Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

CeBIT 2011: Electronic fitness trainer

CeBIT 2011: Electronic fitness trainer

From a February 8, 2011 Eureka news alert

This release is available in German.

IMAGE: The electronic Fitness Assistant consists of a sensor suit that collects information about its wearer’s movements and transmits results to a television, computer or smartphone.

Click here for more information. 


Eating a healthier diet, getting more exercise and doing more sports – lots of people recommit themselves to these goals over and over. But one’s baser instincts are often stronger and invincible. On the couch in the evening, you take stock of the day only to admit that you have failed to rally once again. And yet, physical fitness is now considered a remedy for many illnesses. Particularly for older people, daily exercise is important – not only during rehabilitation following major surgery but also for one’s general sense of physical well-being.

“Did I do that right? Or should I raise my arm higher?” Questions like these are usually answered by the trainer in the fitness studio. Whether you have done an exercise right or wrong is important if training is to succeed. Unfortunately, this response is available only from trained sport therapists, not when exercising alone at home. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS in Erlangen have developed an intelligent assistance system designed to motivate you towards more exercise while providing advice in the form of exercise pointers.

When the screen becomes an exercise trainer

The electronic Fitness Assistant consists of a sensor suit that collects information about its wearer’s movements and transmits current measurement results to a television, computer or smartphone. During exercises, a T-shirt monitors the wearer’s breathing. The smartphone provides a user interface, analyzes the collected data, gives the user feedback on the success of his or her training and can instruct the user on gymnastics or rehabilitation exercises. Plus it is all individually tailored to the needs and demands of the individual wearer.

First, a trainer or physical therapist creates a personal training plan on the electronic Fitness Assistant. Under his or her supervision, all of the exercises are recorded once to ensure that they perfectly match the user’s own performance levels. Then, the exercises can be repeated in the home environment. An “avatar,” a digital trainer, performs the exercises in real time – on TV, for instance. The program then compares the exercise being performed with the results of the recording and makes any needed adjustments to the wearer’s posture. The goal is to playfully motivate the wearer to exercise more. The areas of application include exercise programs for senior citizens or patients undergoing rehabilitation. Combined with digital games – gaming consoles have shown how it is done – the electronic trainer can also be tailored for use by younger people.

The Fitness Assistant is a subproject of “FitForAge,” an initiative sponsored by the Bavarian Research Foundation. Researchers are working to further improve and refine sensor technology to permit the system to analyze movements with greater and greater precision. The program is also designed to provide additional important tips on increasing or maintaining motor fitness. Experts will be on hand at the joint Fraunhofer stand in Hall 9, B36 to demonstrate how the Fitness Assistant works in practice.




February 9, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quality varies in social networking websites for diabetics

Quality varies in social networking websites for diabetics
Researchers make recommendations for improving sites, provide safety tips for users

From the February 8, 2011 Eureka news alert

Boston, Mass. – Nearly one-half of U.S. adults who use the Internet participate in social networks. While these increasingly include health-focused networks, not much is known about their quality and safety. In one of the first formal studies of social networking websites targeting patients, researchers in the Children’s Hospital Boston Informatics Program performed an in-depth evaluation of ten diabetes websites.

Their audit found large variations in quality and safety across sites, with room for improvement across the board. As reported online January 24 in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association***, only 50 percent of the sites presented content consistent with diabetes science and clinical practice. Even fewer offered both scientific accuracy and patient protections such as safeguarding of personal health information, effective internal and external review processes and appropriate advertising.

For instance, seven of the ten sites did not allow members to restrict the visibility of their profiles. Five carried advertisements that were not labeled as such. And three sites went as far as to advertise unfounded “cures.”

“We saw that people are sharing incredible amounts of personal health information on these sites, including highly identifiable information,” says Elissa Weitzman, ScD, MSc, lead author on the study and an assistant professor in the laboratory of Kenneth Mandl, MD, MPH. “They are eager to accelerate their understanding of the disease, obtain support, find treatments and see if their experience is common or different.”

“There is on the one hand an enormous focus in the U.S. on health information privacy,” Mandl adds. “But privacy in a social network is somewhat of an oxymoron. On the whole, these networks tend to be about exposing your information online.”

