gov/school-campus-health.

Rachel N. Lipari, Ph.D., and Rachel Rush, M.A., work in the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

— North American Precis Synd., Inc.


 
Beware of those Pesky Bed Bugs PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 January 2016 16:34

012816h1That old admonition to children, “Good night, sleep tight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite,” might be easier said than done.

“Bed bugs are the great hitchhiker of the bug world, and they are very difficult to control without professional help,” says Ron Harrison, an entomologist with Orkin Pest Control.

“Bed bugs can travel in luggage and other personal belongings to enter your home,” Harrison says. “They don’t just hide in beds — they can be found in furniture, bed posts, rugs and even electrical outlets.”

Bed bugs are found throughout the nation. The San Francisco Bay Area ranks No. 14 among the country’s Top 50 locations.

Bed bugs are not necessarily a sign of uncleanliness. They have been found in upscale homes and hotels, movie theaters, schools and in public transit.

Homeowners, tenants and travelers all over the world should take the following precautions to help prevent bed bugs:

At Home:

Inspect your home for signs of bed bugs regularly. Check locations where bed bugs hide during the day, including furniture, mattress seams and bed sheets, as well as behind baseboards, electrical outlets and picture frames.

Decrease clutter around your home to make bed bug inspections and detection much easier.

Inspect and quarantine all secondhand furniture before bringing it inside your home.

When doing laundry, dry potentially infested bed linens, curtains and stuffed animals on the hottest temperature allowed for the fabric.

When Traveling:

Remember the acronym SLEEP to inspect for bed bugs:

Survey the hotel room for signs of an infestation. Look for red or brown spots on sheets.

Lift and look in bed bug hiding spots: the mattress, box spring, sheets and furniture, as well as behind baseboards, pictures and even torn wallpaper.

Elevate luggage on a rack away from the bed and wall. The safest places are in the bathroom or on counters.

Examine your luggage while repacking and once you return home from a trip.

Place all dryer-safe clothing from your luggage in the dryer for at least 15 minutes at the highest setting after you return home.

Bed bugs are not known to spread human diseases like many other pests and while some people have no reaction to bed bug bites, others may experience itchy red welts and swelling.

Since a resurgence in the late 1990s, bed bugs persist as a problem across the United States. According to recent surveys by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), 99.6 percent of pest professionals surveyed treated for bed bugs in 2015 and one out of five Americans has had a bed bug infestation in their home or knows someone who has encountered bed bugs at home or in a hotel.

 

 
Protect Yourself from Harmful ‘Blue Light’ PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 14 January 2016 15:52

011416hfYou already know to protect your eyes from harmful UV-light when you are outdoors. But did you know that another dangerous light emission is all around us — in our homes, our workplaces and in the palms of our hands?

New research is illuminating the dangers of blue light, a high-energy wavelength of light emitted by smartphones, tablets, laptops, LCD flat-panel monitors and energy-efficient light sources. The majority of the public spends more than half their waking hours exposed to this light, which can contribute to eye strain and fatigue, macular degeneration and sleep disruption.

“Ten years is a blink of an eye in terms of human history, but will the last 10 years come to be known as the period that changed our vision and health?” wonders Dr. Gary Morgan a VSP Vision Care optometrist.

A whopping 83 percent of VSP eye care professionals reported seeing an increase in symptoms attributable to blue light exposure in their patients, according to a recent survey by VSP.

One of those symptoms is eye strain: blue light is myopically defocused in front of the retina, which results in light scatter that we perceive as glare. Working in a high-glare environment causes the eyes to work overtime, leading to visual fatigue and strain.

But the impact of blue light doesn’t stop there: major university studies have shown that the light can disrupt sleep, interfering with circadian rhythms by suppressing the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates waking and sleeping.

Chronically shifted circadian rhythms have been linked to breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Children are especially vulnerable to macular damage. Just as most ultraviolet exposure occurs before 18 years of age, the effects of blue light exposure are also more intense in children, since they hold devices in very close proximity to their eyes and are amongst the most active users of blue light sources.

While it would be virtually impossible to escape blue light, as most people rely on it to live, work and play (and it is even emitted from the sun), there are steps you can take to protect yourself.

