Review Category : Health

Your Body: The Dangers of Mixing Medications

iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

Do you take more than one medication, be it prescription or over-the-counter? If so, do you know the dangers of combining the drugs?

One in seven adults are on medications that can be harmful when taken together. This, as prescription and non-prescription drug use in the U.S. is on the rise.

In a new study, researchers looked at approximately 2,400 American adults and found that the percentage of them taking five or more prescription medications went up from 31 percent to 36 percent.

I recommend going to Drugs.com and using the site’s “Interactions Checker.” Enter every medication or supplement you take and look for drug-drug or drug-food interactions.

Remember: Not all moderate interactions mean you shouldn’t take the given medication, but you should discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Couples Turn to Crowdsourcing to Help Pay for IVF Treatments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — After four years of disappointment, Ben and Kate Lundquist’s best chance of growing their family was in vitro fertilization.

But the treatment is expensive. “We were looking at about $17,000 total. That is all out of pocket,” Kate told ABC News.

Required to pay the full amount upfront, Ben, a full-time student, and Kate, an executive assistant, were going to be stretched thin. So they turned to a growing option for many looking for help paying medical costs: crowdfunding.

According to the CDC, one in eight couples faces infertility. According to RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, a single cycle of IVF can cost between $12,000 to $20,000. While some insurance companies do cover a portion, many do not, so people are getting creative.

The Lundquists, of Salt Lake City, Utah, posted a fundraising campaign on YouCaring to spread the word to friends and family who wanted to contribute to their pregnancy efforts.

“I really felt that if we didn’t ask others for help, that we would not have the opportunity to have kids,” said Ben.

YouCaring, which says 50 percent of its fundraising campaigns are dedicated to medical needs, has seen the number of fertility-related campaigns grow steadily.

GoFundMe, another crowdfunding website, says at least 1,700 IVF campaigns have raised more than $3 million so far.

But no matter how you’re planning to pay, experts say advancements in science have helped the bottom line.

“Far less spending is done today in certain cases than years ago because we can achieve pregnancies with fewer cycles,” Dr. Daniel E. Stein, the director of Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York, explained.

In just three months, Kate and Ben raised $4,100 from 33 people who are mostly friends and family. At age 38, Kate says it allowed them to put “operation baby” into action quickly and kept them from maxing out their credit cards.

In March, Ben and Kate found out they are having twins. They’re thankful to the fundraising campaign for helping them to raise the money they needed. “It motivated us to keep going and to realize people supported us and trusted us to have these children,” said Kate.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Pure Caffeine: Even a Teaspoon of Powder Can Be Fatal

ABC News(NEW YORK) — One scoop. That’s all it takes to potentially end a life.

Every coffee drinker knows that too many cups can give you the jitters, but too much pure caffeine can be fatal within just minutes. One teaspoon of powdered pure caffeine is the equivalent of 25 cups of coffee.

Logan Stiner’s parents said he was just four days away from his high school graduation when he died from a caffeine overdose. The high school wrestling star was set to graduate fourth in his class and go on to study chemical engineering in the fall. His parents had never even heard of powdered caffeine and now they are personally lobbying the FDA to ban the substance.

“We didn’t know how much of it was circulating around, didn’t know what it was, never heard of it, and we thought we were pretty in the know,” his mother Kate Stiner told ABC News.

Concentrated caffeine can easily be purchased online as a powder, liquid or even an inhaler, and is often advertised as a health supplement, with little or no warning about its potency.

Lawmakers and advocates are calling on the FDA to ban concentrated caffeine products, saying there is no way they can be sold or consumed safely. They note it’s impossible to measure out the recommended dose of 1/16 teaspoon.

The parents of another victim, 24-year-old Wade Sweatt, said he died after going into a coma just minutes after trying the powder for the first time. On his phone, they found he had been Googling conversion charts trying to determine how much to take.

“It’s like an explosive, a catastrophe waiting to happen,” Sen Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told reporters Tuesday.

