childhood diseases, measles, mumps

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How you can avoid the outbreak of childhood diseases, and what to do if you develop one

As if the flu and Ebola weren’t enough to worry about, now we’re hearing increasing stories of outbreaks of childhood diseases among adults. Angelina Jolie misses the premier of her new film due to a case of chickenpox. NHL hockey players sit out games because they’re coming down with the mumps, along with approximately 1,100 other Americans in 2014. In California, there’s an outbreak of whooping cough, among kids and adults. There’s also a multi-state outbreak of measles, 102 cases in January alone, most linked to Disneyland. Most of the measles cases were among people who were not vaccinated. (Measles cases in 2014 were triple the number from the previous year.)

Even adults who were vaccinated against these diseases as kids are contracting them at record rates. So, what’s happening and why are adults becoming victim to diseases we thought only children could catch?

Waning immunity
People old enough to remember the days before vaccines for mumps, measles and chickenpox probably contracted these diseases when they were young, so they have natural immunity and will be unlikely to succumb to the maladies. But adults who were vaccinated as young children, and therefore didn’t contract the diseases, may become vulnerable again because immunity can fade over time.

If you are concerned that your immunity may be wearing off, ask your doctor about a blood test that checks for antibodies to see if you are still immune. This is especially important for people with chronic medical conditions or who do a lot of foreign travel. And be sure you are up to date on vaccinations the CDC recommends for adults: a booster shot every 10 years for tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough, and an annual flu shot.

Lower vaccination rates for children
The best defense against childhood diseases is to have your children vaccinated. In some parts of the country, skepticism regarding the safety of vaccines has resulted in fewer children being vaccinated for chickenpox, measles, mumps and whooping cough. Among parents of kindergarten children in California, “personal belief exemptions” rose from 1.56 percent in 2007-08 up to 2.79 percent in 2012-13. With fewer children being vaccinated against these diseases, they are much more likely to spread from one person to another.

Childhood diseases that are affecting adults
Causes fatigue, irritability, itchy rash that progresses to raised red bumps and then blisters. Adults who get chicken pox are more likely to contract pneumonia, hepatitis or encephalitis. This virus can also resurface years later as shingles.

Treatment: Bed rest, lots of fluids, a fever-reducer and an antihistamine to relieve itching. Calamine lotion or an oatmeal bath may also relieve symptoms.

Whooping Cough
Causes violent coughing accompanied by a “whooping” sound, nasal discharge, fever, sore and watery eyes. Lips, tongue and nail beds may turn blue during coughing spells. It can last up to 10 weeks and can lead to pneumonia and other complications.

Treatment: Antibiotics, keeping warm, plenty of fluids and reducing stimuli that provoke coughing.

Causes a rash, fever, runny nose, conjunctivitis, cough, swollen lymph nodes and headache. It can have serious complications in adults and can be fatal for children and adults with compromised immune systems. Complications include ear infection, pneumonia, vomiting, diarrhea and encephalitis.

Treatment: Plenty of fluids, fever reducer and antibiotics if a secondary infection develops.

Causes discomfort and swelling of salivary glands in front of neck, difficulty chewing, fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness and loss of appetite. In males it can cause pain and tenderness of testicles, and, on rare occasions, sterility.

Treatment: Bed rest and analgesics (acetaminophen, ibuprofen) for fever and pain and applying cold packs to the swollen and inflamed salivary gland region may reduce symptoms and pain.

Fifth Disease
Causes cold-like symptoms and bright red rash that spreads from the cheeks to trunk, arms and legs. There may also be fever, headache, sore throat, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea. It can be associated with persistent fevers and arthritis in adults.

Treatment: Plenty of fluids,­­­ fever reducer and antihistamine for itching.

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In general, the components of a healthy diet don’t change terribly much over your lifespan. However, as people age, their vitamin needs change, which is a natural part of aging. Following are six vitamin checks for seniors to stay their nutritionally best from Alicia I. Arbaje, M.D., M.P.H., Assistant Professor of Medicine, and director of Transitional Care in the Research Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.


  • man taking vitamins
    Multivitamin Check: Seniors should supplement for specific vitamin deficiencies rather than take a general overall supplement. Multivitamins are not “one size fits all.” Also, taking too much of some vitamins can be toxic. Multivitamins are synthetic and not as beneficial as eating the vitamin in its natural! (Photo © Steveheap |
  • vitamin health
    Vitamin Level Check: Certain absorptions of some vitamins change over time. Seniors should have their B12 levels checked as well as their Vitamin D. (Older people might be indoors more and their skin isn’t as efficient in absorbing sun and converting into active Vitamin D.) (Photo © Monika Wisniewska |
  • happy seniors in winter
    Ways to Add Vitamin D: Our bodies are devised to absorb Vitamin D from the sun. Getting 20 to 30 minutes of daily sun exposure may increase your levels. Supplementing Vitamin D with food is a balancing act. You can get Vitamin D through food such as egg yolks, salmon and milk but these foods can effect other chronic conditions. For some seniors, Vitamin D is a necessary pill supplement. (Photo © Signorina |
  • healthy heart
    Low Vitamin D Consequences: Low Vitamin D levels are linked to many diseases including osteoarthritis, depression, pre-dementia and heart disease. We also have seen studies that show those with low Vitamin D have less balance and reduced muscle strength. This can make you more likely to fall, which often results in hip fractures. Studies are underway to research Vitamin D deficiency and an increased cancer risk. (Photo © Vonschonertagen |
  • dietary counseling
  • vitamin stew
    Vitamin B12 Supplement: Check your B12 levels regularly. If you have been diagnosed as deficient, you probably will need supplementation. (Photo © Karenfoleyphotography |
  • senior walker
    Low Vitamin B12 Consequences: Your body needs Vitamin B12 to make new cells for your nervous system to work normally. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anemia (having too few red blood cells), which can make you feel tired or weak. A Vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause other symptoms including trouble walking, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet and memory problems. (Photo © Chiayiwangworks |



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senior in car

© Andres Rodriguez |

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.

