Posts Tagged ‘health’


Traveling soon? Here’s some travel advice.

First of all be prepared before you travel:

  • Educate yourself about your destination; what will the weather be like? How are the sanitary conditions? Are there any safety or security issues? Will you need an electrical plug adapter?
  • Visit your doctor before you leave if you have any health concerns or chronic medical conditions. Make this visit at least 5 to 6 weeks ahead of time as you might need immunizations.
  • Make sure you have an adequate supply of your medications and pack them in a carry on rather than in luggage.
  • Bring along a list of all your current medications, allergies, and blood type.

Important issues while traveling include:

  • Prevent blood clots associated with prolonged sitting, by exercising your calf muscles while seated and/or get up and walk around every couple of hours.
  • Minimize jet lag by staying well hydrated, avoiding alcohol and caffeine. Get plenty of rest prior to departing and, upon arrival to your destination, adjust to the local schedule as fast as possible and expose yourself to bright lights at the same time of day as before departure.
  • Prevent traveler’s diarrhea by washing hands frequently, avoiding precooked food like buffets, street vendor food and any water that is not bottled from a reputable source. Your doctor may want to prescribe antibiotics to take with you in case you come down with diarrhea.
  • Motion sickness can be lessened by focusing on the horizon and not reading. Sit in the back of the vehicle and don’t ride facing the rear.
  • Avoid sunburn by bringing enough of an appropriate sunscreen and limiting time in sun, especially the first few days.

Do not travel if:

  • You have recently had heart attack or stroke.
  • You have had recent surgery.
  • You have significant respiratory disease such as asthma or emphysema.
  • You have had recent injury to any vital organs.
  • You are ill with a bad cough, vomiting, diarrhea or a fever of 100 degrees or above.

Take along a travel health kit to include those things you commonly use at home for symptoms of illness or injury.

Do your best to deal with often encountered misfortunes such as missed flights, lost luggage, bad weather, disappointing accommodations, etc. You have no control over most of these things and allowing yourself to get stressed out can only make you feel more miserable. Look beyond these situations and imagine the joy that you will experience during your trip. Bon Voyage!


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Winter Resp

The winter respiratory, cold and flu season is upon us. I have seen quite a spike in visits to urgent care by people suffering from coughs, nasal and sinus congestion, sore throats and generalized achiness.

I believe that people, now more than ever, realize that there is no cure for the common upper-respiratory infection, also known as URI or head and chest cold.

I am sympathetic to anyone who feels ill, and I understand the desire to feel well as soon as possible, but there just is no quick fix to the common upper-respiratory infections, including bronchitis.

Unless one’s symptoms last longer than expected, as I will describe below, antibiotics will do no good and may even cause unwanted side effects and help create germs that are resistant to antibiotics.

Here are some situations in which someone with upper-respiratory symptoms should be seen by a doctor:

– You have a fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

– You have any fever lasting more than three days.

– Your cough is associated with wheezing, chest pain or shortness of breath.

– You are elderly or have a compromised immune system due to chronic disease or chemotherapy.

– You have vomiting for more than one day and cannot keep down any liquids, or you have profuse diarrhea.

– You are basically well, except that you have a cough for two to three weeks.

– Your sinus congestion with green mucus doesn’t improve after seven to 10 days.

Most coughs, even with yellow or green mucus, are considered bronchitis and are caused by viruses that cannot be cured with antibiotics. A recent large study concluded that bronchitis can last as long as 3 weeks. If your cough lasts longer, you should see a doctor.

Another reason to see a doctor is if you have a cough associated with fever, shortness of breath and feeling as if you’ve been run over by a Mack truck — you might have pneumonia or influenza. Treatment is available for many who have these illnesses.

Regarding sinusitis: Almost all sinus infections, even with green mucus production, begin as a common viral infection and will improve without antibiotics. If symptoms last more than seven to 10 days, then an antibiotic may be indicated.

When you do see your doctor, let him or her evaluate you by listening to what you have to say, examining you and then determining what type of treatment is necessary to make you feel better.

PS: It’s not too late for the flu shot. Influenza cases are just beginning in our area, and as is happening in other parts of the country, this disease may spread among us quickly. Better safe than sorry.

