leaflets three let it beWhen I was ten years old, I got two unforgettable cases of poison ivy. A nature girl, I spent spare time out of doors, digging in the dirt, and climbing trees and fences. In the spring of that year, I was digging a hole (purpose, unknown) and found some pesky roots in the way. In pulling up the poison ivy roots, I released urushiol oil all over my hands and next day, my hands were covered with huge weeping blisters. I missed a week of school, as the medication of choice at that time was calamine lotion, which was totally ineffective. That winter, I left a Christmas party to hike and climbed a vine-covered fence. In climbing the fence, I again exposed my hands to urushiol, and missed another week of school with the misery and pain of poison ivy. Because at least 75% of people react to poison ivy, you might know what I’m talking about.

I took these experiences as a personal affront, and swore a vendetta on this innocent plant. Its urushiol oil covering conserves moisture in hot Maryland summers, and is not a defensive measure. Its green leaves are commonly enjoyed by wildlife such as deer and bears, and birds relish the seeds in the fall. In fact, birds which consume the seeds are responsible for the sudden appearance of the plant in your back yard.

Because the plant flourishes where light is prolific in the forest edges, not in the shade, more poison ivy grows in Maryland in 2015 than before the European colonists cleared the trees. And we may be seeing more of it in the future. A Marine Biological Laboratory study found that the plant is highly sensitive to greater carbon dioxide levels. With climate change bringing rising CO2 levels, poison ivy will enjoy an ideal growing environment.

poison oak poison ivyDepending on the severity of the rash and the location on your body, a case of poison ivy rash can make people a little itchy or endanger their health. Calamine cream may help minor rashes. Medical help should be sought for heavy rashes, swelling (especially on the face and genitals), or breathing problems. Strong medications and even hospitalization may be necessary.

Prevention always beats treatment. Learn (and teach your kids) what how to avoid skin contact with urushiol-covered plants. The American Academy of Dermatology’s website includes excellent photographs of poison ivy, oak, and sumac, all of which produce urushiol.

Wear clothes with long sleeves & long pants when you spend time in the woods or in the garden, removing and washing the clothes after use. After suspected exposure (gardening, walks in the woods), immediately wash a soap or cream such as Tecnu or Zanfel to remove the urushiol. If your pet has run through poison ivy, she won’t get a rash- but she can bring the rash to you, so wash her, too.

Jean has been working at Howard County Library System’s Central Branch for nearly nine years. She walks in the Benjamin Banneker Park whenever she gets a chance.

read more

pool safety tipsFor many, summer means pool time! Though splashing around with family and friends is a highlight of the summer, it is important to keep pool safety and caution in mind. With drownings and pool injuries a valid concern, make water safety your first priority.

Follow these simple guidelines to keep pool time safe and fun for everyone:

  1. Never allow children near or in the water unattended, even if lifeguards are present
  2. Make it a rule for your kids to never go in or near the water without an adult nearby
  3. Teach your child to swim or sign them up for swimming lessons
  4. Designate a water watcher. Choose a responsible person to keep an eye on the water every time children are in or near the water
  5. Make sure your child knows basic water safety skills
  6. Stay in arm’s reach of young children
  7. Have young children who are inexperienced in swimming wear a life jacket near the pool
  8. Learn CPR!
  9. Make your child wait at least 30 minutes after eating to swim
  10. Establish safe pool rules and enforce them such as: no running near the pool, always swim with a buddy and no diving
  11. Make sure children know that drains and suction fittings in the pool or hot tub are always off limits
  12. If you have a pool in your back yard, make sure there is proper fencing and/or barriers around it
  13. Always wear sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30

By following these simple safety guidelines, you are sure to have a summer full of fun at the pool and create great memories!

 


Resources: Poolsafety.gov and the American Red Cross


read more

Poisons act fast!

National Poison Prevention Week is March 15-21

poison_control_number

Call 1 (800) 222-1222 for accidental poisonings.

At some point, almost everyone will experience the horrible realization that a child, family member or friend may have accidentally ingested some kind of poison: the two-year-old smiling and licking his lips with a half-empty bottle of sweet, red, baby acetaminophen in his hand; the toddler who thought the amber chemical in an unmarked bottle was apple juice; the elderly relative with limited vision and memory taking the wrong number of pills at the wrong time; the husband who decided to sand a table not knowing it was covered with lead-based paint; or the friend who inhaled toxic vapors by mixing chlorine bleach with ammonia to clean the floor. A poison is any substance that can harm someone if it is used in the wrong way, by the wrong person or in the wrong amount, and there are endless ways for accidental poisonings to happen. According to a 2008 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, poisoning exceeded the number of traffic accident deaths for the first time since 1980. More than two million poisonings are reported each year to the 57 poison control centers across the country and more than 90 percent of these poisonings occur in the home.

March 15 to 21 is National Poison Prevention Week, and this year’s themes are: “Children Act Fast…So Do Poisons” and “Poisoning Spans a Lifetime.”