Try to decrease blue light exposure throughout the day, and especially in the evenings. Before bedtime, curl up with a good book instead of your smartphone. Wear protective eyewear at the office or at home when using your digital devices.

New lens enhancements for eyeglasses, such as Sharper Image TechShield, can provide a unique defense by absorbing and deflecting incoming blue light to help safeguard the wearer against exposure.

More information about the effects of blue light and protection options can be found at vsp.com/sharper-image-techshield-lenses.html. Sharper Image was the source of this article.

— StatePoint

CAPTION: Blue light illuminates our world today. But along with the advantages of blue light come serious concerns.


 
Reduce Your Healthcare Costs; Know Before You Go PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 14 January 2016 15:50

Going to the doctor or dentist? Be prepared! Knowing the right questions to ask can help you save money and improve your care. Here are some suggestions:

Know Before You Go

If you are covered by insurance, your out-of-pocket expenses will generally be higher if your provider does not participate in your plan’s network (the name of your network usually appears on your health plan ID card).

Providers may be open to offering discounts when they do not participate in your network. Consider negotiating fees in advance.

Questions to Ask:

1. Do you participate in my plan’s network? If not, how much can I expect to be billed for my visit?

2. Will my insurance plan’s payment cover the full cost of this out-of-network visit? If not, will you expect me to pay the difference between your bill and what you are paid by the insurance company? If you participate in another network, are you willing to accept their payment amount as full payment for this visit/service?

3. Will you file claim forms for out-of-network services on my behalf?

4. What tests/lab work will be ordered for my visit? Will they be covered by my health plan? If performed elsewhere, are the facilities performing the tests/lab work considered “in-network” under my plan?

5. Will your office check with my plan to determine if pre-authorization is required for any tests or procedures?

6. Will you be performing or ordering services not typically covered by my plan?

7. Do you offer payment options, discounts, or otherwise negotiate your fees, for services that are out-of-network or not covered by my plan?

8. Are the medications you prescribed covered by my plan? If not, is there a less expensive alternative such as a different brand or generic option that is covered?

9. Will my surgery/procedure be performed at an in-network facility? Will all of the providers (anesthesiologist, radiologist etc.) that I see at the hospital or outpatient facility be part of my plan’s network? If not, can you provide me with contact information for these providers so that I can obtain information to help me plan for my health care expenses?

Note the date and the name of the person(s) you spoke with.

For more tips on managing your healthcare costs, visit www.fairhealthconsumer.org.

— North American Precis Synd., Inc.


 
Detect an Irregular Heartbeat Early PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 10 December 2015 12:07

121015hMore than 2.5 million Americans have atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that disrupts the flow of blood through the heart. Atrial fibrillation (AF) can cause blood clots to form and lead to a stroke.

Blood thinners, also known as anti-coagulants, stop clots from forming and can mean the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, some people with AF still don’t take these life-saving medications as prescribed, putting themselves at significantly increased risk for a stroke.

“The reasons why people don’t take these medications as prescribed can vary,” explains Gary Raskob, PhD, Dean of the College of Public Health at the University of Oklahoma. “For example, they may not realize how important it is to take the medicine, they may not receive clear direction from their doctor, they may be concerned about certain side effects, or they may simply forget to take it routinely.”

According to Dr. Raskob, there are blood thinning medications, such as warfarin, that have been prescribed for decades. These older therapies require routine blood tests and can interact with other medications and certain foods.

Newer blood thinning medications introduced in recent years don’t require blood testing, have fewer drug interactions, and can be taken without special dietary considerations. Both older and newer blood thinners effectively prevent blood clots and reduce the risk of clot-provoked stroke.

“It’s crucial for AF patients and their doctors to share information about any problems the patient might be having with their blood thinning medication and make sure that these important therapies are taken properly to prevent stroke,” says Dr. Raskob.

For more information about blood clots and stroke, and tips about communicating effectively with your doctor, visit the National Blood Clot Alliance’s website at www.stoptheclot.org.

— North American Precis Synd., Inc.