The team evaluated diabetes websites that appeared prominently in Google searches and allowed members to create personal profiles and interact with each other. They looked at four key factors:

  1. agreement of content with diabetes science and clinical practice standards,
  2. practices for auditing content and supporting transparency,
  3. accessibility and readability of privacy policies, and
  4. the degree of control members had over the sharing of personal data.

The average number of members per website was 6,707. Activity ranged widely among the sites, from over 100 new posts per day to less than 5 new posts per day.

The majority of sites studied did not include a “disclaimer” encouraging patients to discuss their care regimen with a healthcare provider. Many sites also missed opportunities to communicate essential diabetes information, such as the definition of “A1c”—a biomarker commonly used by diabetics to access blood glucose levels.

In addition to recommending improvements in these areas, the authors saw a need for increased moderation, for the credentials of moderators to be more visible and for periodic external review. Further, potential conflicts of interest—such as ties to the pharmaceutical industry—needed to be more clearly disclosed, and privacy policies easier to understand.

Diabetes is only one illness in the rapidly growing list for which there are online social networks with thousands of users. The researchers chose to study diabetes-related networks because they were among the earliest to emerge and remain among the most active. They and colleagues in the Children’s Hospital Informatics Program are further studying how these sites are used—how people choose to interact with them and how specifically they share their medical information. Last year, Mandl and Weitzman developed an application for the social networking website TuDiabetes that allows users to submit their A1c levels to be displayed in a worldwide map, as part of an effort to encourage diabetes management and inform public health efforts and research.

The two believe that the emergence of online health communities and their large number of participants reveal unmet needs for information and support of patients and families. “Social networking activity is clearly replacing or adding value that is missing in the standard healthcare system,” Mandl says.

“We sought to jump start a conversation about how to balance patients’ safety with their autonomy,” Weitzman says, “as we’re in an era where terrific levels of healthcare communication are happening outside of the usual channels.”

While the names of the 9 sites were not mentioned,  the tables nicely summarized the extensive research done in the study.

The variables in the tables are valuable guide in determining if a social networking site provides good information, respects privacy, refers to users to health care professionals, is influenced by advertising, and more.

Below are the abbreviated tables

Table 1 Alignment of centralized content with diabetes science and clinical practice recommendations

Medical Alignment

1.Recommendation or ‘disclaimer’ to discuss regimen with healthcare provider

Clear central definitions, consistent with care standards

2.Clear central information on clinical-practice recommendations

Routine checkups

Annual eye exams

3. Biannual HbA1c

4. Yearly flu vaccination

5. Annual lipid profile

6. Smoking cessation

Table 2 Safety practices for auditing content and supporting transparency and moderation of content

Quality of Information

External checks on editorial content

Evidence of outside audit of site content

Link to diabetes association on home page

Internal checks on user-generated content

Some form of forum moderation present

No of moderators available clearly marked

Credentials of moderators clearly stated

Evidence of professionally accredited moderators

Free of member-posted misinformation about a ‘cure’

Advertising content

Free of pharmaceutical advertising on home page

Clear distinction between editorial and advertising content

Free of deceptive advertising of ‘cure’ on site

*** For suggestions on how to get this article for free or at low cost click here.

For general guides to evaluating Web sites for health/medical information, try these

February 9, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Herbs at a Glance – Sage


The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has published a new Herbs at a Glance fact sheet focusing on Sage.


A few herb related Web sites

Information about ingredients in more than three thousand selected brands of dietary supplements. It enables users to determine what ingredients are in specific brands and to compare ingredients in different brands. Information is also provided on the health benefits claimed by manufacturers. These claims by manufacturers have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Check out the Help section for tips on how to browse and search this site.


This noncommercial consumer health and drug information site provides information about drugs and treatment options to be discussed with your primary health care provider or a pharmacist.  Information about over 1,500 drugs as well as common herbs and supplements. The check interactions tab (potential interactions between drugs)  and conditions/treatments area provide easy-to-read overviews. Information provided by Drawing pharmacy experts, licensed doctors of pharmacy, and physicians. From ExpressScripts.

Prescription and over-the-counter medication information contains answers to many general questions including topics as what a drug is used for, precautions, side effects, dietary instructions, and overdoses. From the American Society of Health System Pharmacists

Herb and supplement information includes information on uses based on scientific evidence as well as safety and potential interactions with drugs, herbs, and supplements. From Natural Standard, an independent group of researchers and clinicians.

