Environmental Allergies

December 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Education

This information is about environmental allergies. It covers what they are, what can cause them, and how to deal with them.

Environmental allergies are your body’s response to substances you inhale at your home, school or workplace. They can be caused by dust, animal dander, mold spores or mildew, or feathers.

Dust and mold allergies are different from pollen allergies because they cause problems all year round–not just at certain seasons.

Environmental allergies may cause symptoms such as sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, itchy eyes and they may cause coughing and wheezing.

The best way to control environmental allergies is to avoid the things that cause them. The first step is to find out what is producing the allergic reaction.

For example, if your reaction develops at night or when you wake up in the morning, the cause may be a feather pillow or dust mites in the bedding.

Perhaps you notice a reaction when you sit on a couch where your pet likes to sleep. If a reaction occurs when you clean house, you may be allergic to house dust.

Once you think you’ve found the case, try to eliminate it from your environment. For example, use a dacron or polyester pillow (but not foam rubber, because mold spores can grow in it). Use synthetic blankets. If house cleaning sets you off, have someone else do it or at least wear a mask while you clean. If your reaction dies down when you leave your house, it may be caused by a pet. Vacuum carpets, furniture and other places where pets have been. Keep pets out of the bedroom. If the problem persists, you may have to find a new home for the pet or at least keep it outdoors.

If the cause is dust mites, dust mite avoidance measures are helpful. Dust mites are microscopic bug-like creatures that live in pillows, blankets, mattresses, stuffed animals, carpets and cloth-covered furniture. 95% of house dust allergies are caused by dust mites. You can help by covering your pillows, mattress, and box spring with a zippered, soft plastic cover that is labeled “allergy proof”.

You can buy the allergy proof covers at bedding shops and large department stores. A bare floor is best, with only a small area rug. If you must have carpet, choose a synthetic or cotton carpet with a tight weave and a very short pile. Change the central heating filter once a month to cut down on dust and other allergens in the air.

If you can’t eliminate or avoid the cause of your reaction, you may be able to control the allergy. Antihistamine medications can help. If they don’t provide enough relief, call your health care provider. Your provider can evaluate your problem, and perhaps prescribe a stronger medication. Your provider may send you to an Allergist for further evaluation, including a detailed history of your allergy problem and possibly skin test to identify substances that cause it. You may then be given desensitization injections or “allergy shots”.

Whether the treatment is non-prescription antihistamines, a doctor’s prescription, or injections, the treatment works best if you combine it with avoidance of the things that cause your allergic reaction.

Remember these key points:

  • Environmental allergies may be caused by a variety of substances, especially animal dander, molds and dust mites.
  • To identify the cause, note where you have an allergic reaction; then take steps to avoid the probable cause.
  • When you know the cause, continue to avoid it.
  • If that does not work, your health care provider can evaluate your condition and make recommendations, prescribe medication, or possibly refer you to an Allergist for further study.
Tags: mold allergies, non-prescription antihistamines, Allergies, allergic reactions, cotton carpet

Open Heart Surgery – Getting Ready for open heart surgery

December 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Education

Usually, can be scheduled days or weeks in advance. It will depend upon how serious your heart condition is, your schedule and the ‘s schedule. If you have a week or two before surgery, use this time wisely. Check with your surgeon about:

  • exercise – Should you start, stop or continue exercises?
  • diet – Should you change your diet in any way?
  • weight – Would it help your recovery to lose or gain a few pounds?
  • smoking – If you smoke, can your doctor recommend a stop smoking program?
  • medicines – What medicines should you start, stop or continue taking? Remember to ask about all medicines that you take regularly or occasionally, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

Also, be sure to:

  • rest, relax – Take good care of your physical and mental health. Don’t overdo things. And make sure you plan some enjoyable activities to relax your mind and give your spirits a lift.
  • report health changes – Tell your doctor if you have any signs of infection, like chills, fever, coughing, runny nose, within a week of your scheduled surgery. If an infection continues, surgery may have to be rescheduled.

A special note about smoking

Not only is smoking bad for your health, but it could affect your recovery. Since most hospitals are “smoke free”, you will have to quit smoking when you go into the hospital. This means you will be going through nicotine withdrawal when your body is trying to recover from surgery. So, do yourself a big favor. Quit smoking now, and your mind and body will be able to focus on healing, not withdrawal.

