© Madartists | Dreamstime.com

© Madartists | Dreamstime.com

With all the news about infectious diseases, people may get the idea that the flu isn’t all that serious; but we need to remember that it can be a very dangerous—even fatal—illness, especially to the very young, the very old and the immune-compromised. It descends upon our local communities every year, causing a great deal of sickness and sometimes death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes, “Over a period of 31 seasons between 1976 and 2007, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. During a regular flu season, about 90 percent of deaths occur in people 65 years and older.” But even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others.

How should I prepare for the flu?
As with most illness, prevention is the best defense and the best form of prevention is the annual flu vaccine. The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older.

Influenza can be spread even before you have symptoms. Therefore, practicing good flu etiquette is always encouraged:

  • wash your hands often
  • try to stay away from people who are sick
  • stay home if you are sick
  • cover your cough with tissue or the inside of your elbow.

Is there any treatment for the flu?
If you get the flu, there are antiviral drugs that can make your symptoms milder and make you feel better sooner. They can also prevent serious flu-related complications, like pneumonia. However, sometimes a flu virus has changed in a way that makes antiviral drugs less effective, and the CDC conducts studies to determine which strains are becoming resistant. (Click for more information about antiviral drugs.)

What should I do if I get the flu?
If your illness is mild, stay home and avoid contact with other people. You should stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. However, if you have symptoms and are in a high-risk group, contact your doctor. See People at High Risk of Developing Flu–Related Complications. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral drug.

What is the difference between the common cold and the flu?
In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness and dry cough are more common and intense. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections or hospitalizations. Special tests done within the first few days of illness can tell if a person has the flu.

When should I get the flu vaccine?
The flu season peak activity most commonly hits in the U.S. between December and February, however it can begin as early as October and continue until May. Since it takes about two weeks to develop antibodies after vaccination, it is a good idea to get vaccinated soon after the vaccine becomes available, usually in October, to ensure you are protected before the flu season starts.

Where can I get the flu vaccine?
Flu vaccines are offered at locations throughout the community: doctors’ offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies, college health centers, employers and even some schools. Even if you don’t have a regular doctor or nurse, you can find a vaccination location by visiting the HealthMap Vaccine Finder.

How long does the flu vaccine protect from the flu?
Studies over several years show that the body’s immunity to influenza viruses (acquired through natural infection or by vaccination) declines over time. Older people and those with weakened immune systems might not generate the same amount of antibodies after vaccination, so it’s important to get a vaccine every season.

Can the vaccine provide protection even if the vaccine is not a “good” match?
Even if the virus and vaccine are not a “good match,” getting the vaccine can lessen the severity of your illness. Antibodies made in response to vaccination with one flu virus can sometimes provide protection against different but related viruses, although sometimes with reduced effectiveness.

Myths about the flu and flu vaccine:

  • You can get the flu from the flu vaccine.
    No, you cannot contract the flu from either the flu shot or the nasal spray, although you might have a mild fever, runny nose or sore arm that lasts only for a day or two.
  • The flu vaccine is more dangerous than the flu.
    No. Any flu infection can carry a risk of serious complications, hospitalization or death, even among otherwise healthy children and adults. Getting vaccinated is a much safer choice than risking illness.
  • Getting vaccinated twice provides more immunity.
    No. Studies have not shown any benefits for adults receiving more than one dose during an influenza season. Except for some children, only one dose is recommended.

Are there special concerns for vaccinating children?
Children between 6 months and 8 years may need two doses of flu vaccine to be fully protected. Your child’s health care professional can tell you whether your child needs two doses. Visit Children, the Flu, and the Flu Vaccine for more information.

Starting with this season, the CDC recommends use of the nasal spray vaccine (LAIV) for healthy children 2 through 8 years, because recent studies suggest that nasal spray is more effective than the flu shot for younger children. However, if the nasal spray vaccine is not immediately available and the flu shot is, your child should get the flu shot. Don’t delay vaccination to find the nasal spray flu vaccine. Visit Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine in Children 2 through 8 Years Old or the 2014-2015 MMWR Influenza Vaccine Recommendations. Children younger than 6 months are at higher risk of serious flu complications, but are too young to get a flu vaccine. If you live with or care for an infant younger than 6 months of age, you should get a flu vaccine to help protect them from flu. See Advice for Caregivers of Young Children for more information.

Emergency Warning Signs
Go to the Emergency Department if a child experiences the following symptoms:

  • Fast or difficult breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not taking fluids
  • Not waking up
  • Fever with rash
  • Symptoms that improve but return with fever and worse cough.

For adults emergency signs include:

  • Difficult breathing and shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness or confusion
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Symptoms that lessen but return with fever and worse cough.

The bottom line is the flu vaccine is your best defense. More information about influenza vaccines is available at Preventing Seasonal Flu with Vaccination.


