Health & Fitness
Bug Bites & Stings: When To Get Help | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 May 2015 16:26

052815hAlthough most bug bites and stings are harmless, some can be dangerous. This is especially true if you are allergic to the bug’s venom, or if the bug is carrying a disease.

In the U.S., it’s common to experience a bite or sting from mosquitoes; fleas; spiders; bees, wasps and hornets; biting flies; mites; ticks; fire ants; and bedbugs.

“Most bug bites and stings can be safely treated at home with topical medication, such as hydrocortisone cream or ointment, or an oral antihistamine to reduce the itch,” says Dr. Margaret Parsons, associate professor of dermatology at U.C. Davis. “Sometimes, however, a bug bite or sting could turn into something serious, particularly if you have been bitten or stung by many insects at the same time.”

Dr. Parsons advises going to the emergency room immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms after a bug bite or sting:

• Difficulty breathing or the sensation that your throat is closing

• Swollen lips, tongue or face

• Chest pain or racing heartbeat lasting more than a few minutes

• Dizziness, vomiting or a headache

• A red, donut-shaped or target-shaped rash that develops after a tick bite: This could be a sign of Lyme disease, which should be treated with antibiotics.

• A fever with a red or black, spotty rash that spreads: This could be a sign of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a bacterial infection carried by ticks, which should be treated immediately.

“Although most bug bites and stings do not turn into a severe or even fatal illness like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, it’s important to pay attention to your symptoms,” says Dr. Parsons. “If you feel tired all the time, you have a headache, fever or body aches, or you develop a rash after a bug bite, see a board-certified dermatologist immediately.”


Danger: Contents Under Pressure | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 May 2015 16:25

By Dr. Danika Bowen • Special to the Times

Your heart is under pressure to perform 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And if you are among the one in three adults in the United States living with high blood pressure, you run the risk of your heart “quitting” on you at any time — and you probably don’t even know it.

Virtually symptom-free, the American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that while more than 78 million people in the United States have high blood pressure, half don’t even know it. Uncontrolled and untreated high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, erectile dysfunction, aneurysm, kidney failure, atherosclerosis (fatty buildup in the arteries) and even blindness.

May is High Blood Pressure Education Month. There is no better time to understand the risk factors that lead to high blood pressure and how to best combat this silent killer.

Combating High Blood Pressure

Among the easiest ways to reduce slightly elevated blood pressure or prehypertension is to:

• Lose weight

• Add foods with potassium, magnesium, calcium, lean proteins and fiber to your diet

• Limit foods with sodium, trans fats and saturated fats to your diet

• Limit alcohol consumption

• Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke

If you develop hypertension, depending on the severity, the above tactics are recommended in combination with one or more prescribed medications, all of which should be done under a doctor’s care.

Dr. Danika Bowen is Provost/Vice President of Academic Affairs and Accreditation Liaison Officer for Carrington College. Carrington College is located at Bayfair Center, 15555 E 14th St. #500, in San Leandro. For more information, visit

iBlame: An Overload of Technology And the Effect it Has on Your Brain | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 May 2015 16:22

By Edie Zusman, M.D., FACS • Special to the Times

Do you feel like you are becoming more forgetful and distracted? Do you have difficulty focusing? Are you losing touch with family and close friends? Could it be the result of aging or stress?

Or, should the blame fall on that iPhone that’s constantly in your hand?

At the end of the day, when we should be relaxing, we often find ourselves sitting in front of the TV, surfing the web and checking Facebook on a laptop, while sending texts on our phones. How much is too much when it comes to technology? And what effect does that information overload have on our brains?

Opportunities for multitasking — and being interrupted — have surged over the last few years. The phone, once mounted on the kitchen wall, is now a constant companion. And it’s not just a phone; it’s a mini-computer offering all manner of technological distractions.

Multitasking can be a wonderful thing. Parents are multitasking geniuses. Knowing how to divide our attention can be a useful skill.

How Distractions Affect Brain Function

The problem arises when you need to focus on a single, essential task. 

Whether you’re a student studying for an important test, or someone engaged in a crucial project at work, constant distractions and interruptions can be detrimental to the task at hand.

An e-mail flashes calling for your attention, or a text message “bings” on your cell phone. When you turn your attention away from the main task, two things happen:

• Even if the distraction is only 15 seconds, it may take your brain two to three minutes to fully return your attention to the primary task. Therefore, your study session or project will take even longer than anticipated.