Making arrangements for surgery

Whether you’re having major surgery or minor surgery, you should always have a family member or friend with you. Even when you are going for the pre-admission tests (explained later), it’s a good idea to have someone with you. He or she can listen and take notes for you – or simply hold your hand if that’s what you need! So give your family or friend plenty of notice about your upcoming tests and surgery. Also, now is a good time to make a list of any medicines you are taking and any allergies to medicines, food, etc. that you may have. Take this list with you when you go to the hospital so you don’t forget anything.

Pre-admission procedures

A few days before surgery you will need to have certain tests. Your surgeon’s office staff will tell you where to go and which tests you will need. If you have had any of these tests recently, ask your surgeon if a copy of your test results will do in place of redoing the tests. You may need:

  • a chest x-ray to see how well your lungs work
  • an electrocardiogram (ECG) and/or an echocardiogram (ECHO) that shows how your heart is working
  • blood tests that show chemistry and blood counts
  • a urine analysis

There will be paperwork to complete. You will be asked:

  • to fill out insurance forms, or provide authorization forms from your insurance company; make sure you bring your insurance card(s)
  • if you brought written orders from your doctor or lab test results
  • the name, address and telephone number of someone to contact in case of emergency

You will be told about your rights for advanced directives (your options for life support if that’s needed) and asked for a copy of your living will and health care power-of-attorney. You must sign a surgical consent form. This is a legal paper that says your surgeon has told you about your surgery and any risks you are taking. By signing this form you are saying that you agree to have the surgery and know the risks involved. Ask your doctor about any concerns you have before you sign this form.

Blood transfusion

Surgical methods today reduce much of the blood loss during surgery. However, you may need a blood transfusion. If so, your blood will be matched carefully with blood that has been carefully tested. The blood you receive can come from:

  • a blood bank – this blood supply is from the American Red Cross and is safer today than it has ever been
  • a designated donor – this can be a family member who has the same type of blood that you do
  • you (autologous blood donation) – you will donate blood at a local blood bank or hospital

Ask your surgeon which would be best for you. If you donate blood, you must do it in plenty of time for surgery. Also, be sure to eat and drink as directed if you decide to donate blood.

Tags: heart surgery, surgeon, Surgery, Blood transfusion, Transfusion medicine, Hematology, major surgery, Blood donation, Blood

Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before Having Surgery

August 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Education

Are you facing surgery? You are not alone. Millions of people have surgery each year. Most operations are not emergencies. This means you have time to ask your surgeon questions about the operation and time to decide whether or not to have it, and if so, when and where. The information presented here does not apply to emergency surgery.

The most important questions to ask your surgery about elective surgery are why is the surgery necessary for you and are there treatment choices other than surgery. If you do not need surgery, then you can avoid any complications that may result. All surgeries and alternative treatments have risks and benefits. Treatments are only worth doing if the benefits are greater than the risks.

Your regular doctor, sometimes called a primary care doctor, may be the one to suggests that you have surgery and recommend a surgeon to you. If you want a second opinion, you will want to find a surgeon other than the one recommended to you. Before getting a second opinion and having surgery make sure you understand what your health insurance will pay for and what you must pay for. Medicare will pay for a second opinion if you are eligible for Medicare.

Your doctor will probably not be able to answer your questions regarding your insurance coverage.You should talk with your health insurance company or your employee benefits manager about payment of medical services you receive.

Below are 12 questions you can ask your primary care doctor and surgeon before you have surgery, and the reasons for asking them. The answers to these questions will help you be informed and allow you to make a better decision. Resources for more information are listed at the end of these questions.

Your doctors will probably welcome your questions. If you do not understand his answers, ask the doctor to explain in a way you will better understand. Some people learn with pictures, others learn by reading. Patients who are well informed about their treatment tend to be more satisfied with the outcome or results of their treatment.

1. What operation are you recommending?
Ask your surgeon to explain the surgical procedure. For example, if part of you is to be repaired or removed, ask why. Your surgeon can draw a picture explaining the steps involved in the surgery.

Ask if there is more than one way to perform the surgery? One way may require more extensive surgery than another. Ask your surgeon why he has chosen a one way over another.

2. Why do I need the operation?
There are many reasons for surgery:
Pain relief or pain prevention to reduce symptoms
Improve a body function
Diagnosis of disease
To save your life, now or at some later time
Your surgeon will tell you the reason for the procedure. Make sure you understand how the operation will affect the outcome of your medical condition.