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As we begin a new year, I’d like to share with you a selection of highlights from some of my columns this past year:

Antibiotics:Antibiotics are useful for bacterial infections only, and not for viral infections, such as the common cold, bronchitis and sore throats.

Strokes:If you are having any symptoms that you think might be caused by a stroke, do not hesitate — seek help immediately from the nearest emergency room.

Insomnia:Remedies for sleep problems include lifestyle and behavioral therapies, alternative medicine and prescription medication.

Sleep apnea:This condition needs to be treated, as it leads to a greater risk of heart attacks.

Depression:This is a true medical illness treated with therapy or medication, sometimes in combination.

Asthma:Although it can be deadly, asthma is easily treated with proper medication and close follow-up with a doctor.

Sun exposure:Take the harmful effects of the sun seriously and use sunscreen liberally and frequently. Cover up as much as possible when in the sun.

Cholesterol:To help prevent heart attacks and strokes, keep cholesterol at a normal level.

Coffee:On the whole, coffee is much more beneficial than harmful to your health.

Backpacks for students:Lighten them up. Heavy packs cause neck and back problems for kids.

Influenza vaccine:Flu shots are useful to prevent influenza and can be given from fall to spring. It’s still not too late.

Head injuries:Concussions should be taken very seriously, as they can be deadly and can lead to long-term brain disability.

Calling in sick:Staying home when ill not only helps you recover quicker, but also prevents spreading the illness to your co-workers or fellow students.

Stress:Dealing with stress can help prevent poor health.

The full columns and all others I have written can be found here on my blog at https://valleydoctor.wordpress.com.

Have a very healthy and happy new year.

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Childhood Nutrition

March is National Nutrition Month. I would like to discuss the important topic of childhood nutrition. Whether you have a newborn or a teenager, what he or she eats is important to both physical and mental development.

The following are my recommendations supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics. 


From birth to 12 months, it’s all about milk, whether it’s breast milk, iron-fortified formula or a combination of the two. Whole milk is not to be given during this time. At four to six months babies can begin solid foods such as iron fortified baby cereal, strained fruits, vegetables and pureed meats. Fat restriction at this age is usually not necessary since fat helps to develop the brain and nerves.

Preschoolers, toddlers

At 12 months, children who have been weaned off breastfeeding may begin drinking whole milk. Low-fat milk would be better if there is a strong family history of obesity or heart disease. Calcium is necessary during this time to help build strong healthy bones and teeth. Milk is still one of the best calcium sources along with fortified cereals and juices. Fiber is also important to help fight obesity and promote digestion and prevent constipation.

Elementary school

Protein is important in this group. If a child won’t eat meat, plenty of protein can be found in beans, eggs and peanut butter. At this age, kids will start eating more not-so-healthy snacks and fast foods. It is important to monitor their intake of fats and salt and the ever-increasing consumption of sugar in all its many forms.


This is the time when junk food can become a bigger part of the diet. It’s also when some kids become very conscious of their weight and may develop eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia. Calorie requirements increase, as does the need for calcium. Low-fat milk and calcium-rich and -fortified foods are still very important. Girls who begin menstruating will need more iron-rich foods, such as meat and poultry, vegetables and beans, and fortified cereals and grains.

It is also now recommended that all children, beginning in the first two months of life, receive at least 400 IU of vitamin D daily. Discuss this with your doctor.

Getting our children to eat a healthy diet may not be an easy task. There’s too much childhood obesity (one in three children in America), diabetes and even heart disease. We need to monitor our children’s eating preferences and habits and be diligent about encouraging and explaining to them the benefits of a healthy, well-balanced diet.

For us parents, this may be a constant battle, but one well worth fighting to help ensure that our children will grow up to be healthy adults.

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2011 Highlights

As I begin my fifth year writing this column, I’d like to thank my readers for the encouraging feedback I’ve received from so many of you.

Today I’d like to share with you what I consider the highlights from some of my columns this past year.

– Diabetes: Adult-onset diabetes can be prevented by exercise, diet and weight control.

– Sugar: Sugar comes in a variety of forms and in and of itself is not unhealthy, but excessive intake of sugar leads to obesity, which contributes to poor health.

