University of Pennsylvania Health System

Penn Health and Wellness

Monday, September 28, 2015

Halloween Safety Tips for Parents

Halloween is fast approaching. Soon, the streets will be filled with ghosts, goblins, princesses and cowboys. To help make this year's festivities a trick-free treat, follow these simple safety tips:

For the Young Ones

Trick or Treat Tips for Parents
  • Spotted in the dark. Bright-colored costumes are more likely to be seen after dark. Add reflective tape to your child’s costume or to the trick-or-treat bag so you and cars can keep an eye out. 
  • See and breathe easy. If the costume has wigs or beards, make sure they don’t cover your child’s eyes, noses, or mouths. Same goes for wearing a mask.
  • Toxic makeup. Consider using nontoxic face paint or makeup. Test the face paint or makeup on your child's arm or hand before applying; ensuring the paint doesn't irritate the skin.
  • Don’t trip. Try to avoid oversized and high-heeled shoes and costumes that have long fabric that can cause children to trip.
  • Home safe. Check all treats to make sure they are sealed. Throw out any candy with holes in the packages, spoiled items and any homemade foods from strangers.

For Parents with Older Kids

  • Be aware. If your child is trick-or-treating on their own, find out the route they'll be taking.
  • Safer in groups. Make sure they go in a group and stress that they stay together.
  • Welcome in. Advise them to only go to houses with porch lights on and walk on sidewalks on lit streets. 
  • Don’t play with fire. Steer clear from candles and other flames. 
  • Light it up. Equip your child with a flashlight with new batteries.
Finally, make sure trick-or-treaters will be safe when visiting your home as well. Remove anything that could cause kids to trip or fall on your walkway or lawn. Double check to see if the lights are on outside your house and light the walkway to your door, if possible.

Have a safe and fun Halloween! To help get started, download our Halloween Safety Tips for Parents.
click here to enlarge and download.

Interested in learning more helpful health tips?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Tips To Stay Active This Fall

It seems as though everything is just a bit easier during the summer. People tend to be a little more laid back at work, there are less people on the road because many are on vacation and, with the added sunlight and warm temperatures, being active seems to be much less of a hassle.

Penn Medicine Fall Tips to Stay Active
Autumn, though, is here. Say goodbye to the warm temperatures and hello to shorter days and cooler weather. Perhaps it’s the fewer hours of sunlight, but this time of the year seems to be when many go into hibernation and ease up on their active summer lifestyles.

This doesn’t have to be the case as there are many fun things to do to stay fit during the cooler months.

“The change of seasons is a good time to focus on health and wellness goals," said Ngozi Onuoha, MD, FACP, of Penn Internal Medicine Mayfair. "Autumn is a great season to walk. Walking is a great form of exercise that does not require much preparation."

Here are some other tips to keep you moving and feeling healthy this fall.
  • Make exercise fun: Autumn is synonymous with harvest season. What better way to stay active than to go pumpkin or apple picking with your family or friends? For the younger ones (or those simply young at heart, take part in physical activities such as corn mazes and haunted trails.
  • Sign up for a holiday run: Fall is the season in which many fun runs and events occur. Participate in Halloween runs, turkey trots, reindeer romps, etc. Setting a specific goal, such as a race to train for, increases adherence to an exercise program. Signing up with friends or family will motivate you even more.
  • Enjoy the colors: Grab a friend, and find a local park that has great trails to walk, run, or ride a bike on.
  • Go to a farmer’s market: Many of the root vegetables are in season and are inexpensive. Grab some apples while you’re at it as they’re rich in antioxidants and flavanoids, both of which can reduce cholesterol.
  • Take advantage of the cooler weather: Play catch, walk the dog, get a group of friends together to play ultimate Frisbee or touch football.
  •  Make Fall chores fun: Raking your lawn can be a real workout. Have fun with it (perhaps by jumping in the leaves??).
Interested in learning more helpful health tips?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Is it Fall Allergies or a Cold?

Fall Allergies or a Cold?
The cooler temperatures have arrived and you aren’t feeling too well. You can’t stop sneezing, sniffing and coughing?

So, what’s the deal? Is it allergies? Are you sick? Should you be scheduling an appointment with your doctor?

Before picking up the phone, it’s important to know the difference between the two. The common cold is typically the result of a viral respiratory tract infection, but an allergy is a hypersensitivity disorder when a person’s immune system reacts to normally harmless substances in the environment.

“You should make an appointment to see your doctor for any cold symptoms that last more than 1-2 weeks, or for any persistent allergy symptoms that do not respond to over-the-counter antihistamines,” said Lauren Strohm, DO, of Penn Medicine Valley Forge.

Contrary to what many think, spring is not the only allergy-prone season. As the temperatures begin to dip, many experience the effects of allergies similar to how they would in the spring.

Ragweed is the biggest culprit as it can travel hundreds of miles in the wind. While the yellow-flowering weed usually starts releasing pollen in August, it can last well into September and October. Nearly three-quarters of people who are allergic to spring plants are also allergic to ragweed.

Another fall trigger is mold. Many think of mold growing in their basement or bathroom, but mold spores also love outdoor wet spots such as piles of damp leaves.

Dust mites tend to get overlooked this time of the year, but can be allergy trigger for many. Although they are more common during the humid summer months, they can get mixed into the air when the individuals begin to use their heat.

