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Archive for March, 2018

Radon

radon

Radon is an odorless, colorless, radioactive gas found in the earth’s crust throughout the world. It is formed from the breakdown of radioactive elements, such as uranium. Radon gas can move upward into the air and into underground and surface water. It dissipates in outside air where it causes no problems, but can be quite problematic if it seeps up into the house.

Any home can have an elevated radon level. New homes, old homes, well sealed or drafty, with or without basements or crawl spaces. People who spend  much of their time in basement rooms at home or at work have a greater risk for being exposed. Nearly one in fifteen homes has an elevated radon level. Radon levels cannot be predicted. They must be measured. The average radon level is 1.3 picocuries which is safe. A level above 4 picocuries is above the acceptable limit and needs to be dealt with.

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. , causing an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year. Only smoking causes a greater percentage of lung cancer. Stop smoking and reduce your radon exposure to significantly lower your odds for lung cancer.

Radon gas decays into radioactive particles which can get trapped in your lungs when breathing. These particles release small bursts of energy causing the damage to the lung tissue leading to cancer over a period of time. Not everyone exposed to such levels of radon will  develop cancer, but many will without any idea it’s happening.

As far as is known, radon exposure by itself, causes no obvious short term symptoms unless it turns into symptoms of cancer with shortness of breath, pain or tightness in the chest, a worsening cough, trouble breathing or swallowing.

You can check radon levels in your home. Do it yourself measuring kits can be bought, relatively inexpensively, at most hardware stores or online. The kits are placed in the home for several days then mailed to a lab for analysis.

A variety of methods can be used to decrease radon levels in the house if necessary. I recommend that a qualified contractor be contacted to get the job  done correctly.

In summary, test your home for radon levels. If necessary, work with a professional  contractor to decrease the radon exposure, quit smoking, and see your doctor if you have any of the previously mentioned signs of lung cancer.

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Hives

Hives

Hives are an outbreak of red blotches on the skin. They can be less than an inch in diameter to greater than twelve inches size and can be found anywhere on the body. You may not feel them or they may be intensely itchy. They can often move around or come and go right in front of your eyes. Unlike most other rashes, pressing on an area of a red hive may cause it to blanch white.

Hives are often due to an allergic reaction to foods such as nuts, chocolate, eggs, fresh berries, and milk to name a few. Medications such as penicillin and sulfa also commonly cause hives. Physical stimulation of the skin from rubbing, scratching, pressure, cold, heat, and even exercise can cause a hive reaction.

Another condition called angioedema is similar to hives but involves swelling just beneath the skin, most commonly around the eyes and lips but can sometimes involve the hands and feet.

Hives and angioedema are both caused by a release of a chemical called histamine which can leak out of small blood vessels in the skin as a response to an allergic or physical stimulus.

In the short term, hives and angioedema are treated with over the counter antihistamine drugs such as Benadryl, Chlortrimeton, or one of the newer non drowsy drugs such as Claritin and Allegra. If either hives or angioedema persist (chronic urticaria), then a cortisone drug such as prednisone could be prescribed by your doctor.

In rare cases, hives can be the precursor to a condition called anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can cause immediate death such as seen in a person who dies from a bee sting. A person undergoing such a reaction needs an immediate shot of a drug called adrenaline, which can be either self injected by use of an Epi-Pen, or treatment by emergency personnel. The same urgency and treatment goes for severe angioedema which can cause life threatening swelling around the lips, mouth and throat.

One of the best ways of dealing with hives or urticaria is to avoid known triggering factors such as certain foods, drugs, or physical stimuli.

For anyone affected by either of these conditions, a referral to an allergist will be necessary for proper diagnosis and treatment options.

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