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forget me notI love picture books. I love to read them, share them with children, talk about them, and get lost in wonder at the ability of authors and illustrators to perfectly meld text and illustration. I especially treasure when I find books that capture the emotional truth of difficult subjects.

Forget Me Not by Nancy Van Laan is an Alzheimer’s story. Julia loves her grandmother and is afraid and worried when grandmother becomes forgetful, starts wandering, and finally becomes unable to care for herself. Van Laan deftly guides the reader through the stages of Alzheimers, always through the child’s perspective. When it becomes clear to Julia and her family that grandmother can no longer safely live alone they make together the decision to move her from her home to “a place that will give her the special care she needs.” Muted color washes of blue, green, and yellow contribute to the gentle, delicately perceptive tone of this book.

I lost my mother to dementia a year ago, I wish this book had been around then.

the very tiny babyThe Very Tiny Baby by Sylvie Kantorovitz is a rock star at addressing the serious issues surrounding a premature baby from a sibling’s point of view. Luckily, Jacob has his teddy bear to pour out all of his mixed-up feelings. Sibling rivalry, fear for his mommy, and resentment at the lack of attention are all poured into the understanding ears of Bear. The hand-lettered text and scrapbook style drawings engage the young reader and provide a safe outlet for children in Jacob’s situation.

A keen sense of a child’s perspective makes this a useful book to have in your Tender Topics arsenal.

my fathers arms are a boatMy Father’s Arms Are a Boat by Erik Lunde. This beautiful, quiet, sad book is respectful of the grief of both father and son. Unable to sleep, the boy seeks comfort in his father’s arms. Bundled up, the boy and his father go out into the cold, starry Norwegian night. The boy asks his father “Is Mommy asleep?… She’ll never wake up again?” The father’s soft refrain to his son, “Everything will be alright” as he calms his fears and answers his questions, resonates the truth of the present sadness and the hope for the future. The paper collage and ink illustrations monochromatic tones convey the sorrow, while the flashes of red (like the warmth of the fire) allow the reader, like the young boy, to find comfort in the love of those still with us. The final spread of this Norwegian import is lovely and life affirming.

Shirley ONeill works for Howard County Library System as the Children’s and Teen Materials Specialist. She cannot believe she actually gets paid to do this job.

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sick teddy bear

© Robeo | Dreamstime.com

The rare respiratory virus that has sickened hundreds of kids across the Midwest has made its way to the East Coast, its arrival in Maryland was confirmed this past Wednesday (Sept. 24). Reports of severe illness have fueled anxiety among parents and caregivers, but infectious disease specialists at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center expect that most children who get the bug should recover swiftly without lingering after-effects.

What is Enterovirus D68?
Enterovirus D68 belongs to a family of nearly 100 viruses that cause a wide range of symptoms, infecting millions of people around the world each year. First identified in the 1960s, Enterovirus D68 is not a new virus. It affects predominantly children and teens and causes mild to moderate upper respiratory infections. Some people may also develop more serious infections of the lungs. The virus is contained in airway and mouth secretions, such as saliva, spit and nasal mucus, and is spread in much the same way as the common cold and the flu viruses — by touching contaminated surfaces, coughing and sneezing.

How dangerous is it?
In most healthy children, the virus will cause brief and self-limiting illness that resembles a bad case of the common cold, but it could lead to more severe disease and respiratory distress, particularly in those with underlying chronic conditions such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, heart disease or compromised immune function.

How is it treated?
There is no specific treatment for this virus. Children should drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and rest until fully recovered. Antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections will NOT work against this or any other virus. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, can help reduce fever, pains and aches. Aspirin should not be given to children.

What can I do to reduce the risk of infection?
Follow common sense hygiene etiquette. The single most effective way to reduce the risk of infection is to wash hands frequently and avoid touching your face. Sneeze and cough into your sleeve rather than in the palm of your hand. Keep home children with cough and fever to avoid spreading the virus to others. Make sure that infected family members use separate hand and facial towels and do not share cups, glasses or utensils.

When should I take my child to the ER?
Most children who get the virus will do fine and do not require emergency care or hospitalization. A small number of children may go on to develop more serious disease and require urgent medical attention or emergency treatment.