Tips to Tell the Difference 

  • Do you have a fever? If yes, you are dealing with something more than allergies. A fever is never a feature of an allergy.
  • Itchiness and watery eyes? Although not always the case, this usually points to an allergy rather than a cold.
  • A cold is usually self limiting (symptoms cease in a predictable manner), but an allergy needs interventions and treatment.
  • Are others around you sick? A cold is contagious, while an allergy is not.
  • How long have you not been feeling yourself? Colds can last a long time, usually between 1-3 weeks. Allergies, though, can stick around for a few days or months if an individual is continuously exposed to the allergen.
  • When did the symptoms start? Symptoms of a cold take a few days to develop after the viral infection, but allergic symptoms begin immediately after the exposure.
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Monday, September 21, 2015

Create Healthy Habits Through Strength in Numbers

R. Aimee Ando, DO, a family medicine physician at Penn Family Medicine University City, discusses how a “partner in health” can help you achieve your goals.

Healthy Habits Through Strength in NumbersWorking in primary care, I have the privilege of learning a person’s most intimate hopes and challenges on a daily basis. Conversations with my patients often revolve around healthy lifestyle changes - eating sensible portions and more fruits and vegetables, exercising, quitting smoking - and the seemingly insurmountable barriers to achieving such goals.

I believe there is a better way to tackle these challenges. And that is by not doing it alone. Changing habits often works best when done with someone else, whether it be your spouse or significant other, a workout “buddy,” or with a group of like-minded individuals.

These four tips will help you and your partner get on the road to good health:
  • No more excuses: We are social beings and at our core do not want to let others down. We often thrive on the support that a “partner in health” can provide. Having someone to whom one feels accountable keeps us motivated and committed.
  • Choose wisely: Find someone who you like and who has an upbeat attitude. If you are single or if your spouse/significant other is not up for the challenge, broaden your scope. Look to friends or work colleagues with similar exercise schedules to go walk the neighborhood or hit the gym. Working out together can push you to keep moving and dig deeper than when solo. A little healthy competition can go a long way! And don’t give up hope on that spouse at home still sitting on the couch. The positive changes that you make in your own life often inspire those closest to you.
  • Create fun incentives: Establishing rewards for your hard work can be a great motivator. If you are committed to quit smoking with your partner, make a separate fund with the money saved from cigarettes and use the funds for a getaway or something special for the house. The reward can even be psychological: sign up and train for a 5K run/walk a few months ahead and set a schedule that you both will stick to. Setting tangible markers of success helps you to keep your eye on the prize.
  • Make it fit your reality: What works for some does not always work for others. As parents of two very young children, my husband and I rarely have time to do anything together, much less go off to the gym. Nonetheless, we block off time and space during the week when each of us gets to have her/his own time to be active while the other one watches the kids. And we don’t let the other one back out of it either. It can be so “easy” to make excuses, but when you make your own health a priority, those you love may make their health a priority too!
You never have to go it alone. We have learned time and again that when we partner with people who are more active, think positively, and eat well, we are more likely to do the same. So go ahead and be contagious!

Nosebleeds: What Causes Them and How to Stop Them

Jeffrey Millstein, MD, a primary care physician at Penn Internal Medicine Woodbury Heights, discusses why we get nosebleeds and the correct way to stop them.
Jeffrey Millstein, MD
Ever have a nosebleed that makes it look like you just finished auditioning for the next big horror film?

Nosebleeds can be a scary sight since they often involve a fair amount of blood. The good news is that they are almost never indicative of a serious health condition.

“Nosebleeds are common in all age groups and rarely serious, although we always like to evaluate patients with frequent or severe ones," says Dr. Millstein. "Keeping the nostrils moistened with saline nasal spray is a helpful preventive measure during the dry months.”

So they aren’t serious, but why do we get them? And how do we make them stop?

Why do nosebleeds start?

There are several reasons why you might get a nosebleed, including trauma from an injury, interior deformities, or in rare cases, intranasal tumors. More common reasons include:
  • Dry air that causes the lining of the nose to crack and bleed.
  • Use of anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medications, or aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) that changes the ability of the blood to clot.
  • Health conditions like liver disease, kidney disease or chronic alcohol consumption that lower the blood’s ability to clot.

Have You Been Stopping Nosebleeds the Wrong Way?

how to stop nosebleeds
For many of us, we have a natural instinct to tilt our head back to stop a nosebleed. Makes sense right? We don’t want the blood running down our face onto our clothes.

The problem is, this method doesn’t really work… and can be dangerous.

When your head is tilted back, the blood runs down the back of your throat. If enough gets into your stomach, you could start feeling sick and even vomit. In rare cases, the blood could end up in your airways and lead to choking or illness.

So, What’s the Right Way to Stop a Nosebleed?

Sit straight up and tilt your head forward slightly. Take your thumb and forefinger and firmly pinch the soft part of your nose shut. If you have an ice pack, apply that to your nose and cheeks to constrict the blood vessels and stop the bleeding.

Continue pinching for a full 10 minutes and try not to release your fingers before the minutes are up. If your nose is still bleeding after 10 minutes, pinch for 10 more.

Once the bleeding has stopped, you can use saline or an antiseptic nasal cream. Also, try not to blow your nose for a few hours

Is There Ever a Time to Worry About a Nosebleed?

Nosebleeds are rarely a cause for concern, but it is recommended that you seek medical attention if:
  • After 30 minutes, you are still unable to stop the bleeding.
  • You have frequent nosebleeds.
  • The blood is caused by what you believe could be a broken nose.
  • You have a blood clotting disorder or are on blood thinners.
It’s also very important that you don’t drive yourself if you’re losing a lot of blood. Make sure you have someone that can take you to the doctor or hospital.

Interested in learning more helpful health tips?

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