(BPT) - You made it through a tough spring allergy season and are enjoying every moment of the summer. But just when you think your allergies are under control, a new problem is brewing. In the blink of an (itchy) eye, fall allergy season will be here.
You may be thinking, "It's still summer. Why worry about itchy eyes and sneezing now? I'm feeling OK and the kids aren't ready to start thinking about school!"
"Ragweed, the biggest allergy trigger in the fall, usually starts releasing its pollen with cooler nights and warm days in mid- to late August. Ragweed season can last into September and October when the first frost hits," says allergist Stephen Tilles, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). "If you suffer from spring allergies, there’s a good chance you also suffer from fall allergies."
A single ragweed plant can release a million pollen grains in a day. Winds can carry these grains for up to 100 miles, which means no matter where you live, you'll likely be affected if you're allergic to ragweed. Add to this high levels of mold spores that are common in the fall, and it's no wonder people end up sneezing and wheezing.
Dr. Tilles says the key to winning the war on fall allergies is to start early while still in the heart of summer. Here are some tips from ACAAI to consider:
1. An ounce of prevention: Take your fall allergy medications two weeks before symptoms usually begin, which can mean early or mid-August. Remember to continue your medication for two weeks after the first frost.
2. Wait on the "fresh air": Keep your car and home windows closed. Use your air conditioning to regulate temperature. When you open windows, you allow ragweed and other allergens in, and they stick to surfaces.
3. Dress like a secret agent: If you do go outside, wear a hat and sunglasses to keep ragweed pollen out of your eyes.
4. Mask out the irritants: After spending time outdoors, leave your shoes at the door. Then shower, change and wash your clothes to remove the pollen. For summer and fall yard tasks, wear a NIOSH N95-rated filter mask. Only N95 masks filter out pollen due to its micro size.
5. Have a heart-to-heart with junior: If your child is old enough, make sure they know what their triggers are before they head back to school. Teach them how to properly use any prescribed inhaler device or epinephrine auto injector. Update all prescriptions for the start of the school year.
6. School the teachers: Help new teachers understand your child’s allergy triggers and how to address them. Share your child’s treatment plan with school staff, including any medication needed during school hours. If your child has a food allergy, let the teacher know they need two epinephrine auto injectors with them at all times.
7. Coach the coaches: If your child participates in athletic activities, make sure the coach or physical education teacher knows what to do in case of an asthma- or allergy-related event.
8. Go straight to the experts: Board-certified allergists are trained to diagnose and treat your symptoms, and can create an individual action plan. If you think you or your child might be one of the more than 50 million Americans that suffer from allergies and asthma, go to acaai.org to find an allergist in your area and take the symptoms test.
When was the last time you and your doctor talked about your hearing?
(BPT) - When was the last time you and your doctor talked about your hearing?
The fact is, only about 3 in 10 adults who had a physical exam in the last year say it included a hearing screening, according to research conducted by the Better Hearing Institute (BHI). That’s a shame, because research shows that hearing health is more closely tied to whole health and quality of life than previously understood — which means that diagnosing and treating hearing loss early may be beneficial on many fronts.
To help people take charge of their hearing health, BHI has created a free digital flipbook, “How to Talk to Your Doctor About Hearing Loss,” which anyone can view and download at www.betterhearing.org/news/how-talk-your-doctor-about-hearing-loss.
The flipbook provides pertinent information to help consumers start the discussion, which is especially important because research shows that patients are more likely to initiate the conversation about hearing than their doctors are.
To go along with the free flipbook, BHI has put together this short list of reasons to speak up and start the conversation on your hearing:
1. Hearing loss has been linked to other significant health issues. In recent years, a flurry of studies has come out showing a link between hearing loss and other health issues, including depression, dementia, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, moderate chronic kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, sleep apnea, obesity, an increased risk of falls, hospitalization and mortality, and cognitive decline. With so much new and emerging research, it makes sense for people to talk with their doctors about their hearing as a routine part of their medical care.
