Review Category : Health

Your Body: Over-the-Counter Birth Control

Fuse/ThinkstockDR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

Big news for women and birth control in Oregon.

In an attempt to increase access to contraception for women, an expert panel of doctors has recommended that birth control pills be available without a doctor’s prescription in the Beaver State. The change will also be implemented in California later this year.

In these states, women can simply see their local pharmacist to get the pill.

While there is no question that the pill is generally safe, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is against this new policy, stating that putting another person between a woman and her birth control does not help women’s health.

While pharmacists are definitely great resources for how medications work and interact with each other, they are not women’s health specialists.

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Study: Body Mass Index Readings Not Accurate Picture of Health

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — In a study just published Thursday in the International Journal of Obesity, UCLA psychologists have declared that using BMI (Body Mass Index) to gauge health actually incorrectly labels more than 54 million Americans as “unhealthy.”

The BMI is not only used by personal trainers and diet shows like The Biggest Loser: of late health insurance companies have used it to adjust premiums for those they cover.

However, the study supports criticism that BMI alone shouldn’t be used to judge health, as it doesn’t take into account a person’s physical abilities, blood pressure, waist circumference, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, percentage of body fat, and other health markers.

Indeed, the researchers noted more than 30 percent of those studied who have “good” BMIs had other problematic health markers that would have gone unnoticed if BMI was the only method used to determine health.

Likewise, the study found close to half — 47.4 percent of Americans who are considered “overweight” because of their BMI readings — some 34.4 million people — are healthy. Same went for nearly 20 million whose BMI labeled them “obese.”

Many people see obesity as a death sentence,” said A. Janet Tomiyama, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of psychology in the UCLA College. “But the data show there are tens of millions of people who are overweight and obese and are perfectly healthy.”

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“Screenagers” Documentary Examines Impact of Screens and New Tech on Kids’ Development

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Navigating a child’s access to screens and technology has become one of the most difficult parenting issues today, and the mother of teenagers is examining the issue in a new documentary called Screenagers.

Dr. Delaney Ruston struggled with the dilemma facing many American families: How much tech was too much for her children, Tessa and Chase. She explores the issue in her film, telling ABC News, “I was completely struggling with how to get my kids to not be on screens all the time.”

In the film, Ruston asked her daughter, Tessa, what she would do if she had a smartphone.

“I’d be cool … and be able to look busy in awkward situations,” the girl replied.

Tessa said all her friends had smartphones and she’d feel more connected.

The film explores the science of how use of the devices affects young minds.

“When you are distracted by a device, you can’t have the conversations that would lead to the development of empathy and a sense of self,” Sherry Turkle, a professor of psychology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in the film.

Nicholas Carr, author of the book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, said in the film studies indicate that dopamine — a pleasure-producing brain chemical — seems to be released whenever people find or seek out new information.

“If you carry around a smartphone, you are always pulling it out and glancing at it because you want that release of the pleasure-producing chemical,” he said.

Children spend an average of nearly 6.5 hours per day on screens, not including screen time for classroom or homework, and Screenagers finds plenty of parents who share Ruston’s struggle; from parents who are frustrated by teen selfie culture to those who think their children spend too much time playing video games.

Ruston found the best way to manage her own family’s screen use was having boundaries, including a contract designed by the entire family to govern screen use.

“We don’t have cellphones in our bedrooms at night. Not at the dining room table. And also when we are in the car,” Ruston told ABC News.

It isn’t always easy. Tessa says she wishes she had unlimited access but understands that the rules are there for a reason.

Ruston said it’s “still a struggle at times,” but added, “Now we feel like a group that is doing this together. And that’s been really helpful.”

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Meet the Make-A-Wish Kids Attending Super Bowl 50

The Make-A-Wish Foundation(SANTA CLARA, Calif.) — Among the thousands of people inside Levi’s Stadium during Sunday’s Super Bowl games will be 14 kids whose dreams are being fulfilled thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Matthew Vega is one of those kids who will sit in the Santa Clara, California, stadium to watch the Carolina Panthers take on the Denver Broncos.

Vega, 19, of Anaheim, California, is a devoted Denver Broncos fan who is in remission from osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer.

“[While] I was getting treatment one of the things that kept me going was the Broncos. That was my team,” Vega, a college student, told ABC News. I kept track of them and would watch every Sunday when I was in the hospital.”