• Many brain specialists also believe that with frequent interruptions, it may be harder for your brain to convert information into intermediate- and long-term memory. In order words, your brain doesn’t retain the information.

Age and Information Overload

Young people growing up with these devices are more adept at multitasking with them. They are surprisingly good at processing incoming information from various sources. However, the practice can still have detrimental effects.

Multitasking during an important period of learning hampers efficiency. It’s fine for socializing, but not an ideal way to learn or to get something important accomplished.

I have not seen hard science on how technology affects the older brain. But, in my practice, I know that older people often have a harder time rapidly changing topics. For older people, it’s especially wise to shut off distractions during important work.

Still, technology can be a great tool for providing active stimulation and challenges for the brain. Learning new technologies — such as computers and cell phones, exploring new topics, and staying connected with people — are all good ideas for the aging brain.

When it’s time to focus, however, turn off the distracting devices. Return to them when you are done with your project or schedule specific times to check e-mail or Facebook, for instance, every hour or two. All that information will still be waiting for you.

Dr. Edie Zusman is a neurosurgeon affiliated with Eden Medical Center.

Be Aware: Risky Use of Opioids on Rise | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 14 May 2015 15:12

051415hIf you’ve ever taken them, you know prescription opioids can provide a clinically safe and effective solution to pain management.

They can also be very addictive, and protecting against addiction requires vigilance on the part of the patient as well as his or her doctors, nurses, caregivers, pharmacists and benefits providers.

While the number of Americans using prescription drugs like codeine, hydrocodone or OxyContin has declined, the use of potentially dangerous high doses and medication combinations, and other risky usage patterns are all on the rise, according to “A Nation in Pain,” a comprehensive report on pain-medication usage in the United States.

If you believe someone you love is abusing pain medication, it’s important that you act immediately. Addiction to prescription opioids can be fatal. In fact, death from prescription drug overdoses is more common than cases of cocaine or heroin-related deaths combined.

If you or a loved one uses prescription pain medications, be aware of these signs that could indicate a dependence on or an addiction to the medication.

Suspicious Behavior

This can include a wide array of options:

• Seeking or obtaining prescriptions from multiple prescribers and filling at multiple pharmacies, especially ones that are not in close physical proximity.

• Using pain medications to “feel good” rather than to treat discomfort

• Frequent claims that the pharmacy didn’t provide enough medication or that medications have been lost

• Avoiding doctor appointments because the office counts pills or performs urine drug screens

Mood Changes

A prescription drug addiction can drastically alter the user’s mood. Look for the following warning signs in yourself or your loved one:

•  Bouts of anger or depression

• Increased alcohol use or abuse

•  Feelings of anxiety

• Displays of aggressive behavior toward the doctor, pharmacy or caregivers related to opioid medications

Increased Medication Use

One of the most conclusive ways to determine if you or someone is addicted to opioids is to look for abnormalities in the medication’s use. These abnormalities could include:

•  Taking more pills or taking medicine more frequently than prescribed

•  Seeking early refills of opioid medication

• Using opioids with other high-risk medications, like muscle relaxants and anti-anxiety medications that increase euphoria

•  Use of additional medication to treat severe side effects (such as stimulants to combat drowsiness, sedatives to regulate sleep patterns, etc.).

• Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, diarrhea, muscle pain, sweating and agitation. These are all signs of a body’s dependence on prescription opioids.

Where to Get help?

If you identify with any of these signs or symptoms or recognize them in a loved one, notify the prescribing physician immediately. The doctor can alter the pain therapy to a less-addictive option or begin to safely withdraw the patient from the medication.

Patients should not try to abruptly discontinue any medication without a physician’s supervision.

There are many resources for parents and caregivers concerned with opiate dependence/addiction. The patient’s physician can refer counseling services and addiction treatment as needed. Support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous, offer counseling and other services for patients dealing with addiction to pain medications.

In addition, many employers offer free, confidential assistance programs to help employees, or their dependents, who are trying to overcome an addiction or other personal concerns.

The one thing you can’t afford to do is wait. Addiction to pain medication is an illness, not a crime, and your immediate intervention could save a life.


Take Steps to Sleep More Soundly | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 23 April 2015 15:10

042315h1If you’re like most people, there are some nights you toss and turn in bed, especially Sunday night.

Many Americans find Sunday the most difficult night to fall asleep whether it’s from stress of the upcoming work week or getting the kids ready for the school week. 