3. Are there alternatives to surgery?
Surgery is not always the only treatment for medical problem. Medicines or non-surgical treatments, such as a change in diet or special exercises, might help you just as well or more than surgery. Ask your surgeon or primary care doctor about the benefits and risks of these other choices. Learn as much as possible about the benefits and risks of making a choice other than surgery.

An alternative to surgery may be “watchful waiting”. Watchful waiting is when your doctor and you follow your problem closely to see if it gets better or worse. If it gets worse, you may need surgery right away. If it gets better, you may be able to postpone or not have the surgery.

4. What are the benefits of having the operation?
Ask your surgeon to describe the benefits of having surgery. For example, a hip replacement may mean that you can walk without pain.

Ask how long the benefits are likely to last. For some procedures, the benefits may last only a short time. There might be a need for a second operation later. For some procedures, the benefits may last a lifetime.

When learning about the benefits of the operation, be realistic. You may expect too much and be disappointed with the results. Ask your doctor if there is any written information he can give you about what you can expect from the procedure.

5. What are the risks of having the operation?
All operations carry some risk along with the benefits. This is why you consider the benefits against the risks of complications or side effects.

Complications can occur before, during or after the operation. Complications are unplanned events, such as infection, too much bleeding, reaction to anesthesia, or accidental injury. You may have an increased risk for problems if you have other medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure.

Also, there may be side effects after the operation. Side effects can often be anticipated. For example, your surgeon will know to expect some swelling and some soreness at the site of the operation.

Ask your surgeon about all of the possible complications and side effects of the operation. There is almost always some pain with surgery. Ask how much there will be and how will your pain be controlled. Controlling pain will keep you more comfortable while you heal which will help you heal faster and get better results from your operation.

6. What if I don’t have this operation?
Based on what you learn about the benefits and risks of the operation, you may decide not to have it. Ask your surgeon what you will gain–or lose–by not having the operation now. Will you be in more pain? Will your condition get worse? Will your problem go away without surgery?

7. Where can I get a second opinion?
Getting a second opinion is often a good way to ensure that having the operation is the best choice for you. Some health insurance plans require patients to get a second opinion before they have certain non-emergency operations. If your plan does not require a second opinion, you may still want to have one. If you are expecting your insurance company to pay for a second opinion, be sure to ask BEFORE you get the second opinion. If you get a second opinion, be sure to take your records from your first doctor so that you may not have to retake some of the tests.

8. What has been your experience in doing the operation?
One way to reduce the risks of surgery is to choose a surgeon who has been thoroughly trained to do the procedure and does the surgery often. Ask your surgeon about his or her recent record of successes and complications with this procedure. You may feel more comfortable for talking with your regular doctor about the surgeons’ qualifications.

9. Where will the operation be done?
Most surgeons practice at one or two hospitals. Find out where your operation will be performed. Some operations have higher success rates if they are done in hospitals that do many of those procedures. Ask your doctor about the success rate at the hospital where you will have surgery. If the hospital has a low success rate for the kind of operation you are considering, you can ask to have surgery at another hospital.

Until recently, most surgery was performed in the hospital and patients stayed in the hospital for a few days. Today, most surgery is done on an outpatient basis in a doctor’s office, at a special outpatient surgical center, or a day surgery unit of a hospital. Outpatient surgery is less expensive because you do not have to pay for staying in a hospital room.

Ask if your operation will be done in the hospital, in the doctors office, or in an outpatient surgery center. If your doctor recommends inpatient surgery for a procedure that is usually done as outpatient surgery, or recommends outpatient surgery that is usually done as inpatient surgery, ask why. You want to be in the right place for your operation.

10. What kind of anesthesia will I need?
Anesthesia is used so that surgery can be performed without unnecessary pain. Your surgeon can tell you whether the operation is usually done with local, regional, or general anesthesia, and why this form of anesthesia is recommended for your procedure.
Local anesthesia numbs only a part of your body for a short period of time, for example, a tooth and the surrounding gum. Not all procedures done with local anesthesia are painless.

Regional anesthesia numbs a larger portion of your body, for example, the lower part of your body for a few hours. In most cases, you will be awake with regional anesthesia.

General anesthesia numbs your entire body for the entire time of the surgery. You will be asleep, or unconscious, if you have general anesthesia.

Anesthesia during surgery is quite safe for most patients and is administered by an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist. Both are highly skilled and are specially trained to give anesthesia.

If you decide to have an operation, ask to meet with the person who will give you anesthesia. Find out about their qualifications and training. Ask about the side effects and risks for you when having anesthesia. Be sure to tell him or her if you have other medical problems including allergies and any medications you have been taking, since they may affect your response to the anesthesia.

