Review Category : Health

Fighting Flu: When You Should Go to the Hospital

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A 26-year-old newlywed’s death from a flu complication is a sobering reminder that the flu can kill even healthy people with no underlying medical conditions.

Katie McQuestion started feeling sick on Monday, and she died on Friday of sepsis, her mother told ABC News. She was just married in September.

“Someone can look good one day and not look good the next day,” said Dr. Frank Esper an infectious diseases expert at UH Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. “Anyone can get really sick from the flu and anyone can die from the flu.”

As the flu season goes into full swing, emergency departments across the country expect “a huge volume” of patients with the flu and other viruses, Esper said. Most of the time, they have nothing to worry about, but “a very small percentage” come down with severe or life-threatening illnesses and complications.

In Nevada, hospitals are so full of flu patients that public health officials are asking people without emergencies to seek care somewhere else, according to several news outlets in the state.

Most people who die from complications of the flu tend to die of pneumonia, an infection in the lungs, Esper noted.

“Influenza basically opens the back door for other germs to cause really bad diseases,” he said. “Your immune system is all focused on fighting off influenza that a germ like staph or strep sneaks in through the back door and causes really, really bad pneumonia or can get into the blood and cause sepsis.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 53,826 people died from the flu and pneumonia in 2010.

If you have an underlying condition that makes you more likely to get severe influenza — such being immuno-compromised, having asthma or being very young or very old — you should call your doctor as soon as you start experiencing flu symptoms, Esper said. Your doctor can prescribe an antiviral medication that will keep your illness from worsening, he said.

If you don’t have the above conditions, here’s when you or your family should call your doctor or take you to the hospital:

  • If you can’t catch your breath or breathing is painful.
  • If you can’t keep fluids down.
  • If there’s blood in the phlegm you’re coughing up.
  • If you can’t think clearly and your speech is slurred.
  • If you’re too weak to stand.

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Why Raven-Symone Used to Tan ‘Three or Four Times a Week’

Kevin Winter/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Raven-Symone has revealed a former habit she had while filming That’s So Raven, her hit Disney series that ended in 2007.

“When I had my own show, I used to tan three or four times a week in a tanning bed to get darker,” she says in a new OWN documentary, Light Girls. “I did.”

The sequel to Dark Girls, this new documentary highlights light-skinned African-American women, who detail personal struggles with their skin color. Director Bill Duke also spoke to R&B singer Chante Moore and actress Essence Atkins, among others.

Raven-Symone said she eventually stopped tanning because it was affecting her show’s production.

“It’s funny, one of the lighting guys came up — I love him to death. I love him. Oh my goodness — he goes, ‘Raven, I need you to stop tanning. You’re getting too dark, and we have to re-light the whole entire show,'” Raven recalls in the documentary. “I was like, ‘Sorry. I was just trying to be pretty.'”

Light Girls premieres Monday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on OWN.

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Why Some Schools Have ‘Cupcake Amnesty’, Others Have Cupcake Bans

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Cupcakes are at the center of a growing national debate on school snacks.

In some states, public health and school officials would like to ban the miniature cakes from schools entirely, along with all other sugar-laden goodies.

This week, the Iowa City School district proposed prohibiting all homemade treats from school celebrations, allowing only fruits, vegetables and packaged foods with pre-approved ingredients.

Yet, also earlier this week, the new secretary of agriculture of Texas, Sid Miller, declared a “cupcake amnesty” that abolished all rules and guidelines that prevent parents from bringing cupcakes to school.

At the heart of this cupcake war is a burgeoning childhood obesity rate. Nearly 20 percent of children 18 and younger are obese, according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — quadruple the number compared to 30 years ago.

“Along with allergies, childhood obesity is one of the things we are trying to address with our new policies,” explained Susie Poulton, the director of health services for the Iowa City School District. “We want to make sure there are always healthy options available for our kids and we’re really working towards making that happen.”

As for Texas, food blogger and school nutrition activist, Bettina Elias Siegel pointed out that the call for cupcake amnesty was unnecessary since the ban on junk food in Texas public schools was lifted more than a decade ago. However, if the rules were reinstated, she said she would support them.

“What I take issue with is bringing treats to school and the kids eating them without their parents’ knowledge and consent,” Siegel said.

Outside of school, Siegel said she is unabashedly pro-cupcake. When her two kids first started school, she was one of the moms who baked cupcakes for their class celebrations. But then she noticed how often they were coming home with blue frosting on their faces.

“I wanted more control over what my kids ate and when,” she said.