After Stiner and Sweatt died from caffeine overdoses in 2014, the FDA met with their families and began warning consumers against pure powdered caffeine.

The agency issued warning letters to five companies last year and all five have since stopped selling the bulk product, but other manufacturers still sell it online. A simple search shows dozens of options available both from foreign companies and domestic producers. Most are inexpensive and with no more warning than the words “use sparingly” on the label. The FDA issued a warning to a Minnesota-based company selling caffeine just last month.

Laura MacCleery is the director of regulatory affairs for an advocacy group that joined the senators and families to petition the FDA. She said it’s unclear exactly how many cases of caffeine overdose there are because most people don’t think of caffeine as dangerous and a fatal overdose can look just like a heart attack. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that dietary supplements send more than 23,000 people to the hospital every year. The FDA said Tuesday it has received no reports of adverse events since warning letters were sent out to five caffeine producers in August 2015.

Lawmakers say it is a “bitter disappointment” that the FDA has not moved more quickly on this issue and fear only more deaths will spur them to completely ban pure caffeine products.

Senators Sherrod Brown and Dick Durbin joined Blumenthal in calling on the FDA Tuesday to ban these products, saying that there is too much risk to wait for slower regulations. The FDA did not comment on a potential ban but said in a statement after the press conference that the agency will continue to monitor the market for dangerous products and encouraged Poison Control Centers to report calls related to caffeine to help consider future regulations.

Some states like Ohio and Illinois have banned pure caffeine products at a state level, but the senators said that anything below the federal level is practically impossible to enforce.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Flint Residents File $220 Million Lawsuit Against EPA

moodboard/Thinkstock(FLINT, Mich.) — Flint, Michigan, residents have filed a $220 million class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, claiming it was negligent in the toxic water crisis that contributed dangerous levels of lead to the city’s water supply.

An administrative complaint representing 513 residents was filed Monday claiming property damage consisting of “irreparable impairment” of water service lines, plumbing and hot water tanks and “physical injury caused by ingesting water contaminated with lead, copper and other toxic materials.”

The class action lawsuit seeks $15 million for property damage and $205.2 million for “personal injury damage.”

Notice was provided to the EPA detailing a “massive environmental violation” by resident Jan Burgess on Oct. 14, 2014, according to the complaint.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality began to distribute water from the Flint “highly corrosive and toxic” river to more than 30,000 Flint residents on April 25 of that year, the complaint said.

“For almost 50 years, Flint water uses enjoyed plentiful clean fresh water purchased from the Detroit Water and Sewage Department,” the document read.

Residents were exposed to the water from the Flint River for “539 days or 1 year, 5 months and 21 days,” the complaint said.

The lawyer who filed the class action lawsuit, Michael L. Pitt, did not immediately return ABC News’ request for comment.

The EPA did not immediately return ABC News’ request for comment.

Last week, a federal judge in Detroit dismissed a $150 million class-action lawsuit filed by Flint residents and one Flint business, suggesting the plaintiffs refile in a Michigan state court due to lack of jurisdiction.

The next day, two Michigan Department of Environmental Quality employees plead not guilty after they were charged in connection to the water crisis. It is unclear if a supervisor at the Flint Plant Water has entered a plea to the charges against him. His lawyer, Robert Harrison, did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

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A Dust Mite Pill May Help Relieve Asthma Symptoms, Study Finds

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Allergies may seem like a seasonal annoyance, but for some people, they can be a year-round danger. People with severe asthma can face dangerous reactions if their allergy symptoms induce an asthma attack.

A new study finds there might be a way to help at least a few of these people relieve some of their symptoms through a pill made of dust mites. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study looked at 834 people in Europe who have house dust mite-related asthma that is not easily controlled with available medications.

Researchers from University of Rostock in Germany, had some patients take a daily pill containing extract from two species of dust mites and others take a placebo. The medication is designed to expose the immune system to a safe dose of the allergen so that the immune system does not react as intensely when a person encounters the allergen again.

