Friday, December 7, 2018

Beware of Decorating Dangers

This is the time of year that most Americans start decorating for the holiday season.   Although we all love the decorations associated with the holidays, they do not come without some risks, especially for children.   

Here are some things to keep in mind to keep the holiday season safe.
  • Decorating safelyIf you have a real tree, be sure to keep it watered to avoid over drying, which can increase the risk of tree fires, which can be quite devastating.  Also keep any tree at least 3 feet from any heat source like a fireplace or radiator.
  • Keep any decorations that include small objects or removable pieces (especially things that might look like candy) high enough that children can't reach them.  A nativity scene is a great example.  Baby Jesus is sometimes just the right size to cause a choking hazard!
  • Also keep in mind that children might try to climb onto furniture in order to get to an especially enticing decoration.  Make sure that furniture is bolted to the wall if it has any chance of falling over onto a child who might try to climb onto it.
  • While holiday plants can be beautiful, they can also be very toxic to both children and pets.  This includes Mistletoe, holly berry, poinsettia, and Jerusalem cherry.  Consider an alternative.
  • When trimming the tree or wrapping (or unwrapping) presents, be sure to gather up any pieces or torn wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, tinsel, or other small items and dispose of them appropriately.  These things not only pose a choking hazard for small children and pets, but they are also a fire risk if near the tree or the fireplace.
  • Always choose nonflammable or flame resistant decorations.
  • If you are using tinsel or artificial icicles, make sure that they are made of plastic and do not contain lead.
  • Never light candles on or near a Christmas tree or other greenery.  Do not leave candles unattended or in an area where they may be knocked over.  Consider using artificial candles.
  • Protect your lungs, eyes, and skin when using any potentially irritating chemicals.   Artificial snow spray, for instance, can cause significant lung irritation if inhaled.
  • Inspect any light strands prior to using them to be sure there are no exposed wires or cracks in the casing that might pose a fire hazard.  Read the directions with each light strand regarding how many strands can be safely strung end to end.  Maybe choose LED lights over traditional because they do not release the heat of a traditional light.
  • Never overload electrical outlets.  Buy lights and extension cords from trusted retailers and reputable brands.  Always unplug decorations before leaving home or going to bed.
  • Be careful if using vintage decorations, which may contain asbestos or lead, as they were made before we knew of their potential dangers.
  • Also remember some general safety advice you learned from your parents - Use caution when climbing ladders, and keep breakable or sharp objects completely out of children's reach. 
By taking some simple precautions, you can ensure this holiday season will be a safe and enjoyable one.

Happy Holidays!

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

Dr. Anita Bennett MD - Health Tip Content Editor

Monday, December 3, 2018

Health Tips: Do I need antibiotics?

Last week was U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week.  This happens annually in an effort to highlight the steps that everyone can take to improve how and when we use antibiotics.
Antibiotic resistance is a serious problem in the world today.  Bacteria have many ways in which they can become resistant to antibiotics, meaning that they develop ways to overcome the particular way in which an antibiotic is designed to kill them.  Every year, at least 2 million people in the U.S. become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.  Almost 25,000 people die each year as a direct result of this problem.  The CDC estimates that at least 47 million antibiotic prescription each year are unnecessary.

The more an antibiotic is used, the more likely bacteria are to become resistant to that antibiotic.  This is particularly true when antibiotics are used inappropriately, such as when they are not taken for the full course of treatment when prescribed for bacterial infections, or when they are taken when they are not needed.

Improving the way in which antibiotics are prescribed, and taken by patients, can help to fight antibiotic resistance.  Limiting antibiotic resistance ensures that the medication will be available to help fight infections for many years to come.

I want to talk today about when antibiotics will help, and when they won't.
Antibiotics are only needed to treat certain infections caused by bacteria.  These infections include strep throat, whooping cough, urinary tract infections, among others.

Antibiotics will not help treat infections caused by viruses.  These infections include the common cold, the flu, and the vast majority of upper respiratory infections that we have this time of year.

Not only will antibiotics not help with viral infections, they can actually be dangerous.  Antibiotics can cause serious, sometimes life threatening, side effects.  In my own practice, I have had patients who have had extremely serious side effects to an antibiotic, which almost cost them their lives.