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calendar_2014smSaturday, November 8, 2:00 p.m. I’m Going to be a Big Brother or Sister. Prepare for the arrival of a baby in this class at the Central Branch for new siblings. Enjoy stories, activities, and bring a favorite doll or stuffed animal to practice holding a baby. Resources for parents, too. Well & Wise event. Families; 30 – 45 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class.

Saturday, November 8, 2:00-4:00 p.m. Time for a Spa-liday. Need to relax before the holidays? Paint your nails, learn relaxation techniques, listen to soothing music, and make spa treats such as coconut oil hand scrub, bath fizzies, and glycerin soap scrubbies at the Savage Branch. Recipes and ingredients provided. Ages 8-13. Register online or by calling 410.313.0760.

Monday, November 10, 10:00-12:00 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring at the Savage Branch offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. No registration required.

Monday, November 4, 10:15 & 11:15 a.m. Turkey Twist and Shout. Sing and shake your turkey tail to tasty tunes at the Elkridge Branch! Ages 2-5 with adult; 30 min. No registration required.

Thursday, November 13, 1:00 p.m. A World of Kindness. CCome to the East Columbia Branch and celebrate random acts of kindness. Share books, songs, and make a craft. Choose Civility event. Ages 3-5; 30 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class.

Wednesday, Nov. 19, 7 to 9 p.m. Happiest Baby on the Block in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Learn successful techniques that can quickly soothe your crying newborn and promote a more restful sleep for your infant. Parent kits are included in the $50 couple fee.

Thursday, Nov. 20, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Great American Smokeout in the Howard County General Hospital lobby: includes information and literature to help you stop smoking. Free event.

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calendar_2014smMonday, November 3, 10:15 a.m. Just for Me. A class at the Savage Branch for children who are ready for an independent class that includes creative expression, listening comprehension, and early reading skills. Ages 3-5; 30 min. Tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class. Also offered at 2 p.m. at the Miller Branch and 11/5 at 10:15 & 11:15 a.m. at the Elkridge Branch.

Monday, November 3, 2:00-6:00 p.m. HiTech Symposium. Join us at the Savage Branch for a dynamic event for students, parents, and educators, featuring STEM industry leaders and showcasing classes and various projects built by HCLS’ HiTech students (including a hovercraft, catapult, weather balloon, and music in our new sound booth). Learn how middle and high school students can participate in this STEM education initiative that teaches cutting-edge science, technology, engineering, and math via project-based classes. HiTech is funded in part through a federal grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.Sponsors include Friends of Howard County Library, Frank and Yolanda Bruno, and M&T Bank. Register online or by calling 410.313.0760.

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

Tuesday, November 4, 7:00p.m. Shell Shock: A Study in Medical History from Florence Nightingale to World War I.
Philip Mackowiak, M.D., comes to the Central Branch to discuss the impact of war trauma on Florence Nightingale and the combatants in World War I as he explores shell shock and post-traumatic stress disorder. He is a professor of medicine and the Carolyn Frenkil and Selvin Passen History of Medicine Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Register online or by calling 410.313.7800.

Tuesday, November 4, 7:00p.m. Guided Meditation. Enjoy a guided mindfulness meditation designed to impart a feeling of peacefulness and connection at the Miller Branch. Please bring a cushion or meditation pillow. Presented by Star Ferguson, M.Ac., L.Ac. Well & Wise event. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

Friday, November 7, 7:00 p.m. Scott Stossel and Brigid Schulte in Conversation. Do you make notes in a book’s margins? Imagine having a conversation with the author about your thoughts. Scott Stossel and Brigid Schulte indulge in the opportunity to discuss their most recent works and ask the pressing questions they’ve penned in the margins of each other’s books. Scott Stossel, editor of The Atlantic, is the author of the 2014 New York Times bestseller, My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind. An award-winning journalist for The Washington Post, Brigid Schulte wrote the New York Times bestselling Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

Wednesday, Nov. 19, 7 to 9 p.m. Happiest Baby on the Block. Learn successful techniques that can quickly soothe your crying newborn and promote a more restful sleep for your infant in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Parent kits are included in the $50 couple fee.

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calendar_2014smMonday, Oct. 20, 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. 20, 3:30 p.m. Superfoods at Miller. Some foods promote health and longevity better than others. Licensed nutritionist Karen Basinger names these powerhouses and how to best use them. Register online or by calling 410.313.1950.

Tuesday, Oct. 21, 9 to 11:30 a.m. Diabetes Screening & BMI. Free. Held in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Meet with an RN for a glucose blood test, BMI measurement and weight management information. Immediate resu­lts. Fasting eight hours prior recommended.

Tuesday, Oct. 21, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Choose Your Pediatrician and Promote Your Newborn’s Health. Free. Held in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Learn factors to consider and questions to ask when choosing your pediatrician and ways you can promote your newborn’s health. Presented by Dana Wollney, M.D.

Thursday, Oct. 23, 7 to 9 p.m. Get Moving Again: Total Joint Replacement. Held in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Free. Learn about total hip and knee surgery from health care professionals, past patients of our Joint Academy and Richard Kinnard, M.D.

Monday, Oct. 27, 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Adult, Child and Infant CPR/AED in Howard County General Hospital’s Wellness Center. Cost is $55. This course will teach the skills needed to clear an airway obstruction, perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED).

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