Monday, July 15, 2019

Food Poisoning

This is the time of year when we like to picnic and cook and eat outside.  I thought we should talk about germs and illnesses that might come from food, especially if food is not cooked or stored correctly.

There are many different germs that can contaminate foods.  In fact, we have identified more than 250 different foodborne diseases.  Most of them are infections, which can be caused by a variety of different bacteria, viruses, and parasites.  Some of these illnesses are caused by toxins or chemicals produced by the germ, rather than a true infection with the germ itself.

Here are the most common causes of food poisoning:
Germ Common Food Source Typical Symptoms Timing of Symptoms
Norovirus Leafy greens, fresh fruits, shellfish (such as oysters) Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain (can be severe) Start within 12-48 hours
Lasts 1-3 days
Salmonella Undercooked poultry or eggs, unpasteurized milk or juice, contaminated raw  fruits and vegetables Diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, vomiting Start within 12-72 hours Severe symptoms improve within 1 week but some diarrhea may last for much longer
Clostridium perfringens Cooked foods that are cooled and held, then served without reheating, especially roasts of beef or poultry Diarrhea, stomach cramps Start suddenly within 6-24 hours Last for less than 24 hours
Campylobacter Undercooked poultry, unpasteurized milk, contaminated water or produce Diarrhea (often bloody), stomach cramps, fever Start within 2-5 days Last about 1 week
Staphylococcus aureus (symptoms caused by a toxin produced by the Staph bacteria) Foods that are not cooked after handling, including sliced meats, pastries, sandwiches. Nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea Start suddenly within 30 minutes to 8 hours  Last no longer than 24 hours  
Sunburn Treatment
There are other germs that are not nearly as common, but when they do cause illness, they can be severe, and even life-threatening.  These germs include:
  • Clostridium botulinum (botulism)
  • Listeria
  • E. coli
  • Vibrio
You should see a doctor for food poisoning if you have any of the following:
  • High fever (temp over 102 degrees F)
  • Blood in your bowel movements
  • Signs of dehydration (marked decrease in urination, very dark urine, feeling dizzy when standing, extremely dry mouth and throat)
  • Diarrhea which lasts for more than 3 days
Next week, we will talk about the ways that you can prevent food poisoning, so be sure to read next week's Health Tip. 

If you have any questions about food poisoning, please log into your account and send us your question. We are here to help.

Dr. Anita Bennett MD - Health Tip Content Editor

Monday, July 8, 2019

How to Treat a Sunburn

From last week's Health Tip, you should all know how important it is to protect your skin from the sun.  Unfortunately, there are times when we still might end up with a sunburn, despite our best efforts.  It is important to know how to treat a sunburn correctly.

Here are the basics for treating a sunburn:
Sunburn Treatment
  1. Take it seriously - This is a burn, like any other type of burn.
  2. Act fast to cool down your skin -  Get out of the sun, preferably indoors, as soon as you recognize that you are getting a sunburn.  Take a cool bath or shower as soon as possible.  If you cannot get indoors, cover up with clothing or a towel, and seek shade.  Use cold water and a small towel to make a cold compress for your skin.  Do not put ice directly on your skin.  The compress will warm quickly, so you will have to frequently refresh it with cold water.
  3. Moisturize - You can continue to take frequent cool baths or showers to help relieve the pain.  When you get out of the tub or shower, gently pat your skin dry with a soft towel.  Do not rub your skin.  Leave your skin a little damp.  Then apply a moisturizer while your skin is still damp.  This helps to trap water in your skin.  You should moisturize your sunburned skin 3 or 4 times a day while the burn is healing.
  4. Decrease inflammation - Consider taking ibuprofen or naproxen to help decrease inflammation, and reduce swelling and discomfort.  You can also use an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream (1%), which can also help with inflammation.  Apply this up to 4 times a day to the affected areas of the skin.
  5. Soothe your skin - Aloe Vera can be used to help soothe your skin.  Be careful to choose an Aloe product that does not contain alcohol.  Alcohol is very drying to your skin and that is the last thing your skin needs when it is burned.  Do not treat sunburn with "-caine" products (such as benzocaine), as these may irritate the skin or cause an allergic reaction.  You might also consider an oatmeal bath.  This is very soothing to the skin.  For instructions on preparing an oatmeal bath, look back at my Health Tip from 3/1/19 Oatmeal Baths - A Home Remedy to Soothe Your Skin.
  6. Drink plenty of fluids - The sunburn pulls fluid to the surface of your skin, which takes it away from the rest of your body.  Replace that fluid by drinking more fluids, especially water.
  7. Do not pop blisters - If your skin blisters, allow the blisters to heal naturally.  Blisters actually protect the skin as it is healing.  The intact blister protects your skin from becoming infected.
  8. Protect your skin as it heals - New skin is being formed as the burned skin is being lost, which you see as peeling.  This new skin is very sensitive to the sun.  Give it extra protection by wearing clothing that covers it when outdoors.  Sun protective clothing especially made for blocking UV rays is great.  Alternatively, you can wear clothing made from a tightly woven fabric.
  9. When to see your doctor -