Somewhat lengthy drug and over-the-counter medicationinformation with these sections: description, before using, proper use, precautions and side effects. From Micromedex, a trusted source of healthcare information for health professionals. 

Herb and supplement information includes information on uses based on scientific evidence as well as safety and potential interactions with drugs, herbs, and supplements. From Natural Standard, an independent group of researchers and clinicians.

  • Natural & Alternative Treatments**
    Contains detailed information on almost 200 different conditions and the conventional and natural treatments used to treat them, over 300 herbs and supplements, plus drug-herb and drug-supplement interactions for more than 90 drug categories.

February 9, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Finding Aids/Directories, Librarian Resources | , , , , | Leave a comment

Tasty Healthy Family Meals

Tasty Healthy Family Meals

Keep the Beat™ Recipes: Deliciously Healthy Eating

From the NIH (National Institute of Health) February 4 press release

Nutritious and tasty meals can be easy to prepare for your family. Get some ideas and inspiration from a new NIH cookbook. Keep the Beat Recipes: Deliciously Healthy Family Meals has more than 40 kid-tested recipes featuring a variety of healthy entrees, side dishes and snacks that parents and children can enjoy together. The free cookbook also offers time-saving tips and helpful resources for busy families.

The recipes were developed by David Kamen, a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef/instructor and father of 2. The dishes are based on heart-healthy principles from the NIH’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Recipes include nutrition analysis and provide guidance for preparing meals that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars.

“With a healthy approach to cooking, families learn to enjoy the taste of heart-healthy meals that can help lower their risk of heart disease and other conditions,” says NHLBI Acting Director Dr. Susan B. Shurin.

The cookbook and individual recipes are available on the Keep the Beat: Deliciously Healthy Eating website at Or call the NHLBI Health Information Center at 301-592-8573.


A few links to recipes at this Web site





February 9, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Processed, Fatty Foods May Dumb Down Your Kids: Study

Processed, Fatty Foods May Dumb Down Your Kids: Study
But healthful diet for toddlers can boost intelligence later on, researchers say

HealthDay news image

From a February 8, 2011 Health Day news item

MONDAY, Feb. 7 (HealthDay News) — Feeding children lots of fatty, sugary and processed foods may lower their IQ, while a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients appears to boost it, British researchers say.

This is particularly true during the first three years of life when the brain is developing rapidly, the study authors explained. They speculate that good nutrition may promote brain growth and cognitive development.

“We have found some evidence to suggest that a diet associated with increasing consumption of foods that are high in fat, sugar and processed foods in early childhood is associated with small reductions in IQ in later childhood,” said lead researcher Kate Northstone, a research fellow in the department of social medicine at the University of Bristol.

A more health-conscious diet was associated with small increases in IQ, she said.

Children should be encouraged to eat healthy foods from an early age, she said. “We know this is important for physical growth and development, but it may also be important for mental ability,” she added.

For the study, published online Feb. 7 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, Northstone’s team collected data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children on 3,966 children born in 1991 and 1992.

The children’s parents had answered questions about their kids’ diets at age 3, 4, 7 and 8.5 years. The children’s IQs were measured using the standard Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children when they were 8.5 years old.

The researchers identified three basic diets: “processed,” crammed with fats, sugar and convenience foods; a “traditional” diet high in meats and vegetables; and a “health conscious” diet with lots of fruit, vegetables, salads, fish, rice and pasta.

Children who ate a diet high in processed foods at age 3 had a lower IQ at 8.5 years than kids with a healthy diet. For every one point increase in processed foods consumption, they lost 1.67 points in IQ. Conversely, every one point increase in healthy eating translated into a 1.2 point increase in IQ, the researchers found.

The key seemed to be the diet at age 3, since diet at 4 and 7 seemed to have no effect on IQ, the research team noted. However, to truly understand the effect of diet on children’s intelligence, further studies are needed, they said.

Commenting on the study, Samantha Heller, a dietitian, nutritionist and exercise physiologist in Fairfield, Conn., said that “most of us do not realize that the foods we eat have direct consequences on brain growth, function and performance.”

When a child’s diet consists primarily of high-calorie foods that are low in the nutrients they need (such as healthy fats, vitamins and minerals), their brains don’t get the compounds necessary to develop and function properly, Heller said. “This can have a series of deleterious effects, including decreased cognitive ability, poor behavior and social skills,” she said.