– Smoking: Smoking causes one out of five deaths each year in the United States and damages almost every organ in the body.

– Deep-vein thrombosis (blood clots): If you have had recent surgery or prolonged bed rest, recently traveled or are pregnant and you have pain or swelling in a lower leg, you might have a blood clot and need immediate medical attention.

– Senior moments: We all have “senior moments” from time to time, with occasional memory loss, but if these moments persist, worsen or interfere with daily activity, medical attention is needed.

– Radiation: We are exposed daily to radiation both natural and manmade. The more we can prevent such exposure by limiting excessive medical and dental x-rays and checking our homes for radon, the healthier we will be.

– Dizziness: This is a common condition but usually not serious. However, if symptoms are persistent or troublesome, a medical evaluation is necessary.

– Colon cancer: This cancer, if found early, has a very favorable cure rate — so talk to your doctor if you are 50 years or older, have a family history of colon cancer, or have rectal bleeding or any change of bowel habits.

– Bedbugs: When arriving home from a stay in a hotel, unpack your suitcase as far away from your bed as possible.

– Meningitis: Common symptoms include bad headache, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting; this is a serious infection, which can occasionally be deadly.

– Treatment of upper respiratory symptoms in children: Avoid over-the-counter cold and flu medications for children younger than 4 years of age, except for acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil). Both of these medications can be used in the proper dose for treating fever or pain.

– Non-physician health care providers: Nurse practitioners and physician assistants are very well trained to care for most patients’ needs when working with their supervising physician partners.

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I have been asked by numerous people about my view of the recently passed health care reform law.

First, as someone who tends to lean more to the conservative side, I have always been leery of a government-run health care system, because I feared that “big brother”’ would come between and interfere with the important concept of the doctor-patient relationship. I have very serious concerns about what could happen to the quality of medical care in such a system.

In reality, the government already provides health care for a significant percentage of the population in this country through Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans Affairs health program. Whether these systems are the best they can possibly be is a matter of opinion.

Given the fact of the existing level of government-run insurance, I think the best scenario would be that the majority of us not covered by the government would continue to obtain private health insurance and that such insurance would be affordable and be made more competitive, compassionate and cooperative.

I am of the opinion that our health care system is one of the best in the world, but it has had its major problems.

One problem was that, although the majority of U. S. citizens had health care coverage, millions of people did not. This seems to have been remedied by the new law, which should really be called a “health insurance reform law,” because health insurance coverage was its main objective.

Another problem with our system is that the rate of national spending on health care is staggering and unsupportable. It cannot continue its pace without bankrupting our economy.

The new law has done nothing to lessen the rapidly increasing cost of health care — in fact, I fear it will increase spending, adding to the national deficit.

No political party until now has achieved this level of change in an attempt to improve our health care system, even when it was well-known that changes were necessary. I see this new bill as a step in the right direction, even with its flaws, because it will force us — patients, providers and government — to make important changes. Time will tell how well it works.

The things I like most about the new bill are:

• It provides expanded health insurance coverage for those who have none.

• It ends health insurance company abuses, such as denials based on pre-existing conditions or the ending of coverage after one becomes ill.

• People who are satisfied with their health insurance plans can keep them.

• It allows parents to continue coverage for their children up to age 26.

My concerns about the new bill are:

• The cost to implement this bill will be staggering and will be unable to be supported by increased taxes on the wealthy and the proposed “Medicare savings.” This will lead to increased taxes for all or a restriction of health care.

• Those who have health insurance, both private and Medicare, will pay higher premiums to cover the expanded care provided by the new bill.

• Although the law has provisions to increase the number of primary care doctors, there will not be enough providers for the millions of new patients seeking care.

• There is no provision to decrease the rapidly escalating cost of medical care, which, if not brought under control, could be disastrous for our economy.

The bottom line as I see it is that something needed to be done to shake up the health care system to provide for its long-term healthy existence. The new bill has major flaws, but it is a beginning to promote the necessary changes.

Now, what is absolutely imperative is to develop a plan to rein in the cost of health care. In my next column, I will share my thoughts on how to bring this about.

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