Study authors pointed out that up to 50 percent of people with asthma are sensitive to house dust mites and exposure to these allergens is associated with sever asthmatic reactions.

Of the 693 people who completed the study, researchers found that that those who took the pill containing dust mites were at reduced risk of moderate or severe asthma reactions compared to those on a placebo.

The study’s authors noted that “further studies are needed to assess long-term efficacy and safety.”

Dr. Dean Mitchell, an allergist and associate professor at the Tour College of Osteopathic Medicine — who is not associated with the study — said the study was part of a growing body of research into immunotherapy that was “exciting.” Mitchell said giving patients the option to avoid monthly or daily shots will be extremely helpful, and allow them to not disrupt their life to get treatment.

“It’s the new form of treatment in contrast to the shots,” said Mitchell. “It’s time for center stage of this kind treatment.”

He also said the chance of a severe allergic reaction called anaplyaxic reaction is less with these pills.

“Dust mite allergy is a big cause for pediatric and adult asthma, especially young kids are very exposed because they’re indoors so much,” said Mitchell. “These are really groundbreaking studies to reverse [an] underlying allergy,” that can induce an asthma attack.

Dr. Mitchell Grayson, an allergist and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin, also not associated with the study, said he wanted to know if the findings could be mimicked in the U.S., where more people are allergic to multiple allergens than in Europe where more people are allergic to just one allergen. He said it’s unclear if this kind of medication could work if people still had allergy reaction to other allergens.

“Our patients tend to be poly-sensitized, they’re allergic with a lots of things…you’re not going to take 12 different tablets,” to address multiple allergies, said Grayson.

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Breast-Feeding Guidelines Tweaked for the Sake of Women Who Don’t

Polka Dot/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is keeping its 2016 recommendations in support of breast-feeding nearly identical to those issued in 2008, with the exception of deleting one word: “promote.”

The independent panel of experts, who are funded and appointed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, recommended eight years ago that physicians “promote and support” breast-feeding among their patients. Only “support” survived this year.

The new guidelines still wholeheartedly recommend breast-feeding as the best choice for mothers and children but, as one of the authors explained, the change is meant to relieve pressure on women who cannot breast-feed, or make an informed choice not to do so.

“We felt that ‘supporting’ really emphasized that it’s about making sure that women have what they need when they make that choice,” Dr. Maureen Phipps said.

Phipps is chairwoman and Chace-Joukowsky professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Brown University and Women and Infants Hospital in Rhode Island.

The panel recommendation makes it clear that breast-feeding has proven health benefits, from preventing infection and allergies to lowering risk of diabetes and heart disease. But the decision to drop the word “promote” raises intriguing questions about the lines between patient autonomy, physician empathy and evidence-based recommendations.

Dr. Karen Duncan, a New York obstetrician-gynecologist, explained that some women have a lot of trouble breast-feeding, or cannot breast-feed because they are taking certain medications. So, in her view, the rewording was a “positive step” to help alleviate some of the stigma those women might feel.

“We don’t want to shame or pressure women into doing something they are unable to do,” she said. “We do think breast-feeding is the best […] but we need to be understanding that there are many circumstances that go into a woman’s decision about how to feed her baby.”

She added that social media – like Pinterest boards where moms display elaborate baked goods and impeccably decorated birthday parties – have increased the pressure women feel surrounding motherhood.

Some breast-feeding advocates, however, take issue with the wording change.

“Women need to understand all of the risks of formula, and benefits of human milk,” said spokeswoman Diana West of La Leche League International, an organization dedicated to helping mothers worldwide to breast-feed through “mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education,” according to its website.

West noted a distinction between the “guilt” women may feel if they don’t breast-feed, and “regret” that they weren’t fully informed about the benefits.

“What we really come to understand is that far too often, women feel tremendous regret because they were not given adequate information and support [about breast-feeding] when they needed,” she said.