CAPTION: Common Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation: Irregular pulse; Palpitations or racing irregular heart-beats; Shortness of breath; Feeling overtired or lacking energy; Dizziness or confusion; Light-headedness or fainting; Feelings of fear or anxiousness; Chest discomfort or chest pain.

 
How to Help Children Who Stutter PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 10 December 2015 12:02

Why is my child stuttering? Will he outgrow it? Does he need professional therapy? Did I cause his stuttering? How can I help?

Information for parents about children and stuttering is now available in a new 16-minute video titled, “7 Tips for Talking with the Child Who Stutters.” It can be found at www.youtube.com/stutteringfdn.

In the video, four speech-language experts talk about how to promote easier talking as they interact with their preschool-age children. The professionals offer simple tips that parents can begin to use immediately.

The video features some of the world’s leading hands-on therapists working with preschool children who stutter.

“The so-called ‘wait and see’ approach, advocated by some, is an awfully bitter pill for a parent to swallow when they find their child struggling to speak,” said Jane Fraser, president of the Stuttering Foundation. “Experience tells us parents want answers immediately.

“This video will make a real difference for parents who are anxious and feel helpless when their child first begins to stutter,” added Fraser. “They often think it is their fault and wonder what they have done wrong. This should help ease their fears while focusing their efforts on doing things that will help the child right away.”

Some books and DVDs produced by the 66-year-old nonprofit Stuttering Foundation are available free on the Foundation’s web site under the resources tab and on YouTube. Contact the Foundation at 1-800-992-9392, e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit www.stutteringhelp.org or www.tartarmudez.org.

6 Tips for Talking With Your Child

• 1: Reduce the pace. When you speak in a calm, unhurried manner, it not only reduces your child’s anxiety, it also models how to get sentences out fluently.

• 2: Ask questions one at a time. When you talk with a child who stutters, ask one question at a time rather than bombarding him or her with a series. This makes it easier for the child to form a response and reply clearly.

• 3: Engage in full listening.  When you speak to your child, stop what you are doing and make eye contact to show that you really are paying attention. This makes for better communication.

• 4: Take turns. When you’re gathered together, make sure each member of the family has equal time to speak and be heard. Children who stutter find it much easier to talk when there are few interruptions.

• 5: Build confidence. Praise your child when they do something well. This helps the child to feel special and more confident.

• 6: Schedule special times. Spending even five minutes of one-on-one time together every day, with no distractions, helps build a strong connection with your child and makes them feel supported.

— The Stuttering Foundation

 
Kidney Disease Myths Dispelled PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 12 November 2015 18:39

111215senThink you have the facts about kidney disease? Here are five common misconceptions debunked.

• Myth 1. Kidney disease is rare.

Twenty-six million American adults have kidney disease and most don’t know it, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

The problem? Kidney disease can be fatal, killing more people each year than breast and prostate cancer combined, and common health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure are leading causes. Race, age and a family history all can increase one’s risk for developing chronic kidney disease.

There are typically no visible symptoms until kidney disease advances to a late stage or until kidneys fail. Talk to your doctor if you think you might be at risk and ask for a simple blood test screening at your next physical.

• Myth 2. Kidney failure can be cured.

If kidney disease progresses to kidney failure, the only treatment options to stay alive are dialysis for life or a kidney transplant.

• Myth 3. Dialysis requires traveling to a clinic for treatment three times a week.

Because only one out of five dialysis centers offer portable hemodialysis, most patients visit a clinic without knowing they can be treated at home, while traveling or even while sleeping.

Portable home hemodialysis (HHD) with the NxStage System One is associated with lifestyle benefits. Only two percent of patients are on HHD despite the fact that nine out of 10 doctors would choose home dialysis for themselves.

• Myth 4. Not many people are waiting for kidney transplants.

Twelve people die each day while waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant and every 14 minutes someone is added to the kidney transplant list, according to government statistics found on optn.transplant.hrsa.gov.

Currently there are more than 100,000 recipients waiting for a kidney transplant yet only approximately 18,000 recipients receive a transplant annually

Myth 5. There haven’t been any major developments in dialysis technology in the last 10 years.

