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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Takeaways from National Allergy and Asthma Month

Now that almost every disease and affliction has its “month” to promote awareness and help people become educated about the difficulties and dangers of diseases and conditions, it is easy to become jaded or even ignore the ongoing public health education efforts.

Yet National Allergy and Asthma Month offers some valuable “takeaways” that every person with allergies or asthma––the two conditions are often related, for example––should know about.

May is just the tip of the iceberg

Of course the reason National Allergy and Asthma Month is held in May each year is that spring create peak conditions for those who have allergies or asthma. Spring fever is not just an expression related to students made lazy by warming spring weather. No matter where you live, the onset of pollen season has been creeping further forward in the calendar. In 2012 hot March weather forced fruit trees and other pollen generating plants to bloom resulting in a quick onset of allergies for people who usually don’t feel the effects until late April through May.

The rules no longer apply

Despite claims to the contrary, these changing seasonal afflictions are easily tracked and trends are better documented than ever before. So while the month of May is still a great time to focus on allergies and asthma, a greater awareness of pollen and allergen conditions in general is the goal, and the rules by which many allergy sufferers once used to play may no longer be applicable.

Allergies are not a “single source” problem

Pollens and molds are certainly not the only airborne particulates that reach the nose and lungs of people with allergy and asthma. Fungal infections are also dangerous, and dust mites are a year-round problem for allergy-prone people. Dust mites live in the sheets and blankets where you sleep, and without precautionary measures can become a chronic, even dangerous health problem to people with allergies.

Allergy and asthma control need a strategy

One of the most important aspects of treating allergies and asthma is having a strategy to combat the health problems caused by each condition. As auto-immune reactions, allergies and asthma are essentially the body’s over-reaction to adverse stimulants introduced through airborne particulates, chemical reactions or other types of contact. That means an effective strategy needs two phases, prevention and treatment.

Allergy and asthma prevention can take many forms, the most important being removal of allergens from the air or by preventing inhalation or contact with potential allergens.

Learning health tips about allergy control is a great start. Knowing how to manage simple things like pet dander around the home, how to exercise with allergies and asthma and learning ways to take care of mold problems are all vital steps in developing a strategy for prevention and ultimate treatment for allergies and asthma.

The takeaways from National Allergy and Asthma month are actually all about yearlong awareness of the conditions that lead to challenging health problems. In other words, you May or may not be able to absolutely control your asthma and allergies year-round, but knowing the causes and preventions can make life a lot more tolerable. Having the right strategy might even let you enjoy the month of May rather than dread its arrival, and the heavy onset of allergies and asthma each year.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Valley Fever

Every region of the world, it seems, has its particular problems with airborne pollens, molds and other particulates that affect the breathing and health of the residents.

In the desert southwest of the United States, an affliction known as Valley Fever follows a pattern known as Grow and Blow. A type of fungus known as Coccidioidomycosis produces a disease wrought by inhalation of airborne spores when the fungus grows during wet spells and then dries out during dry spells. Even such as wind storms, construction, till farming or even an earthquake can cause massive releases of the fungal spores and that’s when Valley Fever outbreaks occur.

Even people who aren’t normally sensitive to allergens or asthma-related symptoms can become ill from Valley Fever.  But in many cases those who do suffer from breathing-related illnesses are at greatest risk. Deaths have occurred as the disease produces flu-like symptoms, some of which can be intense. It can lung failure and even spread to the brain and other parts of the body.

Only recently has the disease become better-known by the general public. For many years isolated populations including prison inmates or agricultural workers came down with the disease, but an 850% increase in incidents in recent years has heightened awareness and public health cautions.

That is particularly important as people migrating to or visiting the desert Southwest can contract the disease if conditions are right. And, those conditions seem to be on the increase due to more intense fluctuations in weather thanks to climate change, which is resulting in heavier rains followed by more intense periods of drought. In other words, climate change may be creating the Perfect Storm for spread of Valley Fever.

Valley Fever still may not be properly diagnosed, since fungal diseases are not always easily detected. Still, the fact that someone is coughing so hard they black out, or spitting blood from trauma to the lung and bronchial passages is a clear sign that something’s truly wrong.

The state of California is now seeking to educate its public health officials.  Public warnings to limit outdoor activities on high-risk days are also being implemented.

Such activities are crucial because Valley Fever can be devastating and persistent, causing people to undergo expensive treatments if they are diagnosed at all.

Taking precautions on high-risk days may become the norm for residents of the Southwest. These might include allergy masks or air purifiers, both of which can remove mold and fungal spores from the air. These often affordable preventative measures include transportable devices like travel air purifiers for residents and visitors to the desert Southwest.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sleep Tight, Don't let the...

You know the rest of that little rhyme, “…don’t let the bed bugs bite.” What does that even mean?