You may be surprised to know that most sinus infections are caused by viruses, and will typically resolve within about 2 weeks without antibiotics.  Bronchitis is caused by a virus over 90% of the time in otherwise healthy people.  This infection can cause a cough and chest congestion that can sometimes last up to 5-6 weeks, but does not improve with antibiotics.  Even ear infections can sometimes be caused by viruses.

In infections which may be caused by a virus or bacteria, whether or not to use antibiotics depends on many factors.  The choice should be weighed carefully, without automatically prescribing antibiotics.   It is usually a good idea to try symptomatic treatment for a period of time to see if things will improve without antibiotics.
Viruses can make you feel really bad.  Don't think that I mean that you are not sick when you have a viral infection.  In fact, the worst I have ever felt was when I had a viral infection.  I just want you to know that antibiotics are not always needed.  Antibiotics may seem to make us feel better, just because the viral infection improves with time.  Sometimes, we just need time, and all of those things your grandma always told you to do when you were sick, like rest, drink lots of fluids, hot tea, steam, etc.

If you have questions about whether your grandma's home remedy is the right one for you, just email one of our doctors.  We are happy to help.

For more information about this subject visit

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

Dr. Anita Bennett MD - Health Tip Content Editor

Friday, November 16, 2018

New Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

It may seem hard to believe, but approximately 80% of American adults and adolescents are insufficiently active.  Appropriate physical activity can make such an impact on how you feel and how you function.  It also reduces the risk for many chronic diseases.  This week, new physical activity guidelines were released.   This seems like the perfect topic for our Health Tip!

The Recommendations
Preschool-aged Children (3-5 years old)
For the first time, the guidelines actually include recommendations for children younger than 6.  The recommendation is that these children should be physically active throughout the day.  Adult caregivers should encourage active play that includes a variety of activity types.  A specific quantity of activity is not well defined for this age group in the guidelines, but a reasonable target would be at least 3 hours per day of physical activity (including light, moderate, and vigorous level of intensity).

Physical activity can enhance growth and development and teach important movement skills for this age group.  Parents and caregivers do play a critical role in supporting and encouraging children of this age to be physically active, including by simply showing children that you are physically active.

School-aged Children and Adolescents (6-17 years old)
Children in this age group should have at least 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily.  Most of this should be aerobic activity.  Muscle strengthening should be part of this 60 minutes at least 3 days a week.  Bone strengthening activity on at least 3 days a week as well.

It is important for young people to have opportunities and encouragement to participate in physical activities that are appropriate for their age, that are enjoyable, and activities that offer variety.

This is a critical time for developing not only important physical movement skills, but also for developing healthy physical activity habits.  This can establish a firm foundation for lifelong health and well-being.  Parents and caregivers still have a crucial role in supporting and encouraging physical activity in children at this age.  This again includes modeling a physically active lifestyle for them.

Young people who are regularly active have a better chance of a healthy adulthood, by lowering risk factors such as obesity during these years, and also developing the habits to help keep that risk low.

Adults (18-65 years old)
Adults should do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination.   Adults should also do muscle strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these provide additional health benefits.

Preferably, the aerobic activities should be spread throughout the week.  Additional health benefits are gained by doing more than the recommended amount of exercise.

Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day.  Some physical activity is better than none, and adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous activity do gain some health benefits.

Older Adults (65 years and older)
The same key guidelines apply to older adults, but with the following additions...
  • The activity should include some balance training.
  • Their level of fitness should determine their level of effort.
  • They should understand how their chronic medical conditions impact their ability to do physical activity safely.
  • If they cannot do 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week, due to chronic health conditions, they should be as active as possible.
Keep in mind that things like raking leaves, carrying heavy groceries, doing heavy housework, and a brisk walk (2.5-4 miles per hour) can all be included in the activity that you count.  Just don't include things that are not at least moderate intensity.

The guidelines state, and I totally agree, that "Being physically active, is one of the most important actions individuals of all ages can engage in to improve their health."

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

Dr. Anita Bennett MD - Health Tip Content Editor