.
What can you do to help prevent accidental poisonings?

  • Become familiar with the 50 poison prevention tips offered by the National Poison Prevention Week Council, including:
    • General Safety—Install safety latches on cabinets used for medicines and household products and buy products in child-resistant packaging.
    • household_poisonsMedicine Safety—Keep medicines out of reach of children, tell your doctor about all of your medications to avoid interactions, and use only the measuring device (dosing cup, dosing syringe, or dropper) that is included with your medicine.
    • Household Product Safety—Keep cleaning products in their original container with original label, never use food containers to store household or chemical products, have your children tested for lead poisoning and remove poisonous plants from your house and yard.
  • Learn the signal warning words for household and chemical products:
    • Caution—slightly toxic if eaten, absorbed through skin, inhaled or in contact with eyes or skin
    • Warning—moderately toxic
    • Danger—highly toxic or deadly. The word “poison” must be included in red letters on front panel of the product label.

.
What should you do if you suspect a possible poisoning?

  • Keep the Poison Control Center emergency phone number, 1-800-222-1222 in a handy and accessible place and make sure caretakers also know where it is.
  • Do NOT administer syrup of ipecac.
    • The American Academy of Pediatrics says you should get rid of this syrup that for years was thought to be a good way to treat children who had swallowed something toxic by making them vomit.
    • Recent studies show it can irritate the stomach and esophagus and that it can leave up to 50 percent of the toxin behind. The best bet is to call the poison control hotline (1-800-222-1222). If it is a true emergency, you should call 9-1-1 or go to your local emergency department.

read more

after tobaccoIt is the time of year when many of us make resolutions to better ourselves. I always have a hard time making a New Year’s resolution because within a short time I have failed, and then, I need to think of yet another resolution! Eventually, I reach the point where it becomes ridiculous because I have made and broken so many resolutions that I run out of ideas!

It’s difficult to tackle resolutions at any time of year, even when there are sound reasons to do so. Change can be difficult. Start by educating yourself about the risks and benefits of making these changes. You also have to be careful that you do not replace one bad habit with another one. For example, the dangers of smoking are well documented, but the risks associated with e-cigarettes are still unknown. Yet some people who are trying to quit smoking are turning to e-cigarettes. There are also a number of people that have never smoked that are now “vaping” (using an e-cigarette). E-cigarettes or electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that often look like regular tobacco cigarettes. The way they commonly work is that an atomizer or heating element heats a liquid often containing nicotine and various flavorings. Flavoring options include tobacco and menthol flavor, and flavorings that might appeal to younger users like bubblegum, cherry and apple. The heated liquid converts into a vapor or mist that the user inhales. The vapor cloud resembles smoke, but does not have an odor, so it is harder to know later if someone has been vaping.

Recent studies suggest that e-cigarettes do not help people reduce or quit smoking. E-cigarettes do not contain carbon monoxide or tar, which are two of the harmful chemicals in traditional cigarettes, but the Federal Drug Administration does not regulate e-cigarettes for recreational use, so what’s in them can vary. The FDA is currently looking into extending its authority to include alternatives to tobacco products, which would allow them to use regulatory rules to impose age restrictions and review claims made that e-cigarettes reduce tobacco-related disease and death.

tobacco smokingI applaud you if one of your resolutions this year is to quit smoking. I encourage you to educate yourself on the many resources available to help you. I recommend that you read the American Heart Association’s policy statement on the use of e-cigarettes. You may still find that e-cigarettes are a viable option for you or you can find a quit-method that may work for you here. If you live or work in the Howard County there are free Smoking Cessation & Tobacco Treatment Programs. Visit the library for resources on smoking and health-related issues.

This is a great time of year to reflect on major issues you would like to change in your life. You do not have to tackle everything at once. In fact, if you successfully tackle the little things it may give you confidence to tackle more major issues.

For me, I may try going to bed earlier one night a week, drinking a glass of water in the morning, taking a walk before lunch or dinner, exchanging a piece of fruit for candy as an afternoon pick me up, or using the stairs at work instead of the elevator to my resolution list. These small changes are more doable, and even I might just succeed this year in keeping a New Year’s resolution. Wish me luck! If some of you still need inspiration here are some resolutions that are popular each year with information on how to successfully achieve these resolutions.

Happy New Year!

Nancy Targett is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She lives in Columbia and is the proud mom of three boys and a girl and a Siamese cat.

read more

grapefruit & pills

[Vitaliy_ph]/[iStock]/Thinkstock

You are diligent about taking your medication each day. But did you ever think that the bologna sandwich, grapefruit or glass of milk you have with it could be making your medicine less effective, or even dangerous? Read on for five facts you need to know about food and drug interactions.