According to a National Sleep Foundation (NSF) survey of Americans who struggle to fall asleep on Sunday nights, 68 percent attribute this to upcoming stresses in the work or school week.

Twenty-two percent of those who struggle to fall asleep more on Sunday night are young adult Americans (age 18-34.)

Here are a few tips to make your bedtime routine to get the good night sleep you need Sunday night and every night of the week:

1. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine, suggest the experts at the NSF, with time to wind down. Stop using computers or smartphones at least 30 minutes before bed.

2. Take a warm bath. This can help you relax and ease the transition into a deeper sleep. According to the survey, the average time spent falling asleep after getting into bed on Sundays is 64 minutes, and 84 percent of Americans say they wake up at least once during the night on Sundays with the average being 2.2 times.

3. Try to get up and go to bed at the same times every day. Many people sleep in on weekends and then have trouble falling asleep Sunday night.

4. Darken the room. Even streetlight is a big sleep disrupter. Swap thin, transparent drapes for thick ones, even blackout drapes. Unplug electronic gadgets that glow in the dark.

5. Install a ceiling fan. It creates a gentle, soothing breeze while giving off a soft sound to reduce unwanted noise.

6. Paint your room a soothing color. A calming shade from a cool-color family like grey, taupe, or a cool neutral can be relaxing, she adds, and paired with cozy bedding is a great way to get a restful night sleep.

For further information and expert advice from the National Sleep Foundation, visit

— North American Precis Synd., Inc.

Help Stop Medicare Fraud | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 23 April 2015 15:08

By David Sayen • Special to the Times

Most doctors, pharmacists, and other health care providers who work with Medicare are honest. Unfortunately, some aren’t.

One common form of Medicare fraud is when Medicare is billed for health care services or benefits that you never received. Someone could have gotten access to your Medicare number and submitted a false claim. In some cases fraudsters pay Medicare beneficiaries to use their Medicare numbers.

To prevent this from taking place, never share your Medicare number with anyone you don’t know and trust.

Medicare fraud costs taxpayers and people with Medicare lots of money each year. So what can you do to help stop it?

When you get health care services, write down the dates on your calendar and save the receipts and statements you get from your doctors and other providers to check for mistakes. If you think you see an error, or you were billed for services you didn’t get, take these steps:

• If you are in the Original Medicare program (where the federal government pays health care claims for you), check your monthly “Medicare Summary Notice” (MSN) to see if the applicable services were billed correctly to Medicare. The services and claims should match, like checks on a bank statement. If there are services, doctors, or suppliers that you don’t know and can’t reconcile, there may be a problem.

• If you’re in a Medicare Advantage private health plan, check the statements you get from your plan.

• If you’re unsure what services were billed, call and ask the doctor or other supplier for an itemized statement. They should give this to you within 30 days.

• In any case, the sooner you see and report errors in your health care billing, the sooner we can help address and stop fraud.

If you’ve contacted the health care provider or supplier, and you suspect that Medicare is being charged for a service, device, or other supplies that you didn’t receive, or if you don’t recognize the doctor or other providers listed on the claim:

• Call the fraud hotline at 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477).

• Alert Medicare’s customer service team at 1-800-633-4227 that you have concerns or questions about information appearing on your MSN.

Keep in mind that every tip counts. Medicare takes all reports of suspected fraud seriously.

When you report fraud, you may not hear of an outcome right away. It takes time to investigate and build a case. Be assured that your information is helping us protect Medicare and you.

David Sayen is Medicare’s regional administrator for California. You can always get answers to your Medicare questions by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

Fill ‘Gaps’ with Supplemental Insurance | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 09 April 2015 13:54

By David Sayen • Special to the Times

Medicare helps to pay for a wide variety of health services, from flu shots to hospital stays to hospice care. But it doesn’t cover everything. And it doesn’t cover all your out-of-pocket costs.

Many services covered by Medicare require co-payments, coinsurance and deductibles. You can purchase supplemental insurance to cover these “gaps” in Medicare. Such insurance is called Medigap. Some policies cover benefits that Medicare doesn’t, like emergency care in a foreign country.

If you have Medicare and you buy a Medigap policy, Medicare will pay its share of the Medicare-approved amount for covered health services. Then your Medigap policy pays its share.

You have to pay for Medigap yourself, and it’s sold through private insurance companies. You can buy it only if you have traditional Medicare, not Medicare Advantage, which is managed care provided by private insurers.