Who knows why parents sometimes say things to kids before tucking them into bed. That little phrase rhymed. That’s all that mattered.

Yet bed bugs really are a serious problem that can infest homes, hotels, hospitals and nursing homes. Once in the door, they can spread like crazy. That’s bad news for both recipients of bed bug bites and the people consigned to protect their guests, patients and the elderly from bedbugs.

The problem often starts when bedbugs are transported into an environment by riding on a person’s clothes and then escape onto mattresses, bedding and other locations. Bed bugs bite in order to feed, just like mosquitoes. A bed bug bite can also be an itchy affair, showing up as a raised red lump that when scratched can open up into a sore and a way for disease to enter the body.

That’s particularly problematic at hospitals, where potent infections only need a sliver of opportunity to grow on a patient’s body. Nursing homes are also seeing an increase in bedbug infestations.

Obviously neither of those facilities wants to be known for having bed bugs. Reputations and real money are on the line. The serious issue of patient risk is in play as well.

100,000 or more patients die in US hospitals every year from infections. Those risks add about $30B per year in medical costs. Medicare has decided to stop paying for certain infections picked up in hospitals. That means there is tons of pressure to eradicate infectious “bugs” like bacteria or viruses or anything that can increase the risk of patient infection.

Then along come bed bugs and sirens go off in the heads of hospital administrators and nursing home managers everywhere.

Some hospitals are taking the aggressive technological route, importing UV robots that zap germs and bugs in critical areas of patient contact.

Yet for all the technology thrown at bed bugs and other pests invading public spaces, the best prevention may be a more patient, thorough approach to patient safety. There’s no substitute for straight-on human effort, which may mean that Handheld UV Sanitizers that kill bed bugs, dust mites and a whole range of germs and viruses are likely to become standard equipment for hospitals, hotels, nursing homes and residences seeking safe, effective treatments for bed bugs and the germs and viruses they might bring about if, as you mother used to say, you let the bed bugs bite.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

New Strain of Bird Flu in China is Not Good News

It is easy in today’s age of medical technology and ranking of international health care systems to assume that everything on the flu front is under control. The trouble is, flu bugs have very little respect for public health policies and international virus controls. In fact, the very idea that viruses can be absolutely contained is an illusion. New strains of viruses, bacteria and other infectious agents are evolving all the time. That’s the way nature works.

In fact, if you study nature at all, you know that the scariest diseases for humans generally come from the creatures with which we share the earth. The blood disease we call AIDS migrated from primates to humans. Mice transmit the deadly Hantavirus. Insects carry malaria, West Nile virus, and other infections known to kill human beings. Even healthy ones.

So when we hear about a flu that evolves among chickens we should not just cluck and forget about it. These viruses are so creative and prevalent, the best we can do is assign a letter and number system to categorize them. The newest flu variety threatening to make people sick and die is called H7N9.

Medical officials in China think the chicken flu virus has been percolating for nearly 2 years in the country. Sometimes the transmission of such viruses is confined to those who handle the chickens infected by it. But when that same virus makes a jump from one person to another, that’s when things get unhappy and more interesting than we’d like.

As cases of the virulent H7N9 flu migrated out of the country (unlike the chickens, which can’t really fly) and people actually died from the infection, health officials around the world took note. It is hard to predict what or when the next deadly flu virus will become a pandemic. The tough thing about flu viruses is that sometimes a vaccine is weeks away from creation. During that period people are highly at risk of infection. And that can mean millions of people getting sick and many dying.

One of the first points of defense against any flu is good personal habits like washing hands in public places and even protecting yourself with masks if necessary. Should a flu pandemic ever break out in America, it is unlikely most people will know the best first steps to take. So here, as a bit of public service, is a list of preventative measures you can take to protect yourself if the Chinese Bird Flu ever does some calling in America.

1.      Air purifiers can filter out airborne germs, viruses and allergens. Travel Air Purifiers are even more specific. The Wein Mini-Mate Wearable Air Purifier literally filters air in your breathing zone.

2.      Allergy masks are worn by many people who live in societies that live in close quarters.

3.      UV Sanitizers are used by hospitals and other healthcare agencies to kill germs and viruses as well as bed bugs and dust mites that can cause wounds or allergies that weaken your immune system. The Baby Bottle Nipple UV-C Sanitizer keeps baby’s bottles and pacifiers, teething rings and more safe from germs.

4.      The NANO UV Water Disinfection and Surface Sanitizer enables you to disinfect a surface or water with the power of Ultraviolet light.

5.      The Zadro Nano-UV Disinfection Light Scanner is a cell-phone sized handheld sanitizer you can take anywhere to scan anything you touch.

You do have weapons of defense against Chinese Bird Flu if the H7N9 virus ever comes calling. Best to be prepared!