Review Category : Health

How Wedding Gowns Can Bring Solace to Grieving Parents

iStock/Thinkstock(FORTH WORTH, Texas) — After the last piece of cake has been eaten and the last remnants of a tan have faded away from the honeymoon, one wedding element is often left hanging in limbo or, at least, in the back of a closet — the bride’s dress.

For those who don’t plan to preserve their garment, options for “What to do with it?” can range from resale to recycling. But a Texas nonprofit now offers a dress donation alternative with a higher purpose: “angel gowns,” beautiful white burial clothing for stillborn children.

NICU Helping Hands, in Fort Worth, Texas, is an organization offering support to families with premature newborns and stillborns. Their Angel Gowns program, founded by Lisa Stubbs in 2013, collects donated bridal gowns from across the country to be transformed by volunteer seamstresses into tiny precious designs.

“I watched so many families who had lost a baby sorting through donated clothing at the hospital, some of which was appropriate for final burial and pictures, some of it not,” said Stubbs. “But what really bothered me was watching them dig through those bins. It just seemed so disrespectful. So I thought we should provide something to families that is respectful, and that would fit their child.”

Stubbs’ mother and mother-in-law became the first two volunteer seamstresses for NICU Helping Hands, turning a wedding dress into multiple dressing gowns in several sizes.

“Each wedding gown, depending upon the size and the style, will make between 12 and 20 angel gowns,” a spokeswoman for NICU Helping Hands told ABC News.

As of March, more than 12,000 angel gowns could be created after the donation of roughly 3,000 wedding dresses from across the nation.

“And the gowns are still coming in,” said the spokeswoman. “Thankfully we have a pretty big warehouse space in Fort Worth. Local volunteers can come by to pick up gowns and start sewing, and that’s also where volunteer seamstresses around the country get shipped dresses from.”

The need is great. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 11 percent of babies are born preterm each year, putting them at higher risk for infant mortality. And the most recent CDC figures indicate that more than 24,000 infant deaths occurred in 2010.

“People don’t like to talk about this. There’s nothing normal about a child dying,” said Stubbs. “But what’s also heartwarming about this program is what it has done in bringing a voice to families who have lost a baby across generations. Many of them lost them in the NICU, many in stillbirths, many were early miscarriages, and it’s given so many of them an opportunity to express their grief.”

It has also given brides a way to imbue an ephemeral investment with new value.

“After I got married in 2010, I knew I wanted to donate my wedding gown to a worthwhile cause,” said Aimee Dars Ellis. “It’s taken me almost four years to find a meaningful charity. Right now, I am cleaning my gown and getting ready to send it to NICU Helping Hands.”

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California Fruit Recalled Across Canada over Listeria Risk

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The Canadian Food Inspection Agency released a food recall warning Tuesday for Sweet 2 Eat brand fruit products imported from California because of concerns about a possible listeria monocytogenes contamination.

The recalled fruits include whole peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots.

The CIFA urges consumers to throw out the potentially contaminated fruit or return it to the store they were purchased from.

If consumers eat fruit contaminated with listeria monocytogenes, they can suffer from symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache and neck stiffness.

The Wawona Packing Co. released a statement about the recall, quoting company President Brent Smittcamp as saying, “We are aware of no illnesses related to the consumption of these products, by taking the precautionary step of recalling product, we will minimize even the slightest risk to public health, and that is our priority.”

For a full list of affected products, click here.

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The Possible Downside of Too Much Religious Training

iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) — There are a lot of benefits to a religious upbringing, but one of the unintended consequences is that strong beliefs might make kids more gullible.

In a comparison between children who learn religious stories and those who don’t, Boston University researchers say that youngsters who have a deep and abiding faith more often accept fiction as the literal truth.

The researchers made their finding by reading stories considered realistic, religious and fantastical to groups of 5- and 6-year-olds. When it came to non-fictional characters, both religious and secular children were able to correctly answer questions at the same rate.