“Fast and junk food seem like an easy and affordable option for busy parents, but defaulting to high-fat, high-sugar, high-calorie foods is putting their children’s health and future at risk,” Heller said.

Cooking easy, healthy meals for the family will give “children’s brains a boost in essential nutrients needed for healthy development and improved cognitive skills,” she added.

SOURCES: Kate Northstone, Ph.D., research fellow, department of social medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, England; Samantha Heller, M.S., R.D., dietitian, nutritionist, exercise physiologist, Fairfield, Conn.; Feb. 7, 2011, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health**


Go to the Tasty, Healthy Family Meals posting for great recipes. Or go directly to the online  meals cookbook.

** For suggestions on how to get this article for free or at low cost, click here


February 9, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Many get antidepressants for no psychiatric reason

Many get antidepressants for no psychiatric reason

From the February 4, 2011 Health Day news article by Frederik Joelving

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – More than a quarter of Americans taking antidepressants have never been diagnosed with any of the conditions the drugs are typically used to treat, according to new research.

That means millions could be exposed to side effects from the medicines without proven health benefits, researchers say.

“We cannot be sure that the risks and side effects of antidepressants are worth the benefit of taking them for people who do not meet criteria for major depression,” said Jina Pagura, a psychologist and currently a medical student at the University of Manitoba in Canada, who worked on the study.

“These individuals are likely approaching their physicians with concerns that may be related to depression, and could include symptoms like trouble sleeping, poor mood, difficulties in relationships, etc.,” she added in an e-mail to Reuters Health. “Although an antidepressant might help with these issues, the problems may also go away on their own with time, or might be more amenable to counseling or psychotherapy.”

The researchers tapped into data from the Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiologic Surveys, which include a nationally representative sample of more than 20,000 U.S. adults interviewed between 2001 and 2003.

Roughly one in ten people told interviewers they had been taking antidepressants during the past year. Yet a quarter of those people had never been diagnosed with any of the conditions that doctors usually treat with the medication, such as major depression and anxiety disorder.

According to The National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 15 million American adults suffer from major depression, and 40 million more have anxiety disorders.

Although the survey didn’t include all mental illnesses that might have led doctors to prescribe an antidepressant — say, obsessive-compulsive disorder or to help quit smoking — other experts said the new findings are not exaggerated.

“Reviews of claims records, which are diagnoses actually given by health care professionals, suggest that only about 50% of patients who are prescribed antidepressants receive a psychiatric diagnosis,” said Dr. Mark Olfson, a psychiatrist at Columbia University in New York.

“These findings raise questions about the clinical appropriateness of antidepressant treatment selection for many primary care patients,” he added in an e-mail to Reuters Health.

With sales of $9.9 billion in 2009, up three percent since the previous year, antidepressants rank fourth among prescription drugs in the U.S., according to IMS Health, a company that analyzes the pharmaceutical industry.

Popular brand names include Pfizer’s Zoloft, Forest Laboratories’ Lexapro and Eli Lilly’s Prozac.

While studies have shown the drugs may help some people with depression, they come with a price tag — and not only the $100 or more that a month’s supply can cost. Some users experience sexual problems or gain weight, for instance.

“Nearly all medication has side effects, so there are undoubtedly a large number of Americans who are taking antidepressants that may not be effective at treating their conditions, yet they suffer from the side effects,” said Jeffrey S. Harman, an expert in health services at the University of Florida in Gainesville, who was not involved in the new study.

“Not to mention inappropriate use of our health care dollars that comes along with inappropriate prescribing,” he added in an e-mail.

Still, Harman said the findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry***, didn’t necessarily mean doctors are prescribing more antidepressants than they should.

“As far as overprescribing, I don’t think you can say that it is occurring as a blanket statement,” he explained. “There are undoubtedly many people being prescribed antidepressants that may not be effective for them, but there are also millions of Americans suffering from depression who are not being prescribed antidepressants or are being prescribed them at a suboptimal dose.”

Pfizer did not comment directly on the new findings, but told Reuters Health it was dedicated to ensuring “that patients and their doctors have the most up to date medical information on which to base their treatment decisions.”

SOURCE:*** Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, online January 25, 2011.