    • If the sunburn includes severe blistering over a large area
    • If you have fever or chills associated with the sunburn
    • If you feel woozy, dizzy, faint, or confused
    • If there are any signs of infection as the sunburn is healing, such as red streaks or drainage of fluid or pus
If you have any questions about sunburn treatment, please log into your account and send us your question. We are here to help.

Dr. Anita Bennett MD - Health Tip Content Editor

Friday, June 21, 2019

Protect Your Skin from the Summer Sun

This is the time of year for outdoor activities.  I know that I have really been looking forward to the warm summer sun throughout the long New England winter.  Whether it's a backyard cook out, or a day at the lake or beach, the sun is a big part of summer activities.  As good as the sun might feel, it is definitely not kind to your skin.
Protect your skin from summer sunWhat are the dangers of sun exposure?
  • Sunburn - You can actually sustain third degree burns from excessive sun exposure!  This can cause not only severe pain, but other complications similar to any severe burn.  Sunburns actually cause damage to the DNA of your skin.  
  • Early aging - Sun exposure makes your skin age faster than normal.  This causes wrinkles, dark spots, as well as changes that make your skin tight or leathery.
  • Eye injuries - Ultraviolet rays from the sun can damage the tissue in your eyes.  You can get "sunburn" on the cornea of your eye.  Over time, this can lead to cataracts or macular degeneration, and even lead to blindness in some cases.  You can also develop cancer on the retina of your eye as a result of excessive sun exposure.
  • Skin cancer - There are several types of skin cancer.  Melanoma is a severe form of skin cancer that most people think of when they think of skin cancer.  Having 5 or more sunburns during your youth increases your lifetime risk of melanoma by 80%.  There are other forms of skin cancer that are not as severe, but much more common.  Some skin cancers, including melanoma, can spread to other parts of your body, and can even be a cause of death.
  • Lowered immune system - When you have sun damage to the skin, especially a sunburn, your immune system has to work to remove the damage and help create new cells.  This has been shown to cause decreased immune function in other parts of your body.
What can you do to protect yourself from the sun? 
  • Seek shade - You may still get some UV ray exposure, but it will be significantly less than in direct sun.
  • Cover up with clothing - There are now several brands of sun protective clothing for children and adults, which can sometimes block up to 98% of UV rays.  A wide-brimmed hat is particularly helpful to protect your face, ears, and neck.  
  • Wear Sunscreen - The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone use sunscreen that offers the following.
    • Broad-spectrum coverage (protects against UVA and UVB rays)
    •  SPF 30 or higher
    •  Water resistant
  •  Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand - They can reflect the UV rays, which increase your risk of sunburn.
  • Avoid tanning beds - If you want your skin to look tan, try a self-tanning product, and remember to continue to use sunscreen with it.
How much sunscreen should you use?
  •  Apply enough sunscreen to cover all exposed skin.  Most people only use about 25-50% of what they should.
  •  Don't forget to apply it to the tops of your feet, your neck, your ears, and the top of your head.
  • Apply sunscreen to dry skin, 15 minutes before going outdoors.
  • To protect your lips, apply a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher).
  • When outdoors, reapply sunscreen approximately every 2 hours, or after swimming or sweating.
For more information about protecting your skin from the sun, check out this link to sunscreen FAQs:

If you have any questions about skin protection, please log into your account and send us your question. We are here to help.

Dr. Anita Bennett MD - Health Tip Content Editor