However, the 79 percent of children who attended church or religious school identified religious characters as real compared to six percent of secular kids. In terms of characters described as magical, 41 percent of children exposed to religious teaching accepted them as real while only 13 percent with no religious teaching believed they existed.

Study author Kathleen Corriveau says religious teachings often require a suspension of disbelief, which is why the churchgoing children might apply these fictional events outside of their faith.

Nonetheless, Corriveau contends this is not necessarily a bad thing because it might make learning counterintuitive phenomena easier for them as well.

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Pregnant Smokers Could Put Children at Greater Risk for ADHD

Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The dangers of smoking during pregnancy have been well documented. One possible side effect is that a cigarette habit might put a child at a greater risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

As a result, physicians have recommended that if a pregnant woman can’t quit cold turkey, they switch over to nicotine-replacement products such as patches or gum.

However, a new study out of the University of Denmark suggests that while these products might do less harm to the mother, the nicotine they’re ingesting could still boost their child’s chances of developing ADHD.

Study author Dr. Jin Liang Zhu says that while no definitive link has been established between nicotine and ADHD, health experts have long believed that cigarette smoking can lead to abnormalities in the fetal brain.

As a result, any woman who smokes is advised to quit if they wish to get pregnant or are pregnant, and to come off nicotine-replacement therapy as quickly as possible.

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Lunchtime Shocker! Most Kids Like Schools’ Healthier Meals

iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — Do kids really hate the healthier foods that have been mandated in school lunch programs?

A study out of University of Illinois at Chicago suggests that first lady Michelle Obama may have been on the right track when she pushed for tougher nutrition standards, even as more schools now seem to be resisting the program that covers some 30 million kids.

Administrators from more than 500 elementary schools were asked by researchers how their students reacted to the meals that emphasized more fruits and vegetables and less junk during the 2012-2013 year, when the policy first went into effect.

The result was that over seven in ten agreed or strongly agreed that primary school students liked the lunch choices they were being offered.

According to the survey, the new lunches were better received in larger schools where youngsters qualified for free meals or those at reduced prices, while students in either urban or suburban areas were less apt to turn their noses up at the lunches than youngsters in rural parts of the country.

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Norovirus Named in Washington Lake Outbreak

iStock/Thinkstock(KITSAP COUNTY, Wash.) — The stomach bug that sickened more than 260 swimmers at a Washington state lake was in fact norovirus, health officials have confirmed.

The contagious virus swept through Horseshoe Lake Park in Kitsap County, Washington, earlier this month, causing cramps, nausea, and diarrhea, according to the local health department.

The park was closed as officials investigated the cause of the outbreak, which was initially dubbed “norovirus-like.” It reopened Saturday after water samples from the lake came back negative for the virus.

The same virus sickened more than 100 people at Idaho’s Eagle Island State Park last week, according to the local health department.

Norovirus is the sixth-leading cause of recreational water illness in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention –- tying with the bacteria E. coli. Each year the virus causes more than 19 million cases of illness, 400,000 emergency room visits, 71,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths, according to the CDC’s website.

The virus spreads through food, liquid, and surfaces that are contaminated with infected feces or vomit, according to the CDC. There’s no specific treatment, so the agency recommends staying hydrated for the duration of symptoms, which is usually one to three days.

The CDC recommends the following tips for safe summer swimming:

  • Avoid getting water up your nose when swimming in warm, freshwater.
  • Don’t swim if you have diarrhea.
  • Shower with soap before taking a dip.
  • Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
  • Check the free chlorine level and pH before getting into the water.
  • Don’t swallow the water.

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    Can Any Animal Be a Therapy Animal?

    iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Dogs once cornered the market on being therapy pets, but now bunnies, pigs — even llamas — are making their way into the laps and hearts of people with a range of conditions. But experts say some animals are more therapeutic than others.

    “While we know that a wide variety of animals can be wonderful companions or pets, not every animal is suited to therapy work,” said Glen Miller, a spokesman for Pet Partners, a national nonprofit organization that trains and registers therapy animals.