Vega first told Make-A-Wish his wish was to go to the Super Bowl in 2014. His team, the Broncos, made it to the Super Bowl that year but Vega was put on the waiting list due to the high number of kids whose wish is to attend the Super Bowl.

Two years later, Vega is no longer in treatment and he will be going Thursday on his first-ever airplane flight to watch his first-ever NFL game, the Super Bowl with his favorite team playing.

“My whole family are Broncos fans. I was born into it,” said Vega, who will go to the game with his parents and two brothers. “I’m just really happy and thankful that I’m going and that my wish was granted.”

Also attending his first-ever NFL game thanks to Make-A-Wish will be Triston Prince Walton, a 5-year-old born with an interrupted aortic arch.

The condition — described as an “uncommon congenital anomaly” by the National Institutes of Health — has required Triston to undergo five open heart surgeries, including his first at 10 days old.

“He is my miracle baby,” Triston’s mom, Kourtney Walton, of Chicago, told ABC News.

Walton says Triston, who likely has at least two more surgeries in his near future, is a football-loving boy who will use any chance or material he has to set up his own football game.

“Anywhere we go to lunch or dinner, he’ll take a paper from straw and tear it into pieces to have men to play football with, or if he has crayons he cuts them in half,” Walton said. “He’ll watch any games and he’s there watching with whatever toys he has to make his own football game.”

Walton says Triston doesn’t yet understand that he’ll be attending the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl. The young boy does know that he, his mom, his grandmother and his aunt will fly to California to watch his favorite sport played by his grandmother’s favorite player, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

“He’s been rooting for Cam and he says, ‘That’s my granny’s boy,'” Walton said. “But he just knows he’s going to see football and that’s all that matters.”

In addition to Matthew and Triston, some of the other children attending Sunday’s Super Bowl with their families include Adam Crognale, 17, Christian Davis, 10, Christopher Ross, 18, Conor Doyle, 15, Eugene Williams, 15, Gabriel Bartlett, 13, Justin Poitras, 16, Ryan Lohan, 19, Thomas White, 17, Trevor Thomas, 18 and Zahari Andrews, 5.

The young football fans and their families will travel to the San Francisco area from 12 states and Canada. They’ll spend Super Bowl weekend visiting the NFL Experience, touring Levi’s Stadium and meeting surprise guests, according to Make-A-Wish.

Super Bowl tickets for Make-A-Wish kids are donated by the NFL and individual donors. Make-A-Wish has sent at least one kid to every Super Bowl since 1982.

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Rare Genetic Mutation Pinpointed as Cause of Vibration-Induced Hives

Tharakorn/iStock/ThinkStock(NEW YORK) — When a person breaks out into hives, the annoying rash is usually blamed on skin care products, new foods we’ve eaten, or cute animals we’ve touched. But some people get hives from something much more unusual: vibration.

These folks suffer from a condition called “vibratory urticaria,” and they can break out into hives from activities like running, hand clapping, snoring, towel drying, or even bumpy bus rides. Researchers released new information Wednesday that could help unlock why some people develop this rare allergy.
Scientists have pinpointed a specific mutation in the ADGRE2 gene that runs in some families with this rare disorder, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health who published findings Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

All of the families originate from a small area in Lebanon, suggesting common ancestors, the findings show.

Hives occur when immune system cells called mast cells release the chemical histamine, usually as an allergic response. The release of histamine brings on the red, itchy and bumpy hives.

Mast cells usually release histamine when allergic signals come from the immune system, but this research suggests that the hive-causing cells are sensitive to physical vibration as well.

Even people without vibratory urticaria release some histamine in response to vibration, according to the lead investigator in the study, Dr. Hirsh Komarow of the NIH Laboratory of Allergic Disease. However, in that case it isn’t strong enough to be noticeable or cause hives. For those with the disease, the reaction to vibration is much stronger. The hives develop within a few minutes of the vibration and usually subside within an hour.

“It’s more of an annoyance,” Komarow said of the condition in the families they studied. “Since they have it since birth and since other family members have it, they accept it as the standard and there are certain things you don’t do. It’s not so bad because your brothers and uncles and niece don’t do it either.”

