Multiple states are bracing for “early” allergy seasons.
We still have a month left of winter yet grass is sprouting, leaves are growing and flowers are blooming. Add just having a wetter winter and warmer-than-normal temperatures to the mix and this is the perfect recipe for an early allergy season.
Allergy season usually begins with the start of Spring in March. Yet many may start their symptoms as early as February if they are allergic to what’s blooming.
Tree pollens start first in January and then taper off in April. Grass pollen starts to rise in February and March. Finally weed pollens join the party by the Spring and extend through the Summer and Fall.
Here are your questions answered:
Allergies are the result of the immune response to a foreign particulate that our body senses. One could be allergic to pollen, dust, dander, food, insects, mold, metals, transfused blood, grafts, medicine and anything the body senses as a foreign intruder. Even though these may be individually harmless, a hypersensitivity reaction occurs as a result of their intrusion into the body. IgE antibodies find the allergen (intruder) and activate mast cells in the tissue and basophils in the blood. When these cells get activated, they release substances to help protect the body, including histamines, leukotrienes, and cytokines. These help the body attempt to sneeze and cough the allergen out, wall off the antigen, signal more antibodies, or produce tears and nasal secretions to flush it out.
Symptoms of allergies could include any or a combination of the following:
Colds may have very similar symptoms to allergies. However they are different.
The common cold is caused by a virus. When one gets infected by the virus they may feel malaise, fever, and achy. This does not occur with allergies.
Moreover, nasal secretions from allergies are usually clear. In a cold, the mucous could be thicker and with color.
The same holds true with sputum. During an allergy the cough may have little to no mucous and if so, be light-colored. Thick mucus could be a sign of an infection.
An allergic sore throat will seem more dry and scratchy. A sore throat from a cold is more uncomfortable and less easy to soothe.
Allergies may persist or be cyclical. Cold symptoms will usually subside after a few days and rarely persist longer than 10 days.
Yes and no. Allergies should not in and of themselves cause an infection. However they may make one more vulnerable for a virus or bacteria to take over. Hence a bronchitis, sinus infection, or pneumonia could uncommonly follow an asthma attack.
As stated previously, if one is susceptible to colds, an allergic attack could make them vulnerable. Moreover if one suffers from asthma, an allergy attack could incite an asthma attack. Very rarely would we see a life threatening anaphylaxis to an allergen such as pollen.
Avoiding, or decreasing exposure to the allergen is key. We suggest the following:
Local tree, ragweed and grass pollen counts can be obtained here.
In the last 6 months, three cats in Wyoming have tested positive for the plague.
Currently there are no known humans affected, however, under 10 human cases on average occur each year in the United States.
The type of plague the cats tested positive for was bubonic. So here’s the breakdown.
The plague as we know it is most commonly caused by a bacteria called, Yersinia pestis.
The victim usually acquires the plague from being bit by a flea who fed on infected animals such as rodents, or by contact with one who has the plague. Cat scratches from domesticated cats who are infected have been documented as a form of transmission.
Direct contact with infected bodily fluids could spread the plague as well. Pneumonic plague can be spread through a cough or sneeze.
There are three types of plague:
Bubonic – the most common, at first affects the lymph nodes, but may spread to throughout the body
Pneumonic – infects the lungs and may be spread from person to person by respiratory droplet.
Septicemic – infects the blood stream and can be the result of untreated bubonic and pneumonic plague
For all three types of the plague one can have:
But with bubonic plague, one may have large “bubos” or swollen glands in the neck, underarm, or pelvic/groin region.
With pneumonic plague, one may additionally have cough, shortness of breath and blood in their sputum.
Due to the disease spreading quickly, in some cases causing death within 24 hours, antibiotics need to be instituted immediately.
Moreover supportive measures such as IV fluids and oxygen may be needed as well depending on the severity of symptoms.
Flea control is paramount. So insect repellent for humans, and flea control products will help limit bites from the infected insects.
Moreover avoid rodents and clean out areas in and around your house to avoid them from scurrying around.
Let’s face it… Pap Smears aren’t fun. The only test to sample tissue for cervical cancer just happens to be one of the most embarrassing and awkward but it can be one of the most life saving and simple. So what is it and how does it work? Here’s your questions answered.
The uterus looks similar to a light bulb. The larger top portion being where the fetus develops, and the bottom, narrower area, the cervix. The cervix thins and dilates during childbirth, as you’ve heard in the movies “she’s only 7 cm!” and then after childbirth becomes narrow again. It affects nearly 13,000 and kills 4,100 women each year, rising each year. It can affect women of any age but is more common between 20 and 50.