*** For suggestions on how to get this article for free or at low cost, please click here



February 9, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Being around heavy drinkers may take a health toll

Being around heavy drinkers may take a health toll

From a February 4, 2011 Health Day news item by Amy Norton

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – If you have a heavy drinker in your life, your own health and well-being could suffer because of it, new research suggests.

The study of more than 3,000 New Zealanders showed that people with a family member, friend or colleague who drank heavily generally gave lower ratings to their own health and well-being.

Compared to people who didn’t have heavy drinkers in their lives, those who did had lower scores on standard measures of general health — things like chronic pain, anxiety and depression symptoms — and overall satisfaction with life.

The average effect was similar to what’s been seen in studies of people caring for someone with a disability, according to lead researcher Dr. Sally Casswell, of Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand.

The findings, reported in the journal Addiction, do not prove that being around a heavy drinker was the root of study participants’ problems.

The study is just “a snapshot at one point in time,” Casswell told Reuters Health by email, “so…some other explanation is possible.”

It’s possible, she noted, that people with poorer well-being are more likely to attract heavy drinkers into their lives, for example.

But Casswell’s team did account for a number of factors that could explain why knowing a heavy drinker was linked to poorer well-being. People who know heavy drinkers might, for example, drink heavily themselves, or tend to be less-educated or have lower incomes. But none of those things explained the researchers’ findings.

Casswell said the findings are also in line with studies that have followed families of people in treatment for drinking problems. In those, having a family member who drank heavily appeared to take a health toll over time.

The current study included 3,068 12- to 80-year-olds who were asked whether they had any heavy drinkers in their life. “Heavy drinking” was not defined; it was up to participants to decide if someone in their life met that description.

Overall, about one in three said they had at least one heavy drinker in their life in the past year. Most often, it was a friend, family member or partner, but in some cases it was someone at work.

Not surprisingly, people who actually lived with a heavy drinker had the lowest scores on measures of general health and personal well-being. “Personal well-being” applied to people’s satisfaction with their relationships, work, health and what they were achieving in life.

But even people with relatively minor exposure to heavy drinkers — like those with a co-worker or a more-distant relative who drank — generally reported lower satisfaction with life compared with people who had no heavy drinkers in their life.

According to Casswell, the findings highlight the broad impact heavy drinking can have.

In contrast to research on families with a member in treatment for alcohol problems, she said, “what the current study does is get more of a sense of the size of the problem across an entire population.”

This potential “harm to others” should be considered in debates about policies aimed at curbing heavy drinking, Casswell said.

Such policies, she noted, include raising the price of alcohol (through taxes or setting minimum prices for alcohol), stricter enforcement of laws on drunk driving and minimum drinking age, and controlling the number of alcohol retailers that can set up shop in a given area.

SOURCE: Addiction, online January 13, 2011.


February 9, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Too Many Hours on the Job May Put Teens at Risk

Too Many Hours on the Job May Put Teens at Risk
Schoolwork, behavior may suffer when high schoolers work more than 20 hours a week, study says

From the February 8 Health Day article by Robert Preidt

SUNDAY, Feb. 6 (HealthDay News) — High school students who work more than 20 hours a week at part-time jobs during the school year may be more likely to have academic and behavior problems, according to a new study.

U.S. researchers analyzed data collected in the late 1980s from 1,800 middle-class teens in grades 10 and 11 in order to compare students who had jobs with those who didn’t work.

The study found that working more than 20 hours a week was associated with reduced school engagement, lower expectations for further education, and an increase in illegal activities including stealing, carrying a weapon, and using alcohol and illicit drugs.

These negative behaviors persisted even after such teens reduced their work hours or stopped working, the investigators found.

However, teens who worked fewer hours appeared to experience negligible academic, psychological or behavioral effects, according to the study published in the January/February issue of the journal Child Development.

“Although working during high school is unlikely to turn law-abiding teenagers into felons or cause students to flunk out of school, the extent of the adverse effects we found is not trivial, and even a small decline in school engagement or increase in problem behavior may be of concern to many parents,” study leader Kathryn C. Monahan, a postdoctoral research scientist at the University of Washington, said in a news release from the Society for Research in Child Development.

She recommended that parents, educators and policymakers monitor and limit the number of hours worked by high school students.