Every Medigap policy has to follow federal and state laws designed to protect you. Medigap insurance companies can sell you only a “standardized” Medigap policy identified in most states by the letters A through D, F through G and K through N. Each standardized policy must offer the same basic benefits, no matter which company sells it.

So, beware when you’re shopping for a Medigap policy: Cost is usually the only difference between Medigap policies with the same letter sold by different companies.

And, there can be significant differences in how much various insurers charge for exactly the same coverage.

These are some costs that Medigap policies often cover:

•Medicare Part A (hospital) coinsurance and hospital costs for up to 365 days after Medicare benefits run out;

• Medicare Part B (medical) coinsurance or co-pays;

• Blood (first three pints);

• Part A hospice care coinsurance or co-pays;

• Skilled nursing facility coinsurance;

• Part A and Part B deductibles.

Medigap policies generally don’t cover long-term care (like care in a nursing home), vision or dental, hearing aids, eyeglasses and private duty nursing.

The best time to buy a Medigap policy is during your six-month Medigap open enrollment period, because you can buy any Medigap policy sold in your state, even if you have health problems. This period automatically starts the month you both turn 65 and are enrolled in Medicare Part B, and once it’s over, you can’t get it again.

Medigap insurance companies are generally allowed to use medical underwriting to decide whether to accept your application and how much to charge you for the Medigap policy. However, if you apply during your Medigap open enrollment period, you can buy any Medigap policy the company sells, even if you have health problems, for the same price as people with good health.

Some other points to keep in mind:

• You must have Medicare Part A and Part B to buy a Medigap policy;

• A Medigap policy only covers one person. If you and your spouse both want Medigap coverage, you must each buy a separate policy;

• You pay the private insurer a monthly premium for your Medigap policy, in addition to the monthly Part B premium that you pay to Medicare;

• Any standardized Medigap policy is guaranteed renewable even if you have health problems. This means the insurance company can’t cancel your Medigap policy as long as you pay the premium.

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

Is TMJ Cause of Your Headaches? | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 26 March 2015 14:17

032615h1Nearly everyone on occasion experiences a throbbing headache that interferes with concentration at work or school, or saps the joy from the day.

But sometimes the source of that headache can be surprising. For many people, the pain that emanates from the head can be traced back to their teeth, their bite relationship and the alignment of the lower jaw.

“Pain doesn’t happen randomly or because of bad luck,” says Dr. Fred Abeles. “There’s a cause and effect to almost everything in the human body.”

With many headaches, Abeles says, the cause is the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, the place at the front of the ear where the lower jaw and the temporal bone on the side of the head meet.

Sometimes, the bite and the lower jaw are out of alignment, putting additional strain on muscles, which leads to the headaches. And, for many, TMJ headaches aren’t going away because people try to mask pain with medication rather than correct the underlying cause.

But how do you know a headache is caused by TMJ? Abeles says these are some of the warning signs.

• Your jaw clicks or pops. Any joint in your body should work silently and seamlessly. If your jaw clicks or pops when you open or close it, it’s a clear sign that the lower half of the joint is not in the proper position. Even if the popping and clicking doesn’t produce pain, the muscles that have to support and stabilize the joint become fatigued and will produce pain.

• Your bite feels off. The TMJ is the only joint in the human body that has 28 teeth stuck between the opening and closing motion of the joint to complicate things. Every other joint is completely controlled by muscles, and the position of the joint, its movement and range of motion are mediated by muscle.

The TMJ’s position is dictated by where our teeth come together in our bite. So, if your bite feels off or your teeth don’t fit together well, there’s a good chance your TMJ joints are off, too.

• You have pain around your forehead, temples, back of head or radiating down your neck. Ninety percent of pain comes from muscle. If your muscles are not functioning well because of fatigue from supporting one or both of your TMJ joints in an improper position, they produce pain. It’s much like when you exercise or work hard and feel muscle pain later. The only difference is that TMJ is more subtle and chronic.

• You have forward head posture. Our heads are supposed to be centered over our shoulders. If yours is in front of your shoulders when you are upright, you have “forward head posture.” That relates to your bite and your airway. The human head weighs about eight to 10 pounds. The farther forward it is off the center axis, the more strain it places on neck muscles and vertebrae.

• You snore. Snoring is a red flag that respiration during sleep is disturbed, Abeles says. Several factors can lead to snoring, but one of the most important is the position of the lower jaw, he says. If your lower jaw is a little too far back, then the tongue is farther back as well.