    Therapy pets can include “dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, rats, miniature pigs, llamas, alpacas, horses, donkeys and mini-horses,” as long as they’re at least a year old and have lived with their owner for six months, according to Pet Partners. Though the organization registers “birds,” it does not register ducks, Miller said.

    Pet Partners does not allow exotic or wild animals, either.

    “We know many people have wonderful experiences with these animals as pets, but without research documenting their behavior over time, we cannot evaluate their predictability and reaction to stress,” the organization’s website reads.

    Unlike service animals, therapy animals don’t help their owners perform tasks and are therefore not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Though there are no national requirements to register therapy animals, most hospitals only allow ones that have been trained, aren’t easily stressed and are covered by an insurance policy.

    Read about some traditional and not-so-traditional bedside creatures below:

    Ducks

    Darin Welker’s village in Ohio banned residents from keeping fowl in 2010, but the former member of the National Guard insists that his 14 ducks are therapy animals. They motivate him to get out of the house to take care of them, he said.

    “They’re quite a relaxing animal, and they help comfort me in different situations,” Welker told the Conshohocken Tribune, holding one of the ducks like a baby. “[Watching them] keeps you entertained for hours at a time.”

    Welker served in Iraq in 2005 and returned home with a back injury that required surgery as well as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, according to the Tribune. He’s had the ducks in his fenced-in yard since March and will argue his case for keeping them Wednesday or face a $150 fine.

    Bunnies

    Nutmeg and Clovis are the 4-and-a-half-year-old therapy bunnies that live on the 13th floor of NYU Langone Medical Center.

    “We’ve seen patients that literally had no affect smile,” said Gwenn Fried, manager of horticultural therapy services at NYU Langone. “Their whole demeanor changes.”

    Sometimes doctors recommend the rabbits, and sometimes, the patients ask to see them, Fried said.

    Llamas

    There’s nothing like a “kiss” — basically a soft, furry lip bump — from a 300-pound llama to brighten your mood.

    Lori Gregory volunteers her llama, Rojo, through MTN Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas, taking him to visit hospice patients and children who have mental and emotional problems.

    “He has eyes the size of golf balls,” said Gregory, 57, of Vancouver, Washington. “People just stand there and look into their eyes. It’s pretty wonderful to be able to do that with a large animal that doesn’t ask anything.”

    Though she can’t personally detect a change in the patients Rojo meets, she said nurses often tell her their most introverted patients become animated around the llamas.

    Dogs

    Dogs are the only type of therapy animal allowed to see patients at the Mayo Clinic, according to the Rochester, Minnesota hospital’s animal therapy coordinator, Jessica Borg. She said dogs attend group sessions and sometimes meet one-on-one with patients.

    “Having the dog there almost takes the tension out of the room,” she said. “It’s pretty common that patients will tear up because they’re so excited, so thankful for getting five or 25 minutes of time just snuggling, hanging out with the pet.”

    Borg said some patients who are unwilling to get out of bed for physical therapy jump up when she’s walking by with a dog, eager for a cuddle.

    “Seeing the dog and being with the dog can change their spirits within five seconds of contact time,” she said.

    Five golden retrievers were a big help after the Boston Marathon bombings last year, when they visited victims in nearby hospitals as well as shaken residents on the streets. The pups were part of Lutheran Church Charities’ K-9 Comfort Dogs, which has 60 dogs that travel the country to help patients in need.

    Horses

    Former Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Lyndon Ortiz helped start a veteran’s program Heavenly Hooves, a volunteer group that provides equine-assisted therapy.

    Ortiz, who suffered from PTSD after being hit with an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2005, started as a volunteer for the group and encouraged fellow veterans to join him. He said it helped him get back to civilian life as he wanted to live it.

    “I’ve seen hope in some of the guys,” Ortiz said. “Some of them were stuck at home not doing anything just stuck in those four walls and now they look forward for Tuesdays when they’re riding horses.”

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    Can Any Animal Be a Therapy Animal?

    iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Dogs once cornered the market on being therapy pets, but now bunnies, pigs — even llamas — are making their way into the laps and hearts of people with a range of conditions. But experts say some animals are more therapeutic than others.