11. How long will it take me to recover?
Your surgeon can tell you how you might feel and what you will be able to do or not do the first few days, weeks, or months after surgery. Ask how long you will be in the hospital. Ask if you will need special supplies, equipment, or help when you return home.

Ask when you can start regular exercise again and go back to work. You do not want to do anything that will slow down the recovery process. Lifting a 10-pound bag of potatoes may not seem like “too much” a week after your operation, but it may be. Follow your surgeon’s advice to recover fully and as soon as possible.

12. How much will the operation cost?
Health insurance coverage will depend on your health plan. There may be costs you will have to pay. Before you have surgery, call your insurance company to find out how much insurance will pay and how much you will have to pay.

Surgical fees may include several office or hospital visits after the operation. You also will be billed by the hospital for inpatient or outpatient care, by the anesthesiologist, and possibly others providing care related to your operation.

Surgeons’ Qualifications
You will want to know that your surgeon is experienced and qualified to perform the operation. Many surgeons have taken special training and passed exams given by a national board of surgeons. Ask if your surgeon is “board certified” in surgery. Some surgeons also have the letters F.A.C.S. after their name. This means they are Fellows of the American College of Surgeons and have passed a review by surgeons in their surgical specialty.

For More Information
The American College of Surgeons (ACS) has a free series of pamphlets on “When You Need an Operation.” For copies, write to the ACS, Office of Public Information, 55 E. Erie Street, Chicago, IL 60611, or call 312-664-4050. Pamphlets in this series range from those providing general information about surgery to those explaining specific surgical procedures.

Second Opinion
For a free brochure on “Medicare Coverage for Second Surgical Opinions: Your Choice Facing Elective Surgery,” write to Health Care Financing Administration, Publications, NI-26-27, 7500 Security Blvd., Baltimore, Maryland 21244-1850. Ask for Publication No. HCFA 02173.

To get the name of a specialist in your area who can give you a second opinion, ask your primary doctor or surgeon, the local medical society, or your health insurance company.

Free booklets on what you should know about anesthesia are available from the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) or the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA). For copies, write to ASA at 520 North Northwest Highway, Park Ridge, IL 60068, or call 708-825-5586; or AANA at 222 S. Prospect Avenue, Park Ridge, IL 60068-4001, or call 708-692-7050.

Pain Control
“Pain Control After Surgery: A Patient’s Guide” is available free from the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR). For a copy of this consumer version of the AHCPR-supported clinical practice guideline and for information on other patient guides, write to the AHCPR Publications Clearinghouse, P.O. Box 8547, Silver Spring, MD 20907, or call toll-free 800-358-9295.

For almost every disease, there is a national or local association or society that publishes consumer information. Check your local telephone directory. There are also organized groups of patients with certain illnesses that can often provide information about a condition, alternative treatments, and experience with local doctors and hospitals. Ask your hospital or doctors if they know of any patient groups related to your condition. Also, your local public library has medical reference materials about health care treatments.

Some of these issues are covered in greater detail in a guidebook and video program, “PREPARED for Health Care: A Consumer’s Guide to Better Medical Decisions,” by J.C. Gambone, D.O., and R.C. Reiter, M.D., Copyright 1993, Great Performance, Beaverton, Oregon. For information on obtaining copies, write to Great Performance, Inc. at P.O. Box 91400, Portland, OR 97291-0400.

For further information you may also wish to see “The Savvy Patient: How to Be an Active Participant in Your Medical Care,” by David R. Stutz, M.D., Bernard Feder, Ph.D., and the Editors of Consumer Reports Books, Copyright 1990, published by Consumers Union of U.S., Inc., Yonkers, NY, 10703.

Tags: Allergies, doctor questions, Health insurance coverage, questions to ask doctor, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research

Pollen Allergies

August 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Education

This information is about pollen allergies. It covers what they are, how they affect you, and what to do about them.

A pollen allergy is a reaction by your body to fine powdery grains from plants in the air. Pollen allergies flare up most often in the Spring or Fall depending on whether you are allergic to tree pollen, grass pollen or ragweed pollen.

You may have a pollen allergy if you get hay fever, itching eyes, nasal congestion, wheezing, or a skin rash at certain times of the year, every year. On the other hand, you may have some allergic reaction throughout the year, but your allergies get worse during certain seasons. Your symptoms may increase during the morning and evening hours.