Groundbreaking portable at-home hemodialysis has been available for over 10 years giving patients a treatment option that can be tailored to fit both their clinical and lifestyle needs. Patients can also perform hemodialysis overnight while they are sleeping; this is known as home nocturnal hemodialysis.

StatePoint


 
Host a Healthy, Safe Holiday Party PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 12 November 2015 18:32

111215h2It’s the holiday season. Which, for many people, means parties galore. 

For a healthy and safe holiday party, consider some helpful holiday advice from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Plan ahead. This includes choosing the menu, grocery shopping and equipping your kitchen with all the necessary supplies.

“Holiday parties are a great way to bring food, family and friends together,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Nancy Farrell. “Don’t forgot paper towels; plenty of soap for a quick and safe clean-up; a food thermometer to make sure all food is properly cooked; and shallow containers for storing leftovers,”

Remember, it is possible to have flavorful food without added fat and calories. Limit creamy dishes, fried foods and extra salt.

“Instead, serve a Greek yogurt dip for an appetizer, flavor the turkey with a fat-free broth instead of butter, and top vegetables like broccoli with lemon juice rather than a creamy cheese sauce,” Farrell says.

Also, offer plenty of choices for all holiday guests, including vegetarians, those with allergies, gluten intolerance, diabetes and other health restrictions.

“If necessary, make two separate dishes or place sauces with offending foods on the side to accommodate all guests,” Farrell says.

More concerning than simply going off your healthy diet, is that food safety rules may be forgotten when throwing a party. Food poisoning is a serious concern. “Forty-eight million people get sick with food poisoning per year,” Farrell says. “Follow proper food safety practices before, during and after the gathering to help keep guests safe.”

Start by washing hands, all produce and kitchen surfaces. When cooking, use a food thermometer to ensure all items are cooked to a safe temperature. Don’t leave any food out of the refrigerator for more than two hours. If food is served buffet-style, set a timer as a reminder to replace the food every two hours. Refrigerate all leftovers immediately in shallow containers.

For more information on healthful eating, nutritious recipes and food safety, visit www.eatright.org.

StatePoint


 
Manage the Effects of Cancer Treatments PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 30 September 2015 15:22

092415h1By Liz Agnello • Special to the Times

The effects of cancer treatment can linger for months or years. It’s common to wonder how your body should feel during this time and to worry about signs that cancer is coming back.

It’s not so much “getting back to normal” as it is finding out what’s normal for you now. Your new normal may include making changes in the way you eat, the things you do and your sources of support.

These tips from the National Cancer Institute can help with the most common challenges for cancer survivors.

Fatigue: This is among the most common complaints during the first year of recovery.

• Plan your day. Be active at the time of day when you feel most alert and energetic.

• Save your energy by changing how you do things. For example, sit on a stool while you cook or wash dishes.

•Take short naps or rest breaks between activities.

Memory and concentration changes: One in four people with cancer reports memory and attention problems after chemotherapy, sometimes called “chemobrain.”

• Jot it down. You can write down each task, how long it will take you, and where you need to go in a notebook or pocket calendar.

• Plan your whole day. Keep it simple, and be realistic about how much you can do in a day.

• Set up reminders. Put small signs around the house to remind you of things to do, such as taking out the trash or locking the door.

• Group long numbers into chunks. For example, the phone number 812-5846 can be repeated as “eight-twelve, fifty-eight, forty-six.”

Menopause symptoms: Even though your doctor may have discussed early menopause with you, give yourself permission to mourn the loss of your fertility.

• Drink plenty of water.

• Through exercise and diet, try to maintain a healthy weight. Exercise most days of the week, doing both weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening activities.

• Eat wisely. A balanced diet will provide most of the nutrients and calories your body needs to stay healthy.

• If you are having hot flashes, try to write down when they happen and what may cause them. This may help you find out what to avoid.

Bone, joint, muscle aches: Your doctor can help find the source of your pain and get relief.

• Use numbers. Talk about how strong the pain feels on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain you could have.

• Describe what pain feels like. Is it sharp, dull, throbbing, steady?

• Point out the exact places it hurts, either on your body or on a drawing. Note whether the pain stays in one place or whether it moves outward from the spot.