James O. Hill, professor of pediatrics and medicine at the University of Colorado, applauded the idea of taking nutrition in schools more seriously but said he thinks cupcake bans go too far.

“We have to have some common sense here. If your kid is physically active they can afford a cupcake now and then,” he said.

Hill said he’s never seen a food ban work. Perhaps a middle ground where there are some limitations are best, he said.

With so many opinions, schools are struggling to strike the right balance.

In Iowa, Poulton acknowledged that cupcakes can be a polarizing issue.

“While I received a lot of positive feedback from parents I spoke with, we received over 800 comments to our proposal in the first 24 hours,” she said. “Many of them were not exactly on board.”

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Pet Therapy Compels Cancer Patients to Stick with Other Therapies

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy and radiation to treat their disease are more likely to continue treatments when they’re supplemented with pet therapy.

Stewart B. Fleishman, principal investigator for the study at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City, says that quality of life improved significantly in a trial of more than 40 patients.

Over the course of several weeks, when patients interacted with therapy dogs following chemo and radiation, there was a noticeable boost in emotional well-being.

What’s more, even when patients who suffered from aggressive cancers in the head and neck experienced physical decline, Fleishman said having the dogs around compelled the patients to continue their treatments.

The researcher added, “There isn’t much joy in these months, and we were able to bring some relief in this terrible time.”

The study lasted six weeks with pets visiting the patients between 15-20 minutes daily.

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An Unhealthy Lifestyle Can Lead to Premature Graying

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — If you’re not convinced yet that smoking and obesity are bad for you, maybe this will make you think twice: those unhealthy habits could be making you prematurely gray.

That’s the finding of a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Although genetics have more to do with graying early than any other factor, dermatologist Dr. Nicole Rogers says that smoking and carrying too much weight may be responsible for oxidative stress, which is an imbalance in chemicals that repair and protect cells as well as damage them.

As a result, this condition may also cause people to lose hair pigment earlier, which is what makes the hair go gray.

For obvious reasons, the best thing to do is refrain from smoking and maintain a healthy BMI. But if you’re well on your way to turning silver, Rogers says forget about using herbal vitamins or supplements because they won’t reverse graying.

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Newlywed Dies of Sepsis After Getting Flu

Obtained by ABC News(KENOSHA, Wisc.) — A Wisconsin newlywed started to feel sick with the flu on a Monday. By Friday, she was dead.

Katie McQuestion, a 26-year-old radiologist from Kenosha, Wisconsin, got a flu shot to comply with hospital policy and had no underlying medical conditions, but she caught the flu and developed a serious complication from it: sepsis. She died on Jan. 2.

“She was the picture of health,” her mother told ABC News, adding that McQuestion was married in September. “No 29-year-old should have to bury his wife.”

McQuestion complained she didn’t feel well on a mother-daughter trip to a dress shop on Dec. 29, said her mother, who asked not to be named. The following day, McQuestion was sent home sick from work. Her mother said she picked up an antibiotic for her on New Year’s Eve.

Then, on New Year’s Day, McQuestion called her mother and said, “Mom, I’ve never been this sick,” her mother recalled. McQuestion’s parents and husband met her in the emergency room, and doctors told them that she had a high heart rate, low blood pressure and a low temperature. They gave her anti-nausea medication and something to help her sleep, her mother said.

About 12 hours later, the hospital called McQuestion’s parents and told them she had taken a turn for the worse.

“They told us sepsis had set in, and it was too late,” her mother said, adding that McQuestion had suffered a heart attack. “By that time, all her organs had begun to fail. There was nothing they could do.”

Her family was in shock, her mother said.

“To go from not feeling good to dying is just — there’s no words,” her mother said. “It just breaks my heart. She was such a great kid.”

It’s hard to predict who will get sepsis from the flu, but underlying conditions, such as asthma or lung disease, could contribute to it, said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. He did not treat McQuestion, but he said sepsis can happen if the flu progresses to pneumonia, which is bacterial.

“Usually pneumonia infection is confined to the lungs, but on occasion, it can be so bad that the bacteria leave the lungs and get into the bloodstream,” Schaffner said.

Sepsis is a life-threatening reaction to an infection due to chemicals in the bloodstream that trigger inflammatory responses in the body, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Pneumonia and flu can often seem to blend together, but Schaffner said that if you have shortness of breath, are coughing up yellow or green mucus, or mucus tinged with blood, it could be pneumonia. He recommended going to the doctor for an antiviral medication as soon as you realize you have the flu in the hopes of preventing a more severe illness and flu complications. He also advised staying hydrated and sitting up in bed to take deep breaths whenever possible.