The most common cause is HPV (Human Papillomavirus), especially HPV-16 and HPV-18. This is acquired through unprotected sex, so condom use is encouraged. Thus it's one of the most preventable causes of cancer. Additionally, there are 3 vaccines for HPV currently approved by the FDA, Gardasil, Gardasil 9, and Cervarix.
Early cervical cancer may not be symptomatic but as it develops it may cause an odor, pain with urination, pelvic pain and bleeding. This bleeding may occur after sex, a pelvic exam, or intermittent bleeding not associated with a menstrual cycle.
Yes. Early detection is key and can be done by a Pap Smear, explained below. Multiple treatments are available including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy such as Bevacizumab (Avastin®) which prevents new blood vessel growth that can feed a tumor.
The USPSTF (United States Preventive Services Task Force) recommends the following:
Screening for cervical cancer in women age 21 to 65 years with cytology (Pap smear) every 3 years or, for women age 30 to 65 years who want to lengthen the screening interval, screening with a combination of cytology and human papillomavirus (HPV) testing every 5 years.
It is the cytology (cell analysis) of the cervix. Years ago, a cytobrush would collect the cells and the medical provider would “smear” it onto a slide, place fixative, and then send it to the laboratory for the pathologist to analyze it. Now ThinPrep® Pap tests are used more commonly as the cells from the brush are placed into a container with fixative, and this vial is sent to the pathologist to spin down and analyze.
In order to obtain the cells from the cervix, the medical provider needs to use a speculum to open the vaginal canal and allow access to the uterus. A woman may be in the lithotomy position…lying on one’s back on the exam table with her feet in stirrups and knees bent. During the speculum exam, the medical provider may take cultures to test for common vaginal infections such as yeast, bacteria vaginosis, or sexually transmitted illnesses such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. After the speculum exam, the provider may perform a pelvic exam with her gloved hand to examine the uterus and ovaries, evaluating for tenderness, shape, size and masses.
An HPV test can be done with the cells obtained during the Pap Smear. The laboratory evaluates the cells to see if the HPV virus that causes cervical cancer is present.
In summary the thousands of deaths that occur each year to cervical cancer can be prevented with simple testing, such as the Pap Smear. Discuss with your medical provider when cervical cancer screening is best for you.
The CDC has reported an increase in flu activity during our 52nd week of the year ending on 12/29/18.
The CDC reports outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) jumped to 4.1%, above the national baseline of 2.2%.
The CDC states the following:
New York City and 19 states experienced high ILI activity; nine states experienced moderate ILI activity; the District of Columbia and 10 states experienced low ILI activity; and Puerto Rico and 12 states experienced minimal ILI activity.
States experiencing high ILI activity include:
States experiencing moderate ILI activity include:
Low and minimal activity (noted in yellow and green) has been reported in the remaining states as well as Puerto Rico.
Currently it appears the majority of flu cases are caused by the H1N1 Influenza A strain. Even though the H1N1 caused an epidemic in 2009, this may forebode a less severe flu season from last year’s H3N2 epidemic.
Flu season has begun already. It typically starts in the Fall, and ends late Spring. So the range is described as October to May with it peaking December to March.
It is difficult to predict, but already this early in the season we’ve had multiple flu related deaths reported by the CDC’s Fluview.
The flu is caused by a virus. Multiple strains of virus’ can cause the flu. The virus itself can be lethal, however the greatest risk comes with what it does to your immune system, thereby putting one at risk of secondary infections. Pneumonia is the number one cause of flu-related deaths. Secondly, it can exacerbate existing conditions such as asthma, seizures, even promote preterm birth, hence those who are pregnant or have pre-existing medical conditions are urged to get vaccinated against the flu. Moreover those who qualify should get the pneumonia vaccine as well.
According to the CDC, the trivalent vaccine covers for these three strains of flu virus:
Quadrivalent influenza vaccines will contain these three viruses and an additional influenza B vaccine virus, a B/Phuket/3073/2013–like virus (Yamagata lineage).
These vaccines are aimed at providing protection against the Swine flu, and some influenza A and B strains.
This year, those over 65 will have three options for their flu vaccine.
Fluzone High-Dose – a higher dose flu vaccine that will hopefully allow their immunity to protect against the flu longer
FLUAD – the trivalent flu vaccine with an adjuvant to stimulate more of an immune response.
Flublok Quadrivalent – provides protection against 4 strains.