This discovery doesn’t mean that every person with the condition will have this same genetic mutation, but it sheds new light on how this disease can be passed on through generations. This research may help scientists learn more about how mast cells function in the skin and deepen their knowledge of how allergic reactions work.

Dr. Hugh Sampson, director of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, explains that this research could help doctors work with the small group of patients suffering from this disease, where the exact genetic mutation remains unknown.

“You know there has to be a physiologic reason behind it but nobody has found it,” he said of similar conditions. “This is great.”

Sampson said he has only had one patient develop the disease, which appeared after he started playing the trumpet and the instrument’s vibrations caused hives.

But it wasn’t all bad. “He hated playing the trumpet, so it was a huge relief to him not to have to play anymore,” Sampson said.

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Boy With Rare Disorder Raises Money for Sick Kids Instead of Seeking Birthday Gifts

Courtesy Chris Baker (NEW YORK) — A boy with a rare form of dwarfism is asking for donations for his local children’s hospital rather than birthday gifts.

“I think this is just Brenden,” dad Chris Barker of Avalon, Texas, told ABC News Wednesday. “This is just him doing what he does. He cares more about other people than he does himself. That’s what amazes me about this kid. He’s got such a big heart. For most kids on their birthdays, they just want their presents. Not him. He’s just different.”

Barker said Brenden, 13, was born with Desbuquois syndrome.

“He’s 27-and-a-quarter inches long and he weighs 24 pounds,” Barker said. “It’s a rare form of dwarfism and he’s one of 34 in the world that’s got it. He knows he’s short and really doesn’t care. He doesn’t let the world bother him at all. I’ve never seen him have a sad day in his life.”

Barker said Brenden decided before his Dec. 31 birthday that he’d give up presents in lieu of donations to a children’s hospital. He started the “Children Miracle Network Fundraiser” on GoFundMe, a crowdfunding site, after his grandfather gave him the idea.

“He wanted to help other kids,” Barker said. “He’s all on-board. We’re shooting for $3,000 donation.”
Brenden told ABC News that he would like to help the children at the hospital “feel better and give them toys” to make them happy.

Brenden has acquired some fame after a video of him dancing at a local theater event was circulated around the Internet, according to Barker.

Barker said he hopes Brenden’s small group of online fans can help him reach his fundraising goal.

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Florida Gov. Declares State of Emergency in Counties With Zika Virus

auimeesri/iStock/ThinkStock(NEW YORK) — Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Wednesday in the four counties where people have been diagnosed with the Zika virus.

There have been nine people in total who have been diagnosed with the Zika virus in Florida, though health officials believe that all of them contracted the disease while outside of the U.S.

Scott said he wanted the state to be prepared for the chance that the virus could start to be spread from mosquito to person within the state. The Aedes aegypti mosquito that is the primary vector of Zika virus infections is present in the southeast portion of the country, including Florida, though in winter the mosquito populations are low.

“Although Florida’s current nine Zika cases were travel-related, we have to ensure Florida is prepared and stays ahead of the spread of the Zika virus in our state,” Scott said in a statement Wednesday.

“Our Department of Health will continue to be in constant communication with all county health offices, hospitals and the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We know that we must be prepared for the worst even as we hope for the best.”

There have been no reports of the virus being transmitted from mosquitoes to people in the U.S., though officials are concerned that small outbreaks could happen as the weather warms. A rare case of sexually transmitted Zika virus was reported in Dallas on Tuesday by the local health department.

Scott’s executive order requires the state health officer to “take any action necessary to protect public health” and allows the commissioner of agriculture to issue a “mosquito declaration” in the affected counties to reduce populations of the insects that can spread the disease.

The Zika virus usually results in mild symptoms including fever, rash and fatigue that last up to a week. However, the virus has also been associated with the rise of a dangerous birth defect in Brazil called microcephaly, characterized by an abnormally small head and brain.

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Woman Donates Late Teen Daughter’s Heart to Save Friend’s Life

AlexRaths/iStock/ThinkStock(NEW YORK) — When 49-year-old Vicki Olds’ daughter, Domonique “Nikki” Smith, unexpectedly died at age 18 in June 2015, the grieving mother immediately offered to donate Nikki’s heart to her friend, Tanisha Bahsam.