Changes in appearance from breast surgery: Your body changes may trouble you. Anger and grief are natural.

• Mourn your losses. They are real, and you have a right to grieve.

• Try to focus on the ways that coping with cancer has made you stronger, wiser, and more realistic.

• If you choose to wear a breast form (prosthesis), make sure it fits you well. Your health insurance plan may pay for it.

Symposium on Oct. 14

For more resources on breast cancer care and treatment, attend Eden Medical Center’s free event in Castro Valley, “Thriving in Survivorship Cancer Symposium” from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 14, at the Castro Valley Care Center (next to Eden) in the 2nd Floor Conference Center, 20101 Lake Chabot Road in Castro Valley.

With a panel of cancer experts, this workshop will focus on the importance of creating a healthy lifestyle, including nutrition and exercise to help reduce the risk of recurrence and enhance well-being. The psychosocial impact of cancer and the distress it can create, even after treatment, will be discussed along with strategies on how to manage distress.

To register for this free event, call The Cancer Support Community at 925-933-0107.

Liz Agnello is with Sutter Health.

CAPTION: Fatigue is the most common complaint of cancer patients during the first year of their recovery.


 
CDC Promises a Better Flu Vaccine This Year PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 30 September 2015 15:20

This year’s flu vaccine will be much more effective against the influenza viruses prevalent in the country according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last year’s flu shot didn’t work as well as doctors had hoped, because the virus strain that caused most of the illnesses — H3N2 — emerged too late to be included in vaccinations in the U.S.

So last season’s flu shots were only 23 percent effective compared to 50 to 60 percent effectiveness in other years. As a result, the CDC reported that the rate of flu-related hospitalizations for those over age 65 was the highest since record-keeping began 10 years ago.

Every year, 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications, according to the CDC.

“Vaccination is the single most important step people can take to protect themselves from influenza,” CDC director Tom Freiden said at a news conference last week. “Flu can be serious and it kills tens of thousands of Americans each year. Vaccination is easier and more convenient than ever, so get yourself and your family protected.”

The CDC offers these good health habits to reduce the spread of the flu:

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.

• If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick.

• Cover mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Most medical experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk.

• Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are easily spread when a person touches a surface or object that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

 

 
How Medicare Covers Diabetes, Screenings PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 10 September 2015 14:41

091015h1By David Sayen • Special to the Times

Diabetes is a serious disease. It can lead to kidney problems, glaucoma and other eye disorders, foot ulcers, amputation of feet or legs, stroke, diabetic coma, and even death.

If your doctor thinks you’re at risk for diabetes, Medicare covers screening tests for it. And, if you develop the disease, Medicare covers a wide variety of medications, home testing equipment, supplies, and self-management training to help you cope with it.

Screening tests are used to detect diabetes early. Some of the conditions that may qualify you as being at risk for diabetes include:

• High blood pressure;

• Dyslipidermia (a history of abnormal cholesterol and triglycleride levels);

• Obesity (with certain conditions);

• Impaired glucose (blood sugar) tolerance;

• High fasting glucose (blood sugar).

Medicare will pay for two diabetes screening tests in a 12-month period. After the initial screening, your doctor will determine when to do the second test.

You and your doctor can discuss diabetes and any other health concerns you have during a “Welcome to Medicare” visit. Medicare covers this one-time review of your health, including counseling on any screenings, shots, or other care you may need. (You must have this visit within the first 12 months you’re enrolled in Medicare Part B.)

In addition, Medicare covers an annual wellness visit with your doctor, during which you can develop or update a personalized prevention plan, based on your current health and risk factors.

If you do develop diabetes, Medicare pays for self-management training to help you learn how to successfully manage the disease. Your doctor must prescribe this training for Medicare to cover it.

The training covers a variety of topics, including the risks of poor blood sugar control; nutrition and how to manage your diet; options to improve blood sugar control; exercise and why it’s important to your health; and how to take your medications properly.

Also, Medicare covers medical nutrition therapy services, to help you learn what foods to eat and how to follow an individualized diabetic meal plan.