“If the tongue is slightly farther back than optimal, it vibrates against our soft palate, closes off our airway and we snore,” Dr. Abeles says. The snoring doesn’t cause the headache, he says, but it could be a sign the lower jaw is too far back. As a result, the muscles that support the jaw in an improper position produce the headache pain.


Navigators Help Guide Breast Cancer Patients through Treatment Options | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 26 March 2015 14:07

032615h2Receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer has to be one of the most life-altering events a woman can experience.

The diagnosis plunges each woman into a new world, filled with medical lingo and urgent decisions, along with the very normal responses of shock and fear.

One small ray of hope: a Breast Cancer Navigator is standing by to guide them. In hospitals that employ navigators, their job is to literally help the patient navigate the choppy waters of breast cancer treatment.

“Breast cancer navigators provide not only education and support, but also can serve as a counselor, care coordinator, case manager, researcher, advocate and friend,” says Joyce McCullen, a navigator with Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley.

Navigation services are provided free of charge to patients. All that is required is to ask for the service. Most patients first encounter the navigator when they receive a diagnosis of breast cancer. The navigator helps the woman understand just what this diagnosis means. During this initial phase, patients may not even know what questions to ask or whom to ask.

What does a navigator do?

Navigators are part of the patient’s cancer care team, working with physicians and other medical professionals. They help the patient and family:

• Understand the diagnosis

• Explore treatment options

• Prepare for surgical and non-surgical treatments like chemotherapy

• Understand how to manage at home during recovery from surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments

• Keep track of medical appointments

• Evaluate clinical trial opportunities

• Manage financial issues related to care

• Consider nutritional support during treatment

• Learn about support groups and other community resources for cancer patients

• Recover after treatment has ended

Navigators are valuable as the patient moves through treatment — however long that takes. Patients are often seeing their original primary care physician and also a surgeon as well as a medical oncologist for chemotherapy and/or a radiation oncologist for radiation treatment.

Navigators don’t deal only with the medical aspect of care. Depending on their needs and what type of support system they might — or might not — have at home, navigators can step in.

One important role is making the patients aware of support groups and other services that address the practical and emotional aspects of dealing with cancer.

The bond that can form between the cancer patient and nurse navigator is appreciated by both parties. “It is a beautiful blend of education and clinical practice. Patients feel cared for in a way that surpasses many traditional medical care interactions,” said McCullen. “It is a gift to work with these women. They have opened my eyes to true living and inspire me every day.”


You Can Reduce the Risk of Birth Defects | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 12 March 2015 15:34

031215hEvery 4-1/2 minutes in the U.S., a baby is born with a birth defect leading to hospital-related economic costs that exceed $2.6 billion annually. But the risk of birth defects can be decreased.

The Problem

Many women are unaware that prescription opioid-based medications such as codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine, used to treat severe pain, may increase the risk for serious birth defects of the brain, spine, abdominal wall and heart, as well as preterm birth when taken during pregnancy. They can also cause babies to suffer withdrawal when born.

Since half of all pregnancies are unplanned, women may be prescribed opioid-based pain medications before they know they’re pregnant. More than one-fourth of privately insured women of childbearing age fill prescriptions for opioid-based painkillers, according to the CDC.

Expert Opinions

“This highlights the importance of promoting safer alternative treatments, when available, for women of reproductive age.  We must do what we can to protect babies from exposure to opioids,” said Dr. Coleen Boyle, Director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects.

“If you are using an opioid painkiller, you should also be practicing effective birth control,” advises Dr. José Cordero, a pediatrician and member of the Board at the March of Dimes. “If you decide to get pregnant or do become pregnant, tell your health care provider about all the medications you are taking right away. You may be able to switch to a safer alternative.”

Dr. Cordero urges physicians and other prescribers not to write prescriptions for opioid-based painkillers for female patients who may become pregnant without a discussion of the risks and safer alternatives.

Learn More

Further information is at,, and

— North American Precis Synd. Inc.

CAPTION: By not taking certain prescription painkillers, mothers may protect their babies from birth defects.

Colon Care for Life: Get Your Screening | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 12 March 2015 15:32

By Wei-Fang Ko, M.D. • Special to the Times

Colon cancer is one of the most treatable cancers when detected early. Yet, according to the American Cancer Society, half of people age 50 and older who should be screened for colon cancer are not.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and an opportunity to learn more about keeping your colon healthy.

Many people tend to put off colon cancer screening, but the significant health benefits make the process very worthwhile. With regular testing, thousands of lives could be saved each year.