This year, the CDC allows use of the nasal spray vaccine as it has shown to have improved efficacy from prior years. However it is only recommended for those who are between the ages of 2 and 49 and cannot be given to those who are pregnancy or who have compromising medical conditions as outlined by the CDC.
All individuals 6 months old and older unless specified by their medical provider.
Most individuals allergic to eggs can still get the flu vaccine, but if the allergy to eggs is severe (anaphylaxis, angioedema, difficulty breathing), the CDC recommends notifying your medical provider and being in a facility to monitor you if you do get the flu vaccine.
No. The flu vaccine has a “killed” version of the virus meaning it’s not an active virus (as opposed to a live attenuated vaccine, a weakened down version of it). A “killed” or “inactivated” vaccine merely has the pathogen particles to induce an immune response. Additionally, when one states they got the flu despite the flu shot it could be that the flu shot only protects against 3 – 4 strains and they were infected with a more rare strain not covered by the vaccine.
The average effectiveness each year hovers around 60%. Last year’s efficacy was much lower and this year’s has not been predicted as of yet. Australia is still reporting active cases on their Department of Health website.
For some, the immune response that ensues can make one feel mildly ill, but should not resemble the flu. Those who state they got the flu “immediately” after receiving the shot, might have already been exposed and had not had a chance to produce immunity prior to their exposure.
A cold comes on slower and less severe. Flu symptoms are more abrupt and can include:
There are antiviral medications available, such as Tamiflu, to treat the flu. Antibiotics, however, will not work since the flu is not caused by a bacteria but rather a virus. However if a secondary bacterial infection takes over, antibiotics may be used.
Besides vaccination, avoid being around those who are sick, thorough hand washing, and take good care of yourself. A balanced diet, exercise and sleep regimen can help boost your immune system.
Wishing you health this season!!
A recent analysis from Kaiser Family Foundation found the average younger American does not have a primary care provider (PCP).
Looking at survey answers from 1200 participants, 45% of 18 – 29 year-olds admitted to not having a PCP. 28% of those aged 30-49 and 18% of those aged 50-64 said the same. Those over age 65 were the largest group to have a primary care provider.
Those born between 1981-1996, known as the Millennials, may have different attitudes towards health care. Keep in mind, they just lived through nearly a decade of recession, computer hacks, Obamacare controversies, and societal distrust of pharmaceutical companies.
PCP’s however are the “quarterback” in one’s healthcare, keeping accurate and thorough records on one’s medical history, addressing immediate and chronic issues, and coordinating where their patient needs to go if a specialist is needed.
But Millennials, instead, are preferring urgent cares, retail clinics, emergency rooms, or using telemedicine for their medical needs.
However if one, unknowingly, suffers from a chronic condition and has various acute issues, they may be misdiagnosed because they are receiving piecemeal care without someone overseeing them and connecting the dots.
Diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, syphilis, AIDS, neurological disorders and autoimmune illnesses are just a few that may cause intermittent acute episodes before becoming deadly. Someone needs to take a step back, look at one’s medical history and properly diagnose, or simply put, see the forest from the trees.
Our healthcare system is changing and the needs of the younger generation appear to be better met by clinics that charge up front, address a single issue, and provide convenient hours. Therefore “primary care” providers will still be needed, however, the art of “primary care” may evolve into a whole new beast.
As the death toll rises and thousands of acres burn between California’s Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire, those residents lucky enough to escape the flames worry what consequences could result in inhaling the smoke.
According to the EPA, smoke emanating from forest and community fires may include any of the following:
According to the EPA,
Smoke is composed primarily of carbon dioxide, water vapor, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, hydrocarbons and other organic chemicals, nitrogen oxides, trace minerals and several thousand other compounds. The actual composition of smoke depends on the fuel type, the temperature of the fire, and the wind conditions. Different types of wood and vegetation are composed of varying amounts of cellulose, lignin, tannins and other polyphenolics, oils, fats, resins, waxes and starches, which produce different compounds when burned.
Some may have no idea they are breathing in harmful compounds that could affect their lungs and heart. However, many may experience:
PM2.5 are particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter that are present in pollution and wildfire smoke that can penetrate deeply into the lung linings. Larger, coarse particles 10 micrometers in diameter are called PM10. Both impair lung function as they inflame the lungs and interfere with the work of alveoli that need to oxygenate the blood. Moreover the small particles can use this pathway to enter the bloodstream. Although the direct health impacts of the fine particulate matter is not clearly defined it is believed that increased PM2.5 levels increase the risk of lung and heart disease as discussed above.
Symptoms may begin at levels greater than 55 µg/m3 .
How can residents protect themselves?