Generally, Medicare Part B (medical insurance) covers services and supplies needed by people who have or are at risk for diabetes. Medicare Part D (the prescription drug program) helps pay for supplies for injecting or inhaling insulin.

Here are some of the items covered under Part B:

• Home blood sugar monitors and related supplies, such as test strips, lancet devices and lancets;

• Foot exams and treatment (needed by people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy and loss of protective sensation);

• Glaucoma tests;

• External insulin pumps and insulin the devices use:

• Therapeutic shoes or inserts;

• Screening tests, “Welcome to Medicare” visits, and annual wellness checkups.

Items covered under Part D include:

• Drugs for maintaining blood sugar;

• Insulin that isn’t administered with a pump.

Medicare doesn’t cover everything, of course. Among the diabetes supplies and services not covered are:

• Eye exams for glasses (called refraction);

• Orthopedic shoes (for those with impaired feet but intact);

• Cosmetic surgery.

You can do many things to control your diabetes. Talk with your doctor about what, how much, and when you eat.

Take your medications as directed, and discuss any problems you encounter with your physician. Be active for a total of 30 minutes most days. Keep tabs on your blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol. If you smoke, quit. Medicare also covers counseling on how to stop smoking, if your doctor orders it.

For more on Medicare’s coverage of diabetes, read brochure titled “Medicare’s Coverage of Diabetes Supplies & Services,” at www.medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/11022.pdf

David Sayen is Medicare’s regional administrator for California. You can get answers to your Medicare questions 24/7 by calling 1-800-633-4227.

CAPTION: If you develop diabetes, Medicare covers a wide variety of medications, home testing equipment, supplies, and self-management training to help you cope with it.


 
Follow These Tips to Ensure Fun in the Sun PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 27 August 2015 14:09

By Ron Rabena • Special to the Times

The summer season and warm weather triggers an urge to be outdoors, but fun in the sun can be dangerous when the heat and humidity rise.

In addition to sunburn, heat-related illnesses including heat stroke or sunstroke can send unsuspecting victims to the hospital.

The human body keeps itself cool by allowing heat to escape through the skin and by evaporating the resulting perspiration. If the body cannot cool itself enough, the person could suffer from heat-related illness.

Heat stroke can progress from milder heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion, heat cramps and fainting. Illnesses caused by overheating can become serious, and even deadly, if not treated. Exposure to heat kills approximately 400 Americans annually.

Everyone is susceptible to heat-related illnesses, with even young healthy athletes succumbing to it. However, those most at risk include senior citizens, especially those living alone in non-air-conditioned environments; infants and children and people with medical conditions, especially those with heart disease and high blood pressure.

The classic warning symptom of a heat stroke is a body temperature that is above 104 degrees, but other symptoms include fainting, dizziness and light-headedness, rapid pulse, painful muscle cramps and spasms, headache, lack of sweating despite the heat, nausea and vomiting, rapid breathing, dry, hot and red skin and behavioral changes including disorientation.

If you or anyone around you has any of these symptoms, 911 should be called immediately. As you wait for emergency services, put damp, cool cloths or towels on the affected person and have them lie down until medical assistance arrives.

Being alert to the symptoms of heat stroke is vital to ensuring your own health and safety as well as your friends and family. Take these preventative steps to prevent heatstroke this summer:

• Avoid strenuous outdoor activities. Whenever possible, reserve outdoor activities for the cooler morning and evening hours.

• Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing. Wearing too much clothing or tight clothing won’t allow your body to cool down efficiently.

• Stay well-hydrated and avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages. Staying hydrated helps you maintain a normal body temperature and drinking excessive caffeinated or alcoholic drinks can dehydrate, rather than hydrate, you.

• Eat smaller meals more frequently. Eating small, protein-rich meals throughout the day keeps your energy level stabilized.

• Never leave children, adults or pets in a closed, parked vehicle. In the sun, closed car temperatures can rise from 78 degrees to 100 degrees in just three minutes.

For more information on heat-related illness prevention and treatment, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/extremeheat, The American Red Cross, www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/heat-wave and the Mayo Clinic.

Ron Rabena is President of the National Security Operations of Allied Barton Security Services.


 

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