She worries the new guidelines will do women a “disservice,” and lead to fewer women getting comprehensive information about the benefits of breast-feeding.

While she understands the motivation behind the change, New York City obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Abigail Winkel finds the new wording “a little disappointing,” she said.

“It is an extremely important thing for doctors to be empathetic to their patients,” Winkel said. “But our patients need to be educated about something that has such a positive health benefit.”

It is crucial, she said, that doctors not avoid those tough conversations.

If breast-feeding is really not possible, Winkel advises patients to “let it go and move on,” she said. Being stressed about failure to breast-feed will only interfere with bonding, and there are “loads of other healthy behaviors” that mothers can engage in, like skin-to-skin contact, she added.

The guidelines call for further research into ways to decrease guilt and anxiety in women who cannot breast-feed. But regardless of linguistic nuances, the Preventive Services Task Force makes one thing crystal clear: when at all possible, breast is best.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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‘Little Pony That Could’ Gets Prosthetic Hoof

Shine/The Little Pony That Could(FORT COLLINS, Colo.) — He didn’t earn the nickname “the Little Pony That Could” for nothing.

Shine the miniature horse is quickly overcoming the loss of his foot, thanks to a veterinary team at Colorado State University and a prosthetic hoof.

Last December, Shine was mauled in what was believed to be dog attack. His owner, Jacque Corsentino, immediately knew something was wrong.

“Shine always met me at the gate and he wasn’t out,” Corsentino told ABC News. He was covered in blood when she finally found him, with injuries to his lip and back leg. Corsentino said that although Shine seemed to be recovering well initially, his leg soon became infected.

After consulting with a number of veterinarians, the 3-year-old mini-horse was referred to Dr. Laurie Goodrich at CSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. An evaluation in March determined that Shine was small enough for amputation and prosthesis. He underwent the procedure at the University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Now after six weeks of recovery at the veterinary hospital, Shine is back home in his barn in Florence, Colorado, with his new hoof. According to Corsentino, he is going through physical therapy and slowly adjusting to the prosthesis.

“He tries to chew the buckles, he tries to shake it off,” she said. “Once he gets used to it I think we’ll see a major turn around. We’ll be able to turn him out to pasture and let him be a horse.”

Shine’s inner “sock” of the prosthetic hoof needs to be changed every other day for the rest of his life. The medical expenses for the amputation cost nearly $9,000 according to Corsentino, and the family has set up a crowdfunding page to seek donations.

However, Corsentino said it was all worth it for this “really special” little horse. After he’s done recovering, Corsentino plans to bring Shine to local hospitals as a therapy animal.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Father Writes Moving Obituary About Son’s Addiction

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — As the opioid epidemic continues, a Massachusetts man penned a moving obituary for his son in hopes of ending the stigma associated with substance abuse.

Bill Scannell wrote that Emmett, 20, was a “caring, funny, smart, young man with the potential for greatness,” but that he also struggled with addiction.

“Emmett had been in recovery and sober in Alcoholics Anonymous for 2 years when he went off to college in late August 2014,” Scannell wrote in the obituary. “Within 6 weeks, heroin came into his and our lives, stole him from us and Substance Use Disorder killed him in only 18 months.”

Scannell explained why it’s so important to not stigmatize addiction.

“You see Substance Use Disorder is not something to be ashamed of or hidden,” he wrote. “It is a DISEASE that has to be brought out into the light and fought by everyone. It continues to cut down our loved ones everyday.”

Scanell told ABC News he wanted to be honest about what happened with his son after seeing how pervasive the opioid epidemic had become in his hometown.

“The substance abuse disorder crisis and heroin epidemic is killing kids almost every day here,” said Scanell. “Parents here are afraid to speak out…they say their 22-year-old daughter or son died “unexpectedly.”

Heroin and opioid abuse have been a growing problem nationwide. In Massachusetts alone opioid-related overdoses have jumped to 1,173 in 2014 from 526 in 2010. In February, President Obama proposed devoting $1.1 billion to fight heroin and opioid abuse.

