University of Pennsylvania Health System

Penn Health and Wellness

Monday, October 28, 2013

On the Move: The Health Benefits of Running

Whether it's a 5K, 10K, Color Run, Tough Mudder or Marathon, it seems as though everyone is out for a run. Once reserved only for die-hards, more and more people are running for the experience and the fun than ever before. Many also see it as a way to relieve stress after a busy day, an opportunity to get a group of friends together or to simply help out a good cause.

Regardless of the reasons or motivations, there are many health benefits for those that pick up this sport.

Read the full article.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

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.
Need to see a physician?
Schedule an appointment today.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

2013 Radnor Run Lung Champion: Robert Stavenger

Diagnosed at the age of four with cystic fibrosis, Robert Stavenger knows the importance of clean air.

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease that causes thick mucus to form in the lungs, pancreas and other organs. In the lungs, this mucus blocks airways, causing lung damage and making it difficult to breathe. Air pollution is detrimental to all of us, but for patients with lung diseases, it is particularly harmful due to damaged airways being more susceptible to infection. Because of his story and his support of clean air, Stavenger has been named the Lung Champion of the 36th Annual Penn Medicine Radnor Run.

The Radnor Run is a five-mile race and one-mile walk/fun run that will be held on Sunday, October 27th. The money raised helps the American Lung Association provide important programs, including asthma camp, smoking prevention/cessation for teens and adults and clean air initiatives.

Being diagnosed at such a young age, Stavenger recalls how he didn’t know any other way of living and, because of that, never thought much of his "chores" that included getting aerosol treatments and chest physical therapy twice