Seeking reliable health care information

verified health care informationSurfing for health care information on the internet

I read a great post on the health blog KevinMD last week that encouraged health care professionals to provide patients with tips on how to use the internet to find credible health care information.

I use the internet a lot, and I know there are hundreds of popular websites promoting health-related information. How do you know which sites contain reliable information, which sites just want to sell you something, and which sites might be complete quackery?

Tips for internet surfing

The author of the KevinMD post outlined three ways to evaluate a … Continue reading

First aid for heat exhaustion

Here comes the sun!

Living in the Pacific Northwest,  we rarely have to worry about heat exhaustion – that lousy feeling you get when your body starts to overheat.

But over the next few days the temperatures here are expected to hover around 90°F, which is pretty hot for us. Most of our homes don’t have air condtioning. Why bother when it’s truly hot only one or two weeks every summer?

But other parts of the country routinely experience high temperatures all summer long. And every summer, people die from the excessive heat.

Children and seniors are especially vulnerable. Take Continue reading

Weekly rounds June 28, 2013

June 24-28, 2013It seems to have been a busy week in health care news, and I found it difficult to settle on what interested me the most. But here are my picks:

Coke for breakfast?

Apparently that is one of the marketing strategies Coca-Cola is considering to increase its sales in the United Kingdom. It is not clear whether they mean to actually pitch the idea that a Coke would be a great accompaniment to a bowl of oatmeal (maybe an Egg McMuffin) or they mean to develop a new line of beverages to compete with tea and coffee. But sales of … Continue reading

What parents should know: Protecting children from unnecessary CT radiation exposure

ct radiation exposureCT scans increase a child’s risk of developing cancer

A year ago the British medical journal, The Lancet, published a study looking at the potential cancer risk to children from using CT scans.

CT scans use ionizing radiation, and children are considered more “radiosensitive” than adults.

The Lancet study concluded there was “… a positive association between radiation dose from CT scans and leukaemia” and recommended “…although clinical benefits should outweigh the small absolute risks, radiation doses from CT scans ought to be kept as low as possible and alternative procedures, which do not involve ionising radiation, should be Continue reading

First aid for stroke symptoms

What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when blood (oxygen) cannot get to the brain tissue, and the brain cells die. A stroke can be caused by a clot (called an ischemic stroke) or a ruptured blood vessel (called a hemorrhagic stroke). About 9 out of 10 strokes are caused by a clot.

An ischemic stroke is similar to what happens with a heart attack, when blood to the heart is blocked by a clot and the heart tissue dies. Risk factors for heart attack – age, smoking, unhealthy lifestyle, family history – are the same for stroke.

Stroke symptoms

Continue reading

Weighing in on obesity as a disease

obesity as a diagnosisLast week the American Medical Association voted to recognize obesity as a disease, as opposed to just a symptom of an unhealthy lifestyle or sluggish metabolism.

Obesity is a huge (no pun intended) problem in the US; over 60% of adults and 30% of children are considered overweight or obese. Proponents of the decision argue that accepting obesity as a disease will focus more attention on the problem and allow physicians and patients greater access to and reimbursement of weight loss counseling, drugs and surgeries. Sounds good, right?

So why does this decision trouble me? Three reasons come … Continue reading

Apps for the cyberchondriac

webmd appThe cyber-what?

The cyberchondriac. Cyberchondia is a term that’s been coined to describe a person who self-diagnoses using the internet, and then experiences acute anxiety when confronted with the grim details of possible afflictions.

Rash? Probably lupus. Upset stomach? Stomach cancer, of course.

I’ve done it. Admit it, you’ve done it, too.

WebMD’s Symptom Checker feature is so inconclusive in its results that it’s basically useless. For example, submit “headache” and after a few more refining questions you still get a list of over 50 possible conditions that have headache as a symptom. Migraine and tension headache are at the Continue reading

Weekly rounds June 21, 2013

June 17-21, 2013The HPV vaccine works

Positive news was reported in the Journal of Infectious Diseases: Since vaccination for the human papillomavirus (HPV) was introduced in 2006, the rate of HPV infection has dropped by 56%.