      1.  Beware of grapefruit. This popular breakfast fruit interacts with a variety of medications, including blood pressure meds, statins, and HIV and organ transplant medications, says Charlie Twilley, Pharm.D., a pharmacist at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. The culprits are furanocoumarins, compounds found in grapefruit that block the enzymes in the intestines responsible for breaking down these drugs. This can make the drugs more potent, and raise the level of drug in your bloodstream. If you are a big grapefruit fan, talk to your doctor or pharmacist to find out whether it is safe to eat with the medications you take.
      2. Dairy diminishes an antibiotic’s infection-fighting powers. Twilley warns that the calcium in milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream and antacids can interact with tetracycline and the tetracycline group of antibiotics used to treat a number of bacterial infections. To make sure you are getting the full benefit of your antibiotic, take it one hour before, or two hours after, you eat anything containing calcium.
      3. Leafy greens cancel warfarin effects. The vitamin K in spinach, collards, kale and broccoli can lessen the effectiveness of warfarin, a blood thinner used to prevent blood clots and stroke. The darker green the vegetable is, the more vitamin K it has. “You don’t want to eliminate leafy greens from your diet, because they do have many health benefits,” says Twilley. The key is to be consistent with the amount you eat. If you plan to drastically change the amount of these veggies in your diet, talk to your doctor or pharmacist first.
      4. Beer, red wine and chocolate are dangerous to mix with some antidepressants. These popular indulgences may be a nice way to relax in the evening, but they contain tyramine, a naturally occurring amino acid that can cause an unsafe spike in blood pressure when mixed with MAO inhibitors. Tyramine also is found in processed meat, avocados and some cheeses. “This is a significant, dangerous interaction,” says Twilley. If you take MAO inhibitors for depression, talk to your doctor or pharmacist before eating anything with tyramine. Alternative therapy may be considered.
      5. Think before you crush medication in applesauce. Many people who have trouble swallowing pills like to crush them and mix them with applesauce or pudding. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist before you crush or take apart medication. “This method can dump too much of the drug into your system at once, or change the way the drug works,” says Twilley.

Also keep in mind that some medications are affected by whether or not you eat with them. Before you start any new drug, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about whether it is affected by food. “They can help you come up with a schedule that’s good for the drug and convenient for you,” says Twilley. Even over-the-counter medications and supplements can have food interactions.

For additional reliable information about common food and drug interactions, you can search for this topic in the Johns Hopkins online Health Library.

Sara Baker, Public Affairs and Marketing Coordinator, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center

read more
senior in car

© Andres Rodriguez | Dreamstime.com

As people age, one of their biggest fears is the loss of independence—the inability to do what they want, where they want, when they want and how they want, on their own and without help from their children, spouse or friends. For many seniors, driving represents freedom, and the threat of taking away that privilege feels like the beginning of the end.

The truth is, as we age we do experience physical and mental changes that can impair our ability to drive. Our hearing and vision may not be as acute and some of our reflexes aren’t quite as fast as they used to be. But most seniors in general good health should be able to drive safely and confidently without putting themselves or others at risk.

Awareness is a big part of being a good driver, and AARP, the national organization that addresses the needs and concerns of the 50+ population, launched the new and improved AARP Smart Driver™ Course in January 2014 to help keep older drivers independent, safe and confident on the road.

The AARP website notes that there have been many changes to roads, cars and technology since they developed their first driver safety course, “55 Alive,” in 1979, and warns that if seniors don’t keep up with the changes they put themselves and others at risk.

Things that can negatively affect driving

  • Medications
    Medications are of concern at any age, but it takes longer for their effects to wear off as we age. They can cause blurred vision, confusion, drowsiness, dizziness or weakness. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist to find out if any of your medications, including over-the-counter and herbal supplements, could affect your driving ability.
  • Alcohol
    Remember that alcohol stays longer in an older person’s body. Alcohol is absorbed directly through an empty stomach and can reach and affect the brain within 60 seconds. Mixing alcohol with medications may be even more dangerous and have unexpected effects on your driving.
  • Loss of hearing
    Hearing may diminish with age, causing us to miss cues that alert us to situations around our vehicles, such as honking horns, engine sounds and emergency vehicles. Talk to your physician if you think you may have a problem with your hearing.
  • Problems with vision
    Reduced ability to see moving objects clearly, color blindness, cataracts, reduced ability to process visual information quickly, reduced depth perception and reduced peripheral vision can all affect our ability to drive safely. Separate glasses for day and night driving; anti-reflective coatings on eyeglasses; and reducing driving at night or when visibility is limited can help. You should have regular eye examinations by a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist.

Driving Evaluations
How do you know if you are still safe behind the wheel? Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) offers comprehensive clinical driving assessments that include:

  • Vision: acuity, visual motor skills, peripheral vision, sign recognition, color recognition/perception, visual processing speed, phoria and fusion
  • Cognition: memory, attention and problem solving
  • Sensory-motor function: strength, coordination, reaction time

The in-clinic assessment can help identify deficits and sometimes correct them through occupational therapy services. For more information, call 443-718-3000.

Safety Class
Check out the AARP Driving Resource Center for more tips on safe driving for seniors. Sign up for the AARP Driver Safety class offered in the HCGH Wellness Center, or call 410-740-7601.


read more