2. Addressing hearing loss often has a positive impact on quality of life. Most people who currently wear hearing aids say it has helped their general ability to communicate, participate in group activities and their overall quality of life, according to BHI research. The research also shows that people with hearing loss who use hearing aids are more likely to be optimistic, feel engaged in life, get more pleasure in doing things, have a strong social network and are more likely to tackle problems actively. Many even say they feel more confident and better about themselves as a result of using hearing aids.
3. Leaving hearing loss untreated may come at a financial cost. Most hearing aid users in the workforce say it has helped their performance on the job. In fact, BHI research found that using hearing aids reduced the risk of income loss by 90 to 100 percent for those with milder hearing loss, and from 65 to 77 percent for those with severe to moderate hearing loss. People with untreated hearing loss can lose as much as $30,000 in income annually, the BHI research found. Health care spending may also be affected.
For instance, middle-aged adults (55-64) with diagnosed hearing loss had substantially higher health care costs, according to a study published in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, indicating that hearing loss may place patients at risk for increased health care use and costs. The study authors suggested that early, successful intervention may prevent future hearing-related disabilities and decreased quality of life.
For more information on hearing loss, visit BetterHearing.org.
(BPT) - Opioids often are the go-to pain killer for everything from back aches and injuries to post-surgical pain, as evidenced by the more than 300 million prescriptions written each year. While they can help with moderate to severe short-term pain, opioids are not without risk. Because they have significant side effects, including an increased risk of addiction and overdose, the American Society of Anesthesiologists suggests those who take opioids ask some tough questions — including if it is time to consider alternatives.
Kathleen Callahan understands the dilemma. She suffers from a condition that causes painful cysts that required multiple surgeries resulting in post-surgical and chronic pain for which she took opioids for years. Despite being on a high dose of opioids, she still had chronic pain. So she turned to Anita Gupta, D.O., Pharm.D., a physician anesthesiologist who specializes in pain medicine.
“When I was on opioids long-term I couldn’t function, couldn’t be involved in my children’s lives and my work was suffering,” said Kathleen. “Dr. Gupta helped me manage my pain so life is livable. Now I exercise, go out with friends and go to my kids’ activities.”
“Kathleen and I had some difficult discussions. I didn’t think the medications were helping her anymore and I was truthful with her,” said Dr. Gupta. “She asked some hard questions, and I helped her move forward and cope with her pain. Since she’s been opioid-free Kathleen is vibrant and energetic. She has her life back.”
If you are taking opioids or your physician has prescribed them, the American Society of Anesthesiologists suggests asking yourself (and your physician) some tough questions:
* Are opioids affecting my quality of life? Opioids have many side effects, ranging from severe constipation, mental fogginess and nausea to depression. Kathleen said she was “exhausted, cranky, depressed, constipated and gaining weight.” She realized the side effects of opioids were worse than the pain itself, motivating her to seek other options.
* What are my concerns about taking opioids — or stopping them? With the media attention surrounding opioid risks, many people worry they:
- are being judged by others
- may become addicted or overdose
- won’t be able to control their pain if they stop taking opioids
Ask your physician about obtaining naloxone, a drug that can reverse an overdose. If you take opioids when you don’t have pain or use more than directed, you may develop a dependence. Talk to your physicians about alternatives to manage your pain.
* Is it time to consider other methods of pain management? Opioids are most effective in the short term. If they are taken for chronic pain, they should be part of a “multimodal” plan that includes other methods of pain management, including:
- Injections or nerve blocks, which can short circuit muscle and nerve pain.
- Electrical stimulation and spinal cord stimulation devices that send electrical impulses to block pain.
- Physical therapy, which strengthens muscles to improve function and decrease pain. Whirlpools, ultrasound and massage can help, too.
- Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, biofeedback, meditation, deep breathing and relaxation, which help you learn how to ease muscle tension.
* What type of physician can best help manage my pain? If you have severe or ongoing pain, be sure to see a physician who specializes in pain management, such as a physician anesthesiologist. These specialists have received four years of medical school and additional training in a medical specialty, followed by an additional year of training to become an expert in treating pain. They have the expertise to best help you manage your pain.