One or more of the following warrants a trip to your pediatrician’s office or to the ER:
• Struggling to breathe, apparent respiratory distress
• Severe, prolonged vomiting
• Fever over 103 degrees that does not break in 48 hours
• Lethargy

Dr. Julia McMillan is a pediatric infectious disease specialist at The Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. The center offers one of the most comprehensive pediatric medical programs in the country, with more than 92,000 patient visits and nearly 9,000 admissions each year. Johns Hopkins Children Center is consistently ranked among the top children’s hospitals in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

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calendar_2014smTuesday, Sept. 30, 7:00 p.m. Cutting Edge Discoveries in Neuroscience to Boost Your Brai at Miller Branch. In this three-part series, Majid Fotuhi, M.D., Ph.D., teaches how to boost brain capacity at any age. The founder and chief medical officer of NeurExpand, Fotuhi has written three books about brain health: Boost Your Brain: The New Art and Science Behind Enhanced Brain Performance; The Memory Cure; and The New York Times Crosswords to Keep Your Brain Young: The 6-Step Age-Defying Program. Fotuhi received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School and his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His research findings have been published in The Journal of Neuroscience, The Lancet, Nature, Neurology, Neuron, and The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Fotuhi has been featured on PBS, The Dr. Oz Show, CNN, Discovery Channel, NBC’s TODAY show, and numerous other national media.

Sept. 30 Part 1: Diet and Your Brain Learn which foods can make your memory sharper and stronger.

Dec. 8 Part 2: Stress and Your Brain Discover how stress can shrink your brain and what you can do within three months to reverse its effects.

Jan. 8 Part 3: Sleep and Your Brain Explore how to harness the power of sleep to expand your brain capacity.

A Well & Wise and Meet the Author event. Presented in partnership with Howard County Department of Citizen Services and Office on Aging. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

Thursday, Oct. 2, 7 to 8:30 p.m. The ABCs of Getting More ZZZZZZZZs in the hospital’s Wellness Center. You’re not alone if you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep — insomnia is the most common sleep disorder. Learn strategies for beating insomnia from Luis Buenaver, M.D., Johns Hopkins behavioral sleep specialist practicing at the Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep at HCGH. Free.

Saturday, Oct. 4, 1:00 p.m. Hands Only CPR & AED at Glenwood Branch. Learn how to start CPR right away and continue doing chest compressions until help arrives. Learn about cardiac arrest, how to recognize it’s happening, and the three simple steps of Hands-only CPR for victims over 8 years old. Receive a basic overview of an automated external defibrillator (AED). Training in Hands-Only CPR gives you the ability to help save a life without using mouth-to-mouth ventilation or obtaining a certification card. Ages 11-17. Register online or by calling 410.313.5577.

Monday, Oct. 6, 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening at Glenwood Branch. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. No registration required.

Monday, Oct. 6, 3:30 p.m. Improving Your Mood Through Meditative Art at Miller Branch. Research shows that creative activities can boost serotonin levels. Join us in the Enchanted Garden as we use artistic expression to improve our moods. All levels of artistic ability welcome. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

Tuesday, Oct. 7, 7:00 p.m. Hands Only CPR & AED at Elkridge Branch. Learn how to start CPR right away and continue doing chest compressions until help arrives. Learn about cardiac arrest, how to recognize it’s happening, and the three simple steps of Hands-only CPR for victims over 8 years old. Receive a basic overview of an automated external defibrillator (AED). Training in Hands-Only CPR gives you the ability to help save a life without using mouth-to-mouth ventilation or obtaining a certification card. Ages 11-17. Register online or by calling 410.313.5088.

Thursday, Oct. 9, 3 to 5 p.m. Depression Screening in the hospital Wellness Center. Includes lecture, video, self-assessment and an individual, confidential evaluation with a mental health practitioner. Free.

Thursday, Oct. 9, 7 to 9 p.m. Have Pre-Diabetes? Our certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian will teach you how to make changes to prevent/delay actual diabetes in the hospital Wellness Center. $15.


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jess bookEver since I started using Pinterest regularly, Facebook has kind of lost its shine for me. There are so many neat things about the former that the latter just cannot offer. Though over ten million people use Pinterest these days, there’s always still a chance you may be new to it.

Pinterest is a pinboard-style photo-sharing website that lets users to create and keep track of theme-based image collections such as events, interests, and hobbies. Obviously, Pinterest isn’t going to dramatically change your life. What it can do, though, is help it inspire it, whether it’s with your diet, the make-up you want to use, or ways to keep your mood going strong and stress-free.

It’s easy to sign up for a Pinterest account, but if you don’t want to or simply feel you can’t be bothered with an account, you can use the search box on Pinterest to find what you want. Bypassing account login (which normally is how you first are able to use the “search” box) you can use Pinterest by doing a Pinterest search through Google. Once you’re in that way, you can search Pinterest as long as your heart desires.

“[Pinterest] is fascinating,” said Brendan Gallagher of Digitas Health. “It’s social commerce cleverly disguised as an aspirational visual scrapbook.” Aspirational sounds about right. There are so many great things to be discovered on this often surprisingly productive social networking site.

jess pcLet’s say you’re interested in dental health and want to motivate yourself or your family to get better at brushing. You can go here: Good Food Vs. Bad Food (for your teeth) | How to Improve Dental Health | Dental Health Info Graphics

If you’re determined to eat better than you do, check out great superfoods ideas and other healthy lifestyle tips here: Better Health Info Graphics | Antioxidants

If you love coffee, but wonder whether it’s doing you more harm than good, Pinterest has something for that, too: Medical Benefits of Being Addicted to Coffee

Are you a woman worried about heart disease? Are you a man who’s fallen behind on pertinent health news? What’s up with migraines? By the way, when was your last physical exam?