McQuestion’s family said they hope sharing her story will help prevent other deaths from flu-related sepsis.

“If this can help just one family avoid this, then it’s not in vain,” McQuestion’s mother said. “She loved her job. She was so happy. It’s just heartbreaking to know what could have been for her.”

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Why a Missouri Hospital Has Its Hands Full with Six Sets of Twins

Saint Luke’s East Hospital(LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo.) — The maternity and neonatal intensive care unit at Saint Luke’s East Hospital in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, is twice as busy as usual this week caring for six sets of twins.

The twin babies range from 2 to 30 days old and all are doing well, said Brenda Cornell, a clinical nurse manager for the hospital. She said the staff is enjoying the unusual situation.

“This is the first time we’ve ever had this many sets of twins in our hospital at the same time,” Cornell said.

The timing of the twins’ arrival is a coincidence and the result of some early and unexpected deliveries.

Twin births everywhere are on the rise. Prior to 1980, one in 50 babies born was a twin, amounting to about 2 percent of births, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Twins now account for one in 30 babies, or 3.5 percent of births.

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked into where all those extra sets of doubles are coming from, they found that women are waiting longer to get pregnant, and older women are more likely to give birth to multiples. The rest of the spike can be attributed to the increased use of infertility treatments, the CDC report found.

Cornell noted that none of the hospital’s simultaneous twins were the result of infertility treatments. And, she said, there are probably more to come.

“Moms carrying twins from all over the community heard about this and now want to come here to deliver,” she said.

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Does Gum Stay in Your System for Seven Years?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — We’ve all heard it before: “Don’t swallow your gum! It’ll stay in your system for seven years!” Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but that statement is full of hot air.

When swallowed, gum is processed and excreted just like anything else you eat.

Dr. Anthony Watkins, transplant surgeon at NY-Presbyterian Hospital, chews on the matter: “Lo and behold if we swallow the gum, it will be subjected to the same course that regular food is subjected to.”

Gum does contain gum base, which is not easily absorbed by the body, but anyone who says it will set up shop for longer than a couple days is handing you a pack of lies.

Dr. Watkins says that typically within 48 hours after swallowing the gum, any part of it left intact by your digestive system will simply be passed through your body, leaving nothing to gum up the works.

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Flu Closes Schools, Flusters Hospitals Nationwide

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — This flu season continues to prove exceptionally bad with school closures and overwhelmed hospitals throughout the country.

In Minco, Oklahoma, a public school with too many children out sick decided to close its doors for the week, according to ABC’s Oklahoma affiliate KOCO-TV.

In Philadelphia, 75 Nazareth Academy Grade School students were out Tuesday with flu-like symptoms, forcing the school to close Wednesday for cleaning, according to ABC Philadelphia station WPVI-TV. The school only has about 200 students.

And in Nevada, hospitals are so full of flu patients that they’re asking people without emergencies to seek care somewhere else, according to several news outlets in the area.

“Cases of the flu continue to increase in Southern Nevada,” HealthCare Partners Nevada wrote on its Facebook page. “Don’t head to the emergency room. Go to the urgent care clinic instead.”

It’s no secret this is a doozy of a flu season thanks to H3N2, this year’s predominant flu strain, which is more severe. On top of that, this year’s flu vaccine has been less effective against it because the virus mutated after the vaccine was manufactured.

H3N2 is associated with more deaths and hospitalizations and is especially hard on children and the elderly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those especially at risk for developing flu complications include people older than 65, pregnant women and people with underlying medical conditions, such as asthma and kidney disorders.

“Hospitalization rates in the over-65 age group are rising sharply,” CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said last week.

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Obesity Epidemic Within Clergy Community

iStock/Thinkstock(WACO, Texas) — Men of the cloth may need to wear more cloth to cover their expanding waistlines.

While their job is to take care of their flock, clergy members are often remiss about taking care of their own health, which might explain why 30 percent are now considered obese, according to Todd W. Ferguson, a doctoral candidate at Baylor University.

Ferguson received responses to his survey from nearly 540 clergy members from various denominations and learned that food often plays a part in their interaction with the community, whether the occasions are joyful or sorrowful.

Eating, of course, is also a coping mechanism and Ferguson asked the participants to fill out a “distress index” that measured stress that ranged from demands of the job to how often they felt lonely to the number of times they worked over 46 hours a week.

Ironically, clergy work was once regarded as a healthy occupation with a low mortality rate but as Ferguson points out, obesity has become a major problem because pastors are in a high-status occupation that doesn’t pay well. As a result, clergy members might have to lead a second congregation or hold down another job that has nothing to do with the church.

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