SOURCE: Society for Research in Child Development, news release, Feb. 4, 2011






February 9, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dermatologists Warn That Plants Can Cause A Garden Variety of Pesky Skin Problems

Dermatologists Warn That Plants Can Cause A Garden Variety of Pesky Skin Problems

From the February 4 press release by the American Academy of Dermatology

Preventative tips may help minimize risks
NEW ORLEANS (Feb 4, 2011) — What may start as a seemingly harmless day of gardening or yard work can quickly take a turn for the worse when common plants make their mark on the skin, causing a host of mild to even severe skin reactions. That is why dermatologists are arming outdoor enthusiasts with preventative tips to keep these perils of the great outdoors at arm’s length.

Speaking today at the 69th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), dermatologist Julian J. Trevino, MD, FAAD, associate professor of dermatology at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio, discussed common skin reactions that can occur from contact with plants, including effective treatments and preventive strategies.

“While most of the skin reactions resulting from direct contact with a hazardous plant are more of a nuisance than anything else, there are some instances where the reaction can affect the entire body and pose a potentially more serious risk,” said Dr. Trevino. “For example, people who are allergic to plants or have sensitive skin that is prone to eczema or atopic dermatitis may experience more severe or long-lasting effects that require medical attention.”

There are many outdoor plants that can cause an adverse skin reaction simply by brushing up against them. One group of plants in particular that causes toxin mediated urticaria (hives) is stinging nettle plants, which have sharp hairs that produce irritants. These irritants are chemicals, such as histamine or acetylcholine, which usually cause an immediate outbreak of hives within 30 to 60 minutes upon exposure. Most people would experience a mild reaction with hives that resolve on their own in a few hours.

Dr. Trevino also explained that people who handle food frequently or those with a tendency toward eczema can develop an allergic reaction to plants known as immunologic contact urticaria. This reaction usually results from susceptible individuals coming in contact with various fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, nuts, shrubs and grasses. In this instance, a person usually experiences itching and hives within 30 minutes. In its more severe form, this reaction can involve not only hives on the skin, but also swelling in the throat, lungs or gastrointestinal tract that requires immediate medical attention.

Another common cause of skin irritation from plants stems from exposure to spines or glochids – tiny emergences of certain cacti or prickly pear plants – which can get caught in the skin and cause an itchy rash. Since these tiny spines break the skin, Dr. Trevino cautioned that a person could develop a staph or fungal infection if bacteria or fungus are present on the prickly spine that enters the skin – leading to a more serious situation.

“The spines from the plants should be carefully removed from the skin, usually with tweezers or a piece of tape that is placed over the area where the spine entered the skin and gently torn away with the tip of the spine attached,” said Dr. Trevino. “Minor itching, irritation or rash can be typically treated with an oral antihistamine or over-the-counter topical steroid, but when a rash doesn’t respond to over-the-counter treatments, you should see a dermatologist. In cases where a rash is accompanied by more severe reactions such as difficulty in breathing or swallowing, a person should go to the emergency room immediately.”

Perhaps the most well-known and feared plants linked to skin rashes and irritation are poison ivy, oak and sumac. Dr. Trevino explained that these plants contain a resinous sap called urushiol that can cause a rash when it comes in contact with the skin in the estimated 50 percent of the population that is allergic to these plants. However, Dr. Trevino added that direct contact with poison ivy and its variants is not the only way that people can get this bothersome rash.

“When a poison ivy plant is injured in any way, the urushiol is released quickly and can stick to anything around it,” said Dr. Trevino. “That means that you can develop poison ivy if you pet your dog after he has come in contact with the plant, or if you touch a gardening tool or piece of clothing that has come in contact with poison ivy. Even airborne contact with urushiol is possible, especially in the fall or winter when these poisonous plants are burned among other brush and particles of urushiol are released into the air. If these airborne particles land on your skin or you inhale them, you can get a widespread rash and severe irritation in the respiratory tract.”

When a person with poison ivy allergy contacts the plant, Dr. Trevino explained that time is of the essence to prevent a rash. The area that has been exposed should be rinsed off immediately with water. This can remove at least some of the resin before it is absorbed in the skin. To treat a rash caused by poison ivy, lukewarm baths and soaks with products containing aluminum acetate (a type of salt that dries up the weeping and blisters), and topical preparations such as calamine or topical steroids are helpful. While oral antihistamines will help alleviate itching and skin irritation, topical antihistamines should be avoided – as some people are allergic to them and the rash could get worse.
“In some cases when a rash is severe or covers a large area of the body and is not getting better with over-the-counter therapies, a dermatologist may prescribe strong topical steroids or a course of steroids taken orally,” said Dr. Trevino.