Basham, who was suffering from congestive heart failure, had been on a waiting list for a new heart for 18 months, according to the Advocate Heart Institute at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois.

“I was overwhelmed,” Basham, 41, said in a press release. Though she didn’t want to accept the generous donation at first, Olds insisted and told her, ‘Tanisha, you’re like my sister. You’ll always have my baby with you.'”

Basham was then immediately admitted for a direct transplantation surgery performed by Dr. Antone Tatooles and Dr. Patroklos “Pat” Pappas, according to the medical center.

“Before this, I had never heard of anyone receiving a directed heart organ donation,” Tatooles said in the release. “To lose your daughter and yet use that tragic event to save lives though organ donation is incredibly generous. There is no better gift than giving someone the gift of life.”

The heart saved Basham’s life.

Basham keeps Nikki’s photo as a screensaver on her phone as a “constant reminder of who gave her a second chance at life,” the medical center said.

The medical center added that when Basham goes to her frequent echocardiogram appointments, Olds accompanies her “so she can see her daughter’s heart beating in the body of her friend.”

“I carried Nikki for nine months, and Tanisha’s going to carry her for the rest of her life,” Olds said in the release. “When I was living through my worst nightmare on the worst day of my life, I chose to preserve the lives of others.”

In all, Smith’s donated organs saved the lives of five other individuals, including another family friend who received a kidney, according to the medical center.

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Zika Virus Outbreak Impacts Blood Donation Guidelines in US

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The effects of the Zika virus outbreak are already being felt in the U.S. as the American Red Cross announced new guidelines to blood donation policy due to the virus’ rapid spread.

The American Red Cross, the largest blood collection organization in the nation, announced Wednesday that it is asking people to defer donating blood for 28 days if they have been in any country with Zika infection.

The virus is primarily spread through mosquito infection, though isolated cases have been reported where it spread through blood transfusion or sexual contact. The news comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers changing its guidelines around blood donation due to the Zika virus.

“The American Red Cross is dedicated to providing the safest, most reliable blood products possible to patients in need,” said Dr. Susan Stramer, vice president of scientific affairs at the American Red Cross. “We are closely monitoring the spread of Zika virus.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a news conference last week that the FDA is looking into changing its policy, which would affect all blood donations in the U.S.

“The FDA is looking at the issue of blood supply, blood donors and travelers,” Fauci said. “We know it’s in the blood stream very briefly, most people have cleared the bloodstream of the virus after about a week.”

An FDA spokeswoman confirmed to ABC News Wednesday that the agency is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the agency considers changing the guidelines for blood donation.

The United Kingdom and Canada have already implemented changes to their blood donation policies in the face of the Zika virus outbreak. U.K. officials are asking prospective blood donors to wait 28 days after returning from a country with Zika virus transmission, while Canadian officials are asking potential donors to wait one month.

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Boy Battling Cancer Proposes to His Favorite Nurse

AJ Robinson(SAN DIEGO) — A California nurse made one little boy’s day after she accepted his hospital “proposal.”

“Its really good to see [the video] out there and we’ve really gotten some positive feedback,” dad AJ Robinson of Canyon Lake, California told ABC News. “People are saying it’s inspirational and it helps us stay positive for him. Even though you’re going through [something] you can still have fun.”

Gideon was then sent to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego for chemotherapy, where he met his favorite nurse, Sarah Richards.

“He got a bond with her,” Robinson said. “She was really sweet to him. She’d bring him all the Legos, so he totally liked her. She knew how to spoil him. We can’t say enough about the doctors and nurses there.”

Robinson said that Gideon got the idea to ask Nurse Sarah to “marry” him after finding out she didn’t have a husband.

Then, on Jan. 27, Gideon made a ring out of a bead and pipe cleaner and presented it to her in front hospital staff, his father said.

“She agreed and she said, ‘Of course, you can be my hospital husband,'” Robinson recalled. “She was totally happy about that.”

Robinson shot the sweet exchange on video and his wife posted it onto Gideon’s Facebook page titled “The Adventures of Iron Gideon.”

It has since received over 120,0000 views.

“It’s always fun to make our patients smile no matter what they have in mind,” Richards, 30, told ABC News. “He’s [Gideon] super cute. He’s a fun little kid. He always likes to make the best of the situation he’s in and always has a smile on his face.”

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