What is colon cancer?

Colon cancer usually develops slowly in the large bowel or colon. Often, it begins when environmental or genetic changes cause the growth of abnormal tissue or a polyp. Most of this tissue begins as polyps, or noncancerous tumors, that grow on the inner lining of the colon. If not removed promptly, some of these polyps can become cancerous.

Why screening is important

There are many screening tests — talk with your doctor to determine your risk and which screening test might be best for you.

Most people with an average risk for colon cancer should be screened at age 50. A colonoscopy is one screening option that your doctor may recommend, usually once every 10 years. During this screening, doctors examine the entire length of the colon to detect polyps or early-stage cancers.

Regular colonoscopy screenings for the detection and removal of polyps can reduce a person’s risk of developing colon cancer by up to 90 percent. And, the detection of early-stage cancers increases the chance of a successful treatment outcome.


To see the colon lining clearly, your doctor will prescribe a strong laxative for you to drink to clean out your colon. Preparing for your colonoscopy can take one to two days depending on what your doctor recommends.

Depending on the method of preparation, patients should not eat solid foods for 24 hours prior to the procedure, but they can have clear liquids, such as water, tea, apple juice and clear bouillon.

What to Expect in the GI Lab

During a colonoscopy, most patients receive a sedative. Those receiving conscious sedation are closely monitored. Although they can hear and follow instructions, many do not remember the 30-minute screening. Patients should expect to spend 2-3 hours total at the GI lab.

To examine the colon, your doctor will insert a thin, flexible colonoscope and move it gently through your colon. A chip in the tip of the scope transmits images to a computer screen while fiber bundles provide light so your doctor can check for polyps.

You may feel a little pressure on your abdomen as your doctor manipulates the scope, but most patients remember feeling very little at all. Doctors can immediately remove any polyps and take tissue samples during the colonoscopy.

Dr. Wei-Fang Ko is a board-certified gastroenterologist and affiliated with Eden Medical Center.

Heimlich Heroes Teach Kids How to Respond | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 26 February 2015 14:48

022615hThree siblings sit in their kitchen enjoying a bedtime snack of sliced oranges. One of them accidently takes too big a bite and suddenly his face is red and he can’t breathe. A routine activity has turned into a choking emergency.

Without a second thought, an older sibling wraps his arms around his brother and performs the Heimlich maneuver. The orange slice is dislodged. Oxygen is restored. They all can sleep soundly.

“It happened too fast for me to be nervous,” Louis Fritz of Walton, Kentucky, says of his heroic act.

Thankfully, Fritz was able to recognize the signs of choking and perform the Heimlich maneuver with confidence — saving his younger brother’s life. He learned about the Heimlich maneuver from reading a hospital poster a few years prior.

“I had never actually practiced the Heimlich maneuver before I had to use it on my brother,” reflects Fritz, “I think it’s important for all kids to be trained because you never know when you might need to save someone from choking.”

Choking is the fifth-leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Over the years, the Heimlich maneuver has saved an estimated 50,000 U.S. lives, and thousands more worldwide.

Although most people don’t consider themselves heroic, one organization is passionately working to teach people that anyone can be a “Heimlich Hero.”

Heimlich Heroes is a free interactive program designed for children ages seven and up. By the end of their basic one-hour training, students are taught how to recognize the signs of choking, minimize or eliminate the risk of choking and properly perform the Heimlich maneuver.

Over 4,000 people across 22 states have been trained or have registered with Heimlich Heroes for training… free of charge.

The Heimlich Heroes training kit includes an instructional video, learning materials for students based on their ages and the Heidi or Hank training doll. These 42-inch dolls feature an internal diaphragm, lungs and a windpipe. The dolls’ plastic mouths expel a peanut-sized foam cushion when the maneuver is performed correctly.

Practicing the maneuver on a doll helps children learn the approximate amount of pressure they need to exert and it builds confidence in performing it. When faced with a choking emergency, trained children are then ready to spring into action and save a life.

Although the basic training session only lasts an hour, extended lessons that align with the Common Core curriculum are available for school use.

Heimlich Heroes is specifically designed to help children, teachers, sitters, parents and other youth leaders become equipped to handle a choking emergency and prevent needless deaths. Training is simple, free and easily accessible.

To access free training materials and learn how to bring Heimlich Heroes to your school or organization, visit

CAPTION: Practicing the Heimlich maneuver on a doll helps children learn the approximate amount of pressure they need to exert and it builds confidence in performing it.



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