Avoiding the area of wildfires is paramount. Additionally, the following may be considered:
Editor's note: As a companion read you might also be interested in a story we published in Sept. last year: 5 apps to help you recover from hurricanes and wildfires.
An Oregon woman claims her cat helped her detect her breast cancer, and she’s not the first one to claim how furry friends can save lives.
Michelle Pearson adopted a cat, Mia, a few years back from the Humane Society. The one day she pounced on Pearson’s chest, sniffed her breast and directed her owner’s attention to the breast. Days later Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She states, “All of a sudden out of nowhere, she just got up on my chest and she sniffed that breast and then looked in my face, sniffed the spot again and looked in my face and I tried to shove her off and she came back up and just laid down on that right breast and she looked at me like ‘I’m trying to tell you something.'”
She feels her rescue cat actually “rescued” her.
A woman in California cited the same miracle. Nancy Best stated her dog, also named Mia, would not stop licking her breast. She was eventually diagnosed with breast cancer.
Sometimes animals may not always be friendly towards a diseased body part. My in-law’s poodle would shower everyone with licks except for one person who she would excessively bark at. He was soon diagnosed with brain cancer.
PBS reports that dogs can smell 40 times better than humans, with over 300 million olfactory receptors in their nose. They can smell parts per trillion, a keen sense that is potentially sharp enough to pick up cancer cells and the smells they produce.
Healthline reports that cancer cells raise polyamine levels which come with an odor. Moreover if cancer cells incite an immune response, this can expel a scent as well.
In 1989 a case report revealed a woman’s dog tried to bite a mole off her leg which ended up being malignant melanoma.
According to a 2011 study in the journal Gut, Labrador retrievers were able to sniff out colon cancer in 97% of stool samples.
The Italian Ministry of Defense’s Military Veterinary Center was successful in training German Shepherds to recognize prostate cancer proteins in urine to 98% accuracy.
For those of you with a pet pigeon, don’t feel left out. A University of Iowa study found pigeons to be trained to detect breast cancer cells to 85% accuracy.
So despite our animals possessing the power to sense microscopic anomalies, we shouldn’t panic every time they sniff or lick us. But if they persist on one area of your body, it might be worth getting checked out.
Editor’s note: The folks over at Dogsnaturallymagazine.com also weigh on this topic citing numerous studies and anecdotal evidence all concluding that, yes, it’s very probable that dogs can sniff out ill health. As for cats smelling cancer, well - the research seems to suggest otherwise. Sorry, kitty lovers. =)
The FDA has approved a new drug, Xofluza (baloxavir marboxil), to help fight the flu this season.
The antiviral is a single dose and is taken within 48 hours of first signs of flu symptoms.
It is only indicated in those older than 12 years old. The cost is approximately $150 for the single dose.
Current antiviral medications approved by the FDA to shorten the course of the flu include Relenza and Tamiflu. These medications are in a class of neuraminidase inhibitors, which inhibit the release of new viral particles that have replicated in a host (patient).
Xofluza, however, works sooner, by preventing the virus from replicating within the host cell in the first place.
Therefore this new drug can stop the spread of flu earlier than its predecessors.
NBC News reported the following:
So the less time one is sick with the flu, the less risk of coming down with a secondary infection such as pneumonia, or other flu related illness.
Moreover if viral shedding is decreased, less family members and contacts can potentially become ill.
Now Xofluza may not prevent the flu in one who has not been exposed because it works by preventing virus that is present from replicating.
Flu symptoms may come abruptly and include:
The most effective way to prevent the flu is avoidance of sick contacts, good hand washing and vaccination.
The FDA is warning e-cigarette companies to stop selling vaping products with claims that they contain erectile dysfunction medications.
Consumers are being urged to avoid vaping products claiming to have ingredients such as sildenafil and tadalafil used in Viagra and Cialis respectively as they can interact with other medications (such as nitrates). Moreover there is no data suggesting one’s respiratory lining to be a safe route of absorption of a phosphodiesterase type-5 (PDE-5) inhibitor.
The primary purpose of the lungs is to oxygenate blood and its highly specialized lining is not necessarily designed to absorb nutrients, as does the small intestine.
On the FDA website it states:
FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb states, “There are no e-liquids that contain prescription drugs that have been proven safe or effective through this route of administration.”
Companies are looking to expand their market by enticing consumers to vape vitamins, such as B12, and essential oils. Last week, however, a professor of nutrition from New York University, Dr. Charles Mueller, warned against it. He states, “Vitamins need to come with [fat and water] and go through the same gastrointestinal tract to be absorbed.” Moreover respiratory administration of nutrition has not been actively studied.