    “While we know that a wide variety of animals can be wonderful companions or pets, not every animal is suited to therapy work,” said Glen Miller, a spokesman for Pet Partners, a national nonprofit organization that trains and registers therapy animals.

    Therapy pets can include “dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, rats, miniature pigs, llamas, alpacas, horses, donkeys and mini-horses,” as long as they’re at least a year old and have lived with their owner for six months, according to Pet Partners. Though the organization registers “birds,” it does not register ducks, Miller said.

    Pet Partners does not allow exotic or wild animals, either.

    “We know many people have wonderful experiences with these animals as pets, but without research documenting their behavior over time, we cannot evaluate their predictability and reaction to stress,” the organization’s website reads.

    Unlike service animals, therapy animals don’t help their owners perform tasks and are therefore not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Though there are no national requirements to register therapy animals, most hospitals only allow ones that have been trained, aren’t easily stressed and are covered by an insurance policy.

    Read about some traditional and not-so-traditional bedside creatures below:

    Ducks

    Darin Welker’s village in Ohio banned residents from keeping fowl in 2010, but the former member of the National Guard insists that his 14 ducks are therapy animals. They motivate him to get out of the house to take care of them, he said.

    “They’re quite a relaxing animal, and they help comfort me in different situations,” Welker told the Conshohocken Tribune, holding one of the ducks like a baby. “[Watching them] keeps you entertained for hours at a time.”

    Welker served in Iraq in 2005 and returned home with a back injury that required surgery as well as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, according to the Tribune. He’s had the ducks in his fenced-in yard since March and will argue his case for keeping them Wednesday or face a $150 fine.

    Bunnies

    Nutmeg and Clovis are the 4-and-a-half-year-old therapy bunnies that live on the 13th floor of NYU Langone Medical Center.

    “We’ve seen patients that literally had no affect smile,” said Gwenn Fried, manager of horticultural therapy services at NYU Langone. “Their whole demeanor changes.”

    Sometimes doctors recommend the rabbits, and sometimes, the patients ask to see them, Fried said.

    Llamas

    There’s nothing like a “kiss” — basically a soft, furry lip bump — from a 300-pound llama to brighten your mood.

    Lori Gregory volunteers her llama, Rojo, through MTN Peaks Therapy Llamas and Alpacas, taking him to visit hospice patients and children who have mental and emotional problems.

    “He has eyes the size of golf balls,” said Gregory, 57, of Vancouver, Washington. “People just stand there and look into their eyes. It’s pretty wonderful to be able to do that with a large animal that doesn’t ask anything.”

    Though she can’t personally detect a change in the patients Rojo meets, she said nurses often tell her their most introverted patients become animated around the llamas.

    Dogs

    Dogs are the only type of therapy animal allowed to see patients at the Mayo Clinic, according to the Rochester, Minnesota hospital’s animal therapy coordinator, Jessica Borg. She said dogs attend group sessions and sometimes meet one-on-one with patients.

    “Having the dog there almost takes the tension out of the room,” she said. “It’s pretty common that patients will tear up because they’re so excited, so thankful for getting five or 25 minutes of time just snuggling, hanging out with the pet.”

    Borg said some patients who are unwilling to get out of bed for physical therapy jump up when she’s walking by with a dog, eager for a cuddle.

    “Seeing the dog and being with the dog can change their spirits within five seconds of contact time,” she said.

    Five golden retrievers were a big help after the Boston Marathon bombings last year, when they visited victims in nearby hospitals as well as shaken residents on the streets. The pups were part of Lutheran Church Charities’ K-9 Comfort Dogs, which has 60 dogs that travel the country to help patients in need.

    Horses

    Former Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Lyndon Ortiz helped start a veteran’s program Heavenly Hooves, a volunteer group that provides equine-assisted therapy.

    Ortiz, who suffered from PTSD after being hit with an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2005, started as a volunteer for the group and encouraged fellow veterans to join him. He said it helped him get back to civilian life as he wanted to live it.