Okay. I got excited there! I think it’s clear that you can search for healthy inspiration or explore your other curiosities, like proper dining etiquette, job interviewing skills, removing permanent marker stains from anything, or creating easy outfit access in the morning (especially if you have children who always seem to be rushing around right before the school bus arrives). However, a note of caution: while Pinterest is for everyone, what’s pinned isn’t always trustworthy intel. Just like anything else you might find online, be sure to consult medical professionals before trying any kind of diet or exercise plan.

So, if you want to become a Pinterest person, here are some good rules to follow to make it more worthwhile. Happy (and healthy) pinning!

Angie Engles has been with the Howard County Library System for 17 years, 14 of which were at the Savage Branch. She currently works at the Central Branch primarily in the Fiction and Audio-visual departments. Her interests include music, books, and old movies.


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Properly dispose of unwanted or unneeded medications at Drug Take Back Day on Sept. 27 in Howard County

Have you ever opened your medicine cabinet and wondered, “What are all of these medications?” Some you may not have used for years and can’t remember why you had them in the first place, but you keep them because you just don’t know what to do with them.

What is the best way to handle unneeded and expired drugs? Your Howard County General Hospital pharmacists recommend participating in the Drug Take Back Day on Sept. 27, 2014 in nine locations throughout Howard County.

Our pharmacists give tips on why it is vital to safely dispose of unneeded medications and other ways you can delete them from your cabinet in the below slideshow.

 

  • girl with pills
    Leaving unneeded drugs around the house can pose a grave danger to children, teens and even family. Did you know that two-thirds of teens who abuse prescription drugs are getting them from their own homes, friends or a family member?
  • Having too many drugs in your home increases the risk of accidentally taking the wrong medication or a medicine that is too old to be effective.
  • pills in trash can
    Improper disposal of drugs is not only bad for us, it is bad for the earth and our sources of drinking water. In homes with septic tanks, prescription and over-the-counter drugs flushed down the toilet can leach out and seep into ground water.
  • drainage water
    Even in places where residences are connected to wastewater treatment plants, some drugs can pass through the system and end up in our rivers and lakes and eventually flow into our sources of drinking water. Many treatment plants are not equipped to remove medicines.
  • pills underwater
    From the Office of National Drug Control Policy for household drug disposal: take Rx drugs out of original containers and mix with cat litter, used coffee grounds or other undesirable substance. Put into a disposable container with a lid (ex., empty margarine tub) or a sealable bag and throw away. (Conceal or remove personal information, including Rx number on empty containers before tossing.)
  • pills in the mail
    Mail-in programs, offered by some local pharmacies, sell prepaid envelopes that can be filled with unwanted medications and mailed to a disposal facility. Click the image for prescription donation sites.
  • howard county map
    The best disposal choice is your local Drug Take Back Day. So use this opportunity to clean out your medicine cabinet and bring your over-the-counter or prescription meds to one of nine convenient locations in Howard County by clicking the map.

 

Drug Take Back Day is sponsored by the Howard County Police and HC Drug-Free. The program offers a way for everyone to properly dispose of expired or unwanted medications.
 
Masoomeh Khamesian, Pharm. D., is the director of pharmacy for Howard County General Hospital.
Susan Shermock is the medication safety manager of the Pharmacy at Howard County General Hospital.
  
 

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How strong is the biological element in gender? Is it psychologically possible, in infancy, to engineer one’s sexuality? At what point in utero are we wired to be male or female?

In 1966 rural Winnipeg, none of these facts mattered to a teenaged couple whose baby boy had recently suffered a botched circumcision and now faced a life they could not imagine. They would journey all the way to Baltimore to the Johns Hopkins Psychohormonal Research Unit under the auspices of psychologist, John Money. Their son, they were promised, would be successfully reassigned as a girl. What Janet and Ron Reimer may not have been told was that “sexual reassignment had never been done on a normal child with normal genitals and nervous system.”

Journalist John Colapinto delivers a precise and compelling examination of a world-famous case that proved “pre-birth factors set limits on how far culture, learning, and environment can direct gender identity in humans” in As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl.

Only more compelling is getting to know David Reimer himself. A girl from the age of two until eighteen, his battle with depression and self-loathing is heartbreaking—shocking at times—but you will come away believing he is one of the bravest people you have ever met.

Aimee Zuccarini is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the East Columbia Branch. She facilitates several book discussions and writes the book reviews for The Maryland Women’s Journal.

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