Scannell said his son, a member of the dean’s list and a “caring older brother,” is an example of how addiction can strike anyone.

“He loved to get to know people, he always fit in.” said Scannell. “I just know that he would want me to do this.”

The wake for Emmett Scanell is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, but Bill Scannell was already working to raise awareness by speaking at a rally for opioid addiction Tuesday morning.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Zika Virus Updates: WHO Warns of ‘Marked Increase’ of Outbreak in Europe

iStock/Thinkstock(GENEVA, Switzerland) — The Zika virus outbreak continues to spread throughout the Western Hemisphere, including in wide swaths of Central and South America, and concerns are growing for pregnant women because the mosquito-borne virus has been shown to cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, characterized by an abnormally small head and brain.

Here are the latest updates about the outbreak, which the World Health Organization has deemed a “global health emergency.”

Warming weather throughout Europe could mean the Zika virus will spread at a greater rate, a WHO official said this week.

WHO Assistant Director-General Marie-Paule Kieny addressed the possibility of an expanding range for the mosquitoes that spread the Zika virus.

With mosquito season arriving in Europe, “the possibility of local transmission combined with the likelihood of onward sexual transmission could see a marked increase in the number of people with Zika and related complications,” she said, according to AFP.

“As seasonal temperatures begin to rise in Europe, two species of Aedes mosquito, which we know transmit the virus, will begin to circulate,” Kieny said, according to the AFP.

Currently, 42 countries are experiencing a first outbreak of Zika virus since 2015, with no previous evidence of circulation, and with ongoing transmission by mosquitoes, according to a WHO situation report last week.

Three European countries — France, Italy and Portugal — are among the eight countries that have reported person-to-person transmission of the virus via sexual contact.

Canada has reported its first case of person-to-person Zika transmission due to sexual contact.

An unnamed resident from Ontario is thought to have contracted the Zika virus from sexual contact with a partner. The partner was diagnosed with the virus after traveling to a country where the transmission of the virus is spread from mosquito to people, according to a statement from government officials on Monday.

There have been no confirmed cases if Zika spreading from mosquitoes to people in either Canada or the U.S. There have been a few cases reported of the virus transmitting through sexual contact in the U.S.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Puppy Born Without Back Paws Gets Adorable Booties to Help Him Walk

Kurt Budde/Best Friends Animal Society(KANAB, Utah) — These booties are made for walking!

The Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah, provided adorable red booties to one special pup.

Justin the puppy was born without back paws, but managed to get along “fairly well” by putting most of his weight on his front legs.

The puppy arrived at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in early March after a good Samaritan rescued Justin and his siblings from under a house in Arizona.

Dogtown Operations Manager Christine Vergallito told ABC News that although Justin was a relatively happy puppy, the sanctuary staff could tell that Justin did experience some discomfort whenever he tried to run and play.

In order to help with his mobility, the sanctuary gave Justin a pair of red winter booties to improve his balance.

Vergallito revealed that the staff chose the red snow booties for Justin because the Velcro made it more difficult for the playful pup to take off.

Although the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary staff expected Justin to stay in the sanctuary until he was an adult, the cute puppy was adopted in just over a month of arriving at the sanctuary.

Justin’s new owner Giovanna Piazza told ABC News that the puppy is doing “great” and is settling into his new home in Orange County, California. She and her family are working to make sure that Justin — now Jax — is comfortable and mobile in his new home.

“He has a magnetic personality and everyone is attracted to him,” Piazza said.

Piazza explained that Jax now goes to a veterinary rehab specialist every week where he learns to strengthen his core, and straighten and elongate his spine. Piazza’s hope is for Jax to become a therapy dog for the local children’s hospital.

“In the next few weeks we’ll add a wheelchair (cart with back wheels) and in a year or so prosthetics, once he’s grown to full height and size,” Piazza said. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead but everyone on Jax’s Team is very hopeful for his increased mobility over time.”

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