    “I’ve seen hope in some of the guys,” Ortiz said. “Some of them were stuck at home not doing anything just stuck in those four walls and now they look forward for Tuesdays when they’re riding horses.”

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    Disease-Carrying Mosquitoes Are Biting into Summer Fun

    iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — You’ve probably heard of the West Nile virus — a rare but deadly infection transmitted by mosquitoes. But what about chikungunya and eastern equine encephalitis?

    All three mosquito-borne diseases are here in the U.S., and depending on where you live, you might be at risk.

    Read on to learn more about the viruses and find out whether mosquitoes in your state are carrying them:

    West Nile Virus

    What It Looks Like

    Most people who contract the virus show no symptoms at all, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But one in five people infected will develop a fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash, and one in 100 will experience brain swelling or meningitis, which can be deadly. Symptoms can take up to two weeks to appear and last “for weeks or months,” according to the CDC.

    Where It Is

    Fourteen states have reported West Nile infections so far this year — Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. Another 13 have mosquitoes, birds and other animals carrying the virus, including Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wyoming.

    Chikungunya Virus

    What It Looks Like

    Most people who contract the virus develop symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle and joint pain or a rash within a week of the offending mosquito bite, according to the CDC. They usually feel better in a week, but joint pain can persist for months, the agency said, adding that the infection is rarely fatal but sometimes disabling.

    Where It Is

    Thirty states plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have reported chikungunya infections so far this year, including Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. However, only two cases in the continental U.S. — both in Florida — were acquired locally. The rest were acquired outside the country, according to the CDC.

    Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus

    What It Looks Like

    The virus, dubbed EEE, causes fever, chills and body aches within a week after the offending mosquito bite. Some people recover after two weeks, while others go on to develop an encephalitic form of the disease, which can cause headache, irritability, convulsions and even coma, according to the CDC. Roughly a third of those infected die, the agency said, and many who survive are left with brain damage, personality disorders, seizures and paralysis.

    Where It Is

    Mosquitoes carrying EEE were recently detected in Massachusetts, according to the state’s Department of Health. No human cases have been reported in 2014, but six Massachusetts residents died from the infection between 2004 and 2006, according to state data.

    In the last 50 years, EEE infections have also been reported in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin, according to the CDC.

    How to Protect Yourself

    Since there are no vaccines or antiviral treatments for West Nile, chikungunya or EEE, the CDC recommends the following tips to prevent infections:

    • Use insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin or IR3535. Some oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol products also provide protection.
    • Wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors and avoid outdoor activities between dusk and dawn — peak mosquito biting hours.
    • Mosquito-proof your home with screens and regularly remove standing water from birdbaths, gutters, pool covers and pet water dishes.

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    Woman Takes Selfies to Overcome Struggle with Hair-Pulling Disorder

    iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Selfies are all the rage, but one young woman has had the tenacity to take one of herself every single day for more than six years. However, the reason she’s been so consistent is not one you’d typically expect.

    Rebecca Brown, 21, of Essex, England, has taken a picture of herself every day — from age 14 to 21 — putting them together in a video montage all to bravely share her battle with depression and her struggle with trichotillomania disorder, the compulsion to pull out one’s own hair.

    She says the video project, which has received more than 5.5 million views on YouTube since it was originally posted on June 8, has immensely helped her deal with overcoming the disorder.

    “It’s been pretty scary for me in the last year because I’ve seen myself come out of that darkness,” Brown told ABC News Monday. “Because when I was completely consumed in depression all I could see was black and white. Everything around me was dark, and I honestly didn’t believe there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Whereas now, I’ve seen myself get better. I’ve seen my smile come back. I feel like there is a light.”

    Brown says there was no particular trigger that caused her to have trichotillomania disorder.

    “For me, I’ve always been depressed but there’s been no pinpoint trauma. It just reached a head,” she explained.

    The hair-pulling disorder has even affected celebrities like Katy Perry, Charlize Theron and Justin Timberlake.

    At certain points in the video you can see where Brown resorted to shaving her head and wearing wigs to help deal with the battle, but now she’s doing great and hopes her project will help spread awareness of the disease.

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