“If I was still on opioids I would be overweight, inactive, not involved in my children’s lives and depressed,” said Kathleen. “When you have a physician like Dr. Gupta who you trust and who shows you there’s another way, it’s just amazing. It’s night and day.”
For more information, download ASA’s Asking the Hard Questions About Opioids. To learn more about the critical role physician anesthesiologists play before, during and after surgery, visit www.asahq.org/WhenSecondsCount.
Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. In fact, approximately 36,000 blood donations are needed each day nationwide. However, during the summer months, it is typically more difficult for blood donations to keep pace with demand, and this can result in summer shortages. To help bridge the gap and encourage lifesaving donations, World Blood Donor Day serves as a reminder to give blood and platelets during this crucial time.
A will to give
Nexcare Brand is partnering with the American Red Cross to raise awareness regarding the importance of blood and platelet donation during the summer months through the ninth annual Nexcare Give program. This year’s theme is “Roll Up a Sleeve and Give Where You Live,” celebrating all those who give in their communities around the world. Limited-edition Nexcare Give bandages will be available for free to presenting donors at participating Red Cross donor sites and blood drives around the country, through June 14, World Blood Donor Day. Nexcare Give Bandages will also be available as a bonus in select Nexcare Waterproof Bandage packs at retailers nationwide, as well as by mail, while supplies last, at Nexcaregive.com.
The program comes at a time when new research from Nexcare Brand shows:
* More than one-third (36 percent) of U.S. adults have never given blood;
* More than one-quarter (28 percent) do not know their blood type;
* Despite the life-changing impact, awareness is low. More than one-quarter (28 percent) say the reason they have never given blood before is because they have never even thought about it.
To bring to light the power of blood donation, the Nexcare Give program is raising awareness worldwide about how you can get involved.
“Blood donation is a cause that’s not only important in our country and around the world, but also in the lives of people, everywhere,” says supermodel and Nexcare Give spokesperson Niki Taylor. “Every year, millions of Americans need blood, and people have the power to make a difference in about an hour that it takes to give. Now is a great opportunity to make a big impact, starting with your local community.”
One blood donation goes a long way
A single donation can help save the lives of more than one person. Patients can need blood for a number of reasons, including surgeries, treatment for various accidents, cancer and other illnesses.
Blood donations are an ongoing need year-round. If you’ve never given blood before, now is the perfect time to start. You can visit Nexcaregive.com to find your local blood center and visit their website to determine whether you can be a donor. Donors of all blood types are needed to give this summer. Type O negative donors are especially needed, because they have the universal blood type that can help anyone who needs blood. O negative is often used during emergencies when there is no time to determine a patient’s blood type.
Once you’ve determined whether you are eligible to donate, the next step is to contact your nearest blood center to book an appointment. You may also be able to donate at a convenient location such as your school, your workplace, a neighborhood community center or your place of worship, if a blood drive is hosted there — be on the lookout for drives in your community. If you aren’t eligible to donate blood, you can still participate by pledging your support on the Nexcaregive.com website.
You can even host a virtual blood drive through the American Red Cross SleevesUp program, which is an online tool that allows supporters to create a virtual blood drive and encourage colleagues, friends and family members to give blood or platelets in four easy steps. Visit redcrossblood.org/sleevesup to create your own campaign, or visit Niki Taylor’s page and pledge to give at rcblood.org/Niki.
To learn more about the Nexcare Give program, find blood donation centers in your area and pledge your support for blood donation to make a positive impact today, visit Nexcaregive.com.
Stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term adult disability in the United States and among the top five causes of death. However, with proper, timely medical attention, stroke is largely treatable. Knowing the warning signs and symptoms of a mini-stroke could help save a life.
Understanding the Serious Nature of Mini-Strokes
A survey conducted by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association shows one-third of United States adults have had symptoms consistent with a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke, but only 3 percent called 911 for help.
“Ignoring any stroke signs could be a deadly mistake,” said Mitch Elkind, M.D., chair of the American Stroke Association Advisory Committee. “Only a formal medical diagnosis with brain imaging can determine whether you’re having a TIA or a stroke.”
The survey showed 35 percent of respondents experienced at least one sign of a TIA or mini-stroke, such as sudden trouble speaking or a severe headache with no known cause. According to the online survey, those who suffered symptoms were more likely to wait it out, rest or take medicine rather than call 911.
Stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term adult disability in the United States and among the top five causes of death. However, with proper, timely medical attention, stroke is largely treatable. The faster you are treated, the more likely you are to have a positive outcome.
The American Stroke Association’s Together to End Stroke initiative, nationally sponsored by Medtronic, teaches the acronym F.A.S.T. to help people remember the most common stroke warning signs and what to do in a stroke emergency:
F – Face drooping
While the symptoms are the same, the difference between a TIA and a stroke is that the blockage is temporary, lasting between a few minutes and 24 hours. People who suffer a TIA, sometimes called a warning stroke, are more likely to have a stroke within 90 days, according to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.
Elkind said anyone who experiences a stroke warning sign that appears suddenly, whether it goes away or not, should call 911 immediately. This could improve the chances of an accurate diagnosis, treatment and recovery.
Stroke symptoms come on suddenly with no known cause and may include confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; trouble seeing in one or both eyes; trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; or a severe headache.
To learn more about stroke warning signs and treatment, visit StrokeAssociation.org.
Photo courtesy of Getty ImagesSOURCE:
American Heart Association
(BPT) - In 2012, Donna Fernandez was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer—a disease that claims the lives of more than 150,000 men and women in the United States each year. She went through multiple rounds of various medicines, but her disease progressed. Her doctor offered her a choice: start a new chemotherapy regimen or enroll in a clinical trial for a new type of treatment called immunotherapy.
At the time, Donna was not familiar with clinical trials or immunotherapy, but now, five years later, she is a passionate advocate for clinical trial participation and the power of immunotherapy and serves as an “ImmunoAdvocate” for the Cancer Research Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding lifesaving immunotherapy research and discovery.
The basics of cancer immunotherapy clinical trials
Cancer immunotherapy treatments harness and enhance the innate powers of the immune system to fight cancer. Immunotherapy is widely considered to be the most promising new cancer treatment approach since the development of the first chemotherapies in the 1940s. Currently, only six immunotherapies have been approved to treat cancer, but there are hundreds of new and promising cancer immunotherapy treatments in development—only available to clinical trial patients.
Clinical trials are research studies that enable scientists and physicians to assess new treatments. For people living with cancer, clinical trial participation may have the potential to extend and improve quality of life.
“Many patients don’t know where to start when it comes to clinical trials and don’t know if or when to discuss them with their physicians,” said Donna. “I was surprised to learn that only 3 percent to 6 percent of cancer patients who are eligible for clinical trials participate, which means that more than 90 percent of cancer patients may be missing out on potentially lifesaving new treatments.”
Navigating clinical trials to find the right one
“We aim to help patients kick-start the clinical trial process. With hundreds of immunotherapy clinical trials under way at any given time, understanding eligibility criteria is an important first step for patients when searching for an appropriate clinical trial for their unique set of circumstances,” said Dr. Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, chief executive officer and director of scientific affairs at the Cancer Research Institute. “Cancer immunotherapy clinical trials are critical to bring new treatments based on cutting-edge science to more patients with more types of cancer, and may represent the greatest hope for patients currently facing the disease.”
Matching patients with the right clinical trial can be a complicated process, which is why the Cancer Research Institute works to provide the Cancer Immunotherapy Clinical Trial Finder as a free resource to help patients and their caregivers quickly search for clinical trials that match a specific cancer diagnosis, stage, and treatment history. The Clinical Trial Finder has a brief questionnaire to help narrow the list of potential trials and patients are also able to speak confidentially with a Clinical Trial Navigator about the clinical trial process and even opt-in to receive updates as new trials are added.
Key questions to ask before enrolling in a clinical trial
Donna encourages all cancer patients to ask their physician about their eligibility for open cancer immunotherapy clinical trials for their type of cancer. It is important to ask about the short-term and long-term risks and benefits compared to standard treatment, as well as the clinical trial treatment protocol and site location, any potential impact on daily life, and ask about associated costs related to the trial, tests or treatments. In addition to providing this valuable information right at the start, physicians are also able to help patients identify resources that might be able to assist with certain barriers to participating in clinical trials—like costs and travel expenses.
“Today, cancer immunotherapy clinical trials have the potential to provide new hope to many patients facing the same situation that I was—a diagnosis that was previously considered incurable,” said Donna. “By participating in an immunotherapy clinical trial, I had the opportunity not only to access a lifesaving treatment, but also to help advance research to bring new immunotherapies to more patients in the future. I hope that more patients participate, gain access to revolutionary research and help uncover cures for all cancers through immunotherapy research.”
For more information on cancer immunotherapy and how to match with an open clinical trial, visit the Cancer Research Institute Cancer Immunotherapy Clinical Trial Finder at https://www.cancerresearch.org/patients/clinical-trials.
(BPT) - Designed to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of new treatments, clinical trials are the only way medical advances can move knowledge and science forward. In regard to knee pain, clinical trials offer the newest and latest ideas on finding better ways to treat pain.
People participate in clinical trials for a variety of reasons. For Debra Tongue of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a clinical trial provided a chance for a life-changing opportunity. An active mother of three and grandmother of two, Tongue was devastated when she tore her meniscus — a tissue pad between the thigh and shin bones. As a personal fitness trainer and avid sports enthusiast, Tongue went from a very high activity level of biking, hiking and running to having immense knee pain during any kind of physical activity. She underwent a meniscectomy, the surgical removal of the torn meniscus, but constant pain and swelling in her knee persisted. She was told she was too young for a knee replacement.
At age 46, Tongue made the decision to participate in a clinical trial to receive the NUsurface Meniscus Implant — the first “artificial meniscus” designed to replace the damaged one in patients like Tongue with persistent knee pain due to injured or deteriorated meniscus cartilage. The implant, which is made of medical grade plastic and inserted into the knee through a small incision, can serve as an opportunity to treat knee pain and keep patients active until knee replacement surgery is a viable option. The clinical trial is part of regulatory process to gain permission to allow the device to be distributed in the U.S.
“After receiving the NUsurface Meniscus Implant and undergoing a 12-week rehabilitation program, I felt back to normal and ready to take on the world,” Tongue says. “In fact, I was even able to go on a trip to India with girlfriends for a two-week retreat at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. The NUsurface Implant gave me a second chance to enjoy life the way I did before.”
Are you suffering from knee pain and considering enrolling in a clinical trial? Here are three reasons it may be the right choice for you:
1. You’ll get access to treatment not yet available in the U.S.
If you enroll in a trial, you could have access to treatments that are not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but could potentially work better than existing options to reduce pain or manage a disease.
2. You’ll receive high-quality care.
There are strict rules for clinical studies that have been put into place by the National Institute of Health and the FDA. In addition, all U.S. clinical trials must be overseen by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) to make sure patient risks are as low as possible and that proper trial procedures are followed. Patients in clinical trials are monitored closely by their doctor using advanced diagnostic techniques, and information about you will be carefully recorded and reviewed.
3. You’ll help advance science.
Clinical trials offer hope for many people and an opportunity to help researchers find better treatments for others in the future who have their same condition. By participating, you can provide researchers with the information they need to continue developing new procedures, medical devices and treatments.
To be eligible for the NUsurface Meniscus Implant clinical studies, you must be between the ages of 30 and 75, have pain after medial (the inside of the knee) meniscus surgery at least six months ago. To find a study site near you, visit www.activeimplants.com/kneepaintrial.
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