To minimize the risk of such skin reactions, Dr. Trevino recommended the following tips:

  • Wear protective clothing whenever possible – including gloves (preferably vinyl gloves), long sleeves and long pants tucked into socks.
  • Apply an over-the-counter barrier cream or lotion containing quaternium-18 bentonite to exposed skin before going outdoors. This helps prevent urushiol from poisonous plants from contacting the skin.
  • Avoid poisonous plants (remember this phrase: “leaves of three, let it be”).

Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 16,000 physicians worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the Academy at 1-888-462-DERM (3376) or




February 9, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hair Care Tips for Health and Damaged Hair (American Academy of Dermatology)

Going to Great Lengths for Beautiful Hair? Dermatologist Shares Hair Care Tips for Healthy and Damaged Hair

From the article

NEW ORLEANS (Feb 4, 2011) — While the latest hairstyles and hair colors may look great, dermatologists warn that many women are subjecting their hair to harsh chemicals and heated styling devices that, in turn, can damage the hair. Over time, lustrous hair can look lackluster, become brittle and require a complete hair care overhaul to improve hair health and appearance.

Speaking today at the 69th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), dermatologist Zoe D. Draelos, MD, FAAD, consulting professor at Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N.C., discussed the most common sources of hair damage and tips to reverse damage and maintain healthy, lustrous hair.

“One of the most common misconceptions about hair is that it is alive, when in fact hair is nonliving and does not heal itself once it is injured,” said Dr. Draelos. “For this reason, once the hair is damaged it cannot heal itself except through new hair growth at the scalp. Women need to understand that the very things that they do to hair to make it appear beautiful, such as using hair dyes, perms and products that straighten the hair, will eventually end up damaging the hair’s structure and ultimately affect its appearance.”

Getting to the Root of Chemical Hair Damage
When hair is damaged, the protective lipid layer of fat on the outside of the cuticle – responsible for making the hair shiny – is removed. Chemical damage is one of the most common culprits of hair damage, as processed hair loses its natural moisturizers. The result is dried-out, frizzy hair that does not hold its style and accounts for the hair’s dull appearance.

“Many products have been developed to counter the effects of over-processed hair, and regular moisturizing is a must for women with visible signs of hair damage,” said Dr. Draelos.
Dr. Draelos offered these tips to combat chemical damage:

  • Use conditioning shampoos and conditioners regularly to improve the appearance of frizzy hair. 2-in-1 shampoos that remove oil from the scalp, clean the hair, then condition the hair in the rinse phase also are good choices.
  • Look for products containing dimethicone, which is available in shampoos, conditioners, sprays and creams. This ingredient has been shown to decrease static electricity, increase shine and improve manageability.
  • Try newly introduced hair serums, which are applied by a few drops on the hands and rubbed through the length of the hair (but should not be applied directly to the scalp).
  • Stop dyeing your hair and opt for hair’s natural hair color instead.
  • If you must dye your hair, stay “on shade” – or dye the hair within three color shades of its natural color. Dyeing hair darker, rather than lighter, also is generally better.

When the Heat is On, Hair Needs Some Time Off
Heat damage is another common source of hair damage, which produces a condition known as bubble hair. This occurs when the water in the hair, which makes the hair flexible, gets heated and turns into steam. Hair bubbles then occur on the hair shaft, creating a loss of cuticle. Signs of this form of hair damage include hair that smells burned, frizzy ends and hair that breaks easily.

“Dramatic temperature changes are hard on hair, and heat can, in a sense, cook the hair,” said Dr. Draelos. “Think of hair like a piece of steak – it starts out nice and soft and flexible. But when you cook it, the steak changes texture and becomes hard. Similarly, hair transforms when exposed to heat over time, resulting in brittle hair that breaks easily. Protecting hair from too much heat is essential to maintaining healthy hair.”

Hair damaged by heat cannot be repaired, as the affected hair will need to be cut off and allowed to regrow as healthy hair.