For pollen allergies, the trick is to avoid things that cause them. Here are some suggestions. First, control your inside environment. Sleep with the windows closed. Try to have air conditioning for your home, your car, and your workplace (if you can). Replace the filter in your central air conditioning unit every month.

Outside, get someone else to do the yard work in pollen season, or wear a pollen mask if you must do it yourself. And stay away from parks or other areas that you know are pollen sources. If practical, you may want to plan a vacation trip for the pollen season. Some geographic areas are more pollen-free than others.

You can help relieve the nasal and eye symptoms of your allergy with non-prescription medications called antihistamines. They are sold under brand names such as Chlor-trimetonand or Benadryl. Be sure to read product labels carefully, because not all so-called cold remedies contain antihistamines.

Finally, if you have taken all practical steps to avoid the causes of your allergy–and if non-prescription drugs don’t help–get in touch with your health care provider. A stronger medication may be prescribed for you, or you may be referred to an Allergist for evaluation.

Please remember these key points:

  • Pollen allergies are your body’s reactions to certain small powdery particles from plants in the air.
  • The best way to deal with pollen allergies is to avoid contact with pollen as much as possible.
  • Non-prescription antihistamines can help relieve symptoms.
  • In more severe or persistent cases, be sure to consult your doctor.
Tags: skin rash, Allergies, itching eyes, nasal congestion, allergic to pollen, Pollen Allergies

Food Allergies

August 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Education

This information is about food allergies. It covers the symptoms of food allergies, the foods and chemicals that cause them, and some practical ways to deal with them.

Certain foods cause allergic reactions in some people. The reaction may be an itchy rash, upset stomach, runny nose and sneezing, itchy throat, wheezing or dry, itchy skin or eczema.

Allergic reactions to food vary greatly. They may appear within minutes or be delayed for several hours. They’re affected by how much you ate, the cooking method used, and the number of allergic foods eaten together. These factors affect the type, severity, and duration of allergic symptoms. Sometimes, you don’t have to actually eat the food. For example, steam from cooking food can cause a reaction if you are extremely allergic to that food.

Allergic reactions can be caused by many different foods. Some of the common ones include eggs, milk, soy, nuts, fish and shellfish, cereals, wheat, beans, berries and fresh fruits. Some people are allergic to whole families of related foods, such as peanuts, peas, beans, soy and licorice.

Allergic reactions are rarely caused by food additives. Some dyes, preservatives, and other additives in colored beverages, foods, and mouthwashes can cause skin rashes or wheezing.

Sulfites, which are used to retard discoloration and spoilage can also cause allergic reactions, especially in people with asthma. If you have this , be extremely careful with anything containing small amounts of sulfites-and try to avoid them completely. Sulfites are often found in wine, restaurant salads, shellfish, dried fruits and vegetables, canned mushrooms, pickles and sauerkraut, vinegar, preserved cheeses, and other preserved foods. Sulfites may be included on package labels, so be sure to check them carefully.

How to deal with food allergies…

First, find out what causes the reaction. Keep a diary of everything you ate and notice the foods you wrote down up to three hours before the reaction. If that doesn’t work, stop eating the foods you suspect until you no longer suffer the reaction. Then, reintroduce those foods one at a time until a reaction uncovers the cause of your allergy.

Once you’ve identified the guilty food, simply avoid eating it. If that’s not practical, or if you’ve eaten by mistake, you may relieve your symptoms by taking a non-prescription antihistamine such as Chlor-trimeton or Benadryl.

If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to see your doctor. A stronger medication may be prescribed–or you may be referred to an Allergist for evaluation. If you’re referred to an Allergist, skin tests will likely be done to identify your allergy.

Please remember these key points:

  • Allergic reactions to food vary in type, severity, and time of appearance. Both foods and food additives can produce allergic reactions.
  • Isolate the food or foods that cause the reaction, and then avoid the foods.
  • Non-prescription antihistamines can help control mild reactions. If such medications don’t relieve your reactions, contact your doctor for advice.
Tags: allergy, Allergies, food allergies, diary, Allergic

Medication Allergies

July 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Education

This information is about allergies to medications. It covers what they are, how to deal with them, and how to prevent them. Read more

Tags: medication allergies, allergy reactions, Allergies, allergy, wallet

General Allergy Information

July 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Education

This information is about allergies. It covers what allergies are, why people have them, what makes them occur, and what to do about them. Read more

Tags: antibodies, Allergies, allergy, medication allergies, allergy reactions

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