A study published by the American Heart Association found nine different E-cig flavors to impair blood vessel function, which can impair heart health.
Endothelial cells, which delicately line blood and lymph vessels, were found to become inflamed at low concentrations of some vapor flavors. And at high concentrations of others, exhibited cell death. Nitric oxide production, necessary for vessel dilation to improve blood flow, was impaired as well. These are often the same changes seen in early heart disease.
The 9 flavors (and the chemicals within) cited in the report to cause the endothelial inflammation and/or damage were:
Strawberry flavoring appeared to have the most adverse effect on the cells.
How many other flavors were not included in this study, so it's unknown how safe they may be.
Last May, researchers from Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville found e-cig smoke to increase one’s risk of bladder cancer.
In 2015, the University of Minnesota identified chemicals commonly found in e-cig vapor to include:
Although electronic cigarette “juice” may appear safe, it could produce harmful chemicals once heated to become a vapor.
A lethal dose of nicotine for an adult ranges from 30-60 mg and varied for children (0.5-1.0 mg/kg can be a lethal dosage for adults, and 0.1 mg/kg for children). E-cigs, depending on their strengths (0 – 5.4%) could contain up to 54 mg of nicotine per cartridge (a 1.8% e -cig would contain 18mg/ml).
The topic of nicotine increasing one’s vulnerability to cancer is nothing new as decades ago researchers found nicotine to affect the cilia (brush border) along the respiratory tree, preventing mucous production and a sweeping out of carcinogens trying to make their way down to the lungs.
More research needs to be performed but this recent report reminds us that exposing our delicate lung tissue and immune system to vaping chemicals may not be as safe as we think.
A rare polio-like illness is startling health officials as multiple states have reported cases of AFM (Acute Flaccid Myelitis).
Since August 2014, the CDC has received reports on 362 cases.
This week we learn of 6 children in Minnesota who have been diagnosed with AFM, which may manifest in symptoms such as sudden muscle weakness, stiffness, slurred speech and facial droop.
The age range of children affected appear to be 3-14. A 6-year-old boy in Washington State died in 2016 and was the first death to be linked to this mysterious illness. His parents reported he had felt ill, became dizzy and within hours suffered swelling in the brain and paralysis. Despite medical efforts, he passed. Although the exact cause is unknown, health experts are considering a variety of possibilities. They have actually been investigating this since 2014 when reports of AFM began to surface across the United States.
AFM stands for Acute Flaccid Myelitis. It’s a condition that occurs suddenly, causing inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle tone and reflexes. Although limb weakness is the primary symptom, patients could also exhibit slurred speech, facial drooping, and in serious cases inability to breath due to paralysis of the respiratory muscles. Mild cases appear to resolve but serious cases can cause residual paralysis or death. Children appear to be more affected than adults.
Although health officials do not know for certain, due to its rapid onset, a pathogen such as a virus seems highly likely. With the 2013-2014 outbreak, some of the cases tested positive for enterovirus (EV-D68), but it is not conclusive whether this was the exact cause or just coincidentally found in the patients tested.
Some postulate a combination of viruses may be a factor or an autoimmune disease. Although Guillain-Barre syndrome causes acute limb weakness and paralysis when the immune system begins attacking the nervous system, the report that many individuals feel feverish or ill prior, seem to point to a pathogen as the primary cause although the latter is not being ruled out. Virus families such as enterovirus (including polio and non polio enterovirus), adenovirus (causing respiratory and GI illness) and flaviviruses (including West Nile) have been suspected.
Per the CDC, acute flaccid myelitis is rare (less than 1 in a million cases) however currently they report 362 people affected in currently 16 states (down from 39 states in 2016).
Medical professionals look at a variety of factors.
History: how the paralysis/loss of muscle tone began and which limbs did it affect first
Laboratory tests and CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) testing: to look for signs of infection
MRI of the brain: which may show gray matter involvement in a case of AFM.
There is no standard treatment that has been proven effective, however depending on the severity of the symptoms, health professionals can consider a variety of options including steroids, IVIG, interferon, antivirals and supportive measures.
No. Until they can identify the exact cause, or causes, health officials cannot create a vaccine.
If we assume its a pathogen causing the illness, avoiding contact with sick individuals, being up-to-date on one’s vaccines and good hand-washing are imperative. Although we do not know if AFM is caused by a mosquito-borne illness, avoiding mosquitoes would be wise as well. More therefore needs to be researched to determine why and how those individuals with AFM were infected.