Dr. Draelos offered these tips for heat damaged hair:

  • Allow hair to air dry, when possible.
  • When using a hairdryer, do not use the highest heat setting immediately. Start out on the lowest heat setting first, then gradually increase heat.
  • To straighten hair with a ceramic iron, put a moist towel in the device to protect the hair from direct heat.
  • Look for temperature-controlled devices to control the amount of direct heat to hair.
  • Moisturizing the hair regularly will help the appearance of heat damaged hair to some degree, but stopping the source of heat damage is essential

Straightening Hair Comes at a Price
While ceramic flat irons are quite popular with women seeking sleek, straight hair, another procedure that uses chemicals in combination with heat to straighten or rearrange the hair’s natural bonds is known as keratin hair straightening. Typically performed in salons, keratin hair straightening uses gluteraldehyde or formeldahyde rather than lye – a stronger bond breaker also used for hair straightening but which is even more damaging – combed through the hair to make it straight.

After one of the chemical solutions is applied to the hair, a keratin protein conditioner is put on the hair to make it less brittle. With this procedure, hair must be kept dry and not bent or manipulated for several days after the process.

For women considering keratin hair straightening, Dr. Draelos offered these suggestions:

  • Avoid this procedure if you have tightly kinked hair, as it will not work in rearranging the natural hair bonds.
  • To minimize hair damage and loss, extend the time between treatments.
  • When washing hair, use a generous amount of conditioner to make hair less brittle.
  • If hair becomes frizzy and brittle, stop the procedure and let new hair growth replace damaged hair.
  • TLC for Healthy Hair

To keep healthy hair looking its best, Dr. Draelos also provided the following tips:

  • The less you do to your hair, the better. Avoid over-styling or processing hair.
  • Be sure to wash the scalp, which is where the oil is, and then let shampoo run through the hair. Shampoo is meant to clean the scalp primarily and can damage the hair if overused.
  • Let how oily your scalp is determine how often you wash your hair. If your scalp is oily, wash hair more frequently than if the scalp was drier.
  • Conditioner should be used on the ends of the hair, not on the scalp, for best results.
  • Pick a shampoo and conditioner based on your hair shape, such as curly or straight, and your hair condition, such as damaged, fine, or frizzy. These products don’t need to be expensive to work well for your hair.
  • Wear a hat to protect hair from ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

“It is best to choose a hairstyle closest to your hair’s natural structure and color as possible, which will minimize hair damage,” added Dr. Draelos. “Be sure to consult your dermatologist for any questions about styling products, concerns about the appearance of your hair, or unexplained hair loss.”

Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 16,000 physicians worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the Academy at 1-888-462-DERM (3376) or

February 9, 2011 Posted by | Health News Items | , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Bath salts’ pose new test for law enforcement – they also can lead to a flesh-eating bacterial disease that needs quick treatment to prevent amputations

Bath salts‘ pose new test for law enforcement

From a February 4 Stateline article

State and federal law enforcers already have their hands full trying to fight the use of methamphetamine, the highly addictive street drug that has wreaked havoc from Oregon to Maine. Now, other meth-like substances — which can produce a similarly dangerous and potentially violent high in those who take them — are prompting new concerns from government officials.

The substances are white, crystallized powders that are sold legally online and in many convenience stores and gas stations around the country as “bath salts.” Like meth or cocaine, the powders can be snorted or smoked, and are often marketed under names including “Ivory Wave,” “White Rush” or “Vanilla Sky.”

Ivory Wave is a powdery methamphetamine substance marketed as simple bath salts.
The products are attracting scrutiny at every level, from the White House to local police departments. Gil Kerlikowski, the nation’s drug czar, warned last week that the powders can “pose a serious threat to the health and well-being of young people and anyone who uses them,”according to The Associated Press. At the state level, Florida recently joined Louisiana in banning their sale, reports National Public Radio.

The effects of abusing so-called “bath salts” can be dramatic, sources tell NPR.  Those who take them can experience a kind of “psychotic break,” in the words of Mark Ryan, director of the Louisiana Poison Center. “They’re extremely anxious and combative, they think there’s stuff trying to get them, they’re paranoid, they’re having hallucinations. So, the encounters are not pleasant.”

In Michigan, emergency departments have reported 18 cases involving “bath salts” in recent weeks, The Grand Rapids Press reports. “It certainly is nasty stuff,” a spokeswoman for the state community health department says. “It is something that has spread very quickly across the country.”

February 9, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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