The study looked at infection rates in girls age 14 to 19. HPV can lead to cervical cancer or throat cancer later in life, but only about 30% of teen girls and boys are being vaccinated.

This report will hopefully result in a much-needed boost in the numbers of kids receiving the vaccine. Visit the CDC website for more information about the vaccine.

No one

Continue reading

The FDA wants you

patient networkThe FDA gets consumer friendly

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently launched the FDA Patient Network, its new patient-centric website.  The website’s slogan, according to FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD, is “Get Informed. Get Involved. Help FDA Help Patients Have a Bigger Voice.”

The website is a result of last year’s  FDA Safety and Innovation Act mandate to increase patient participation in the medical product approval process. The twin goals for this website are to educate and engage the public, and after spending some time on the site I am impressed with what it offers.… Continue reading

First aid for knocked out teeth

knocked out teeth 01A common tale of knocked out teeth

A friend of mine was stepping out of her car onto the sidewalk when she tripped on the curb and, unable to catch herself in time, fell face first onto the concrete.

She sat up and immediately put her hand to her mouth; her hand came away covered in blood and she felt her front teeth hanging in their sockets. Although not hurt otherwise, she fainted at the sheer horror of having just knocked out her front teeth.

Concerned onlookers immediately called 911, and she was eventually taken to the emergency room for … Continue reading

Emergency Contact health care app

emergency health care appCustomize your iPhone with this health care app

I found a health care app I would really like to try, but sadly for me it is only available to iPhone users. Yes, I’m Android.

But if you have an iPhone or an iPad, and especially if you have a medical condition, you might want to download this free app.

It’s called Emergency Contact and it lets you create a lock screen that displays your name, picture, health information (such as diabetes or severe allergies), and an emergency contact number.

In case of an emergency (and who doesn’t worry about being … Continue reading

Weekly rounds June 7, 2013

Don’t want hepatitis A? Get vaccinated!

At last report there were 61 cases of hepatitis A resulting from contaminated frozen berries sold at Costco in several states. Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver, and the virus is usually passed along from an infected person through contaminated food.

The CDC recommends the hepatitis A vaccine for all children, and for adults who might be at higher risk, such as those who travel frequently. But the vaccine is available (requires 2 doses) to anyone who wants to be protected. Bonus: the vaccine is covered under Obamacare’s preventive care services mandate.… Continue reading


farmacologyHow are farming and medicine alike?

I just finished reading a thoughtful and informative book by Harvard-educated physician, Daphne Miller, MD. In Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing, she makes an analogy between the “complex and dynamic” systems of soil and modern farming practices, and the human body and modern medicine.

After reading a book about soil ecosystems, Dr. Miller was struck by the similarities of the chemical processes that occurred in soil and those that happened in our own intestines.

Like our own biosystems, it [soil] too depends on bacteria and fungi

Continue reading

First aid for avulsions

avulsionsWhat are avulsions?

Avulsions are wounds where a chunk of tissue (all layers of the skin) has been partially or completely torn away. An amputation is a form of an avulsion.

Avulsions can be minor, such as slamming a finger in a door and crushing the tip, or life-threatening, such as the amputation of an arm or leg in an industrial or motor vehicle accident.

As you can tell from the picture, even a minor avulsion can be pretty ghastly to look at. But if you act quickly, you might be able to save the victim’s finger, toe or … Continue reading

It’s all in the family (health history)

The high cost of genetic testing

Angelina Jolie and her preventive mastectomies are still making news, as is the business of genetic testing.

On May 14, the day Ms. Jolie revealed her story, Myriad Genetics, the company that holds the patents on both the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene sequences, saw its share price rise by 4% to the highest point in its history.

How happy the company’s board must have been when Ms. Jolie wrote in her New York Times op-ed piece that “every woman” should have access to such information. She did acknowledge, however, that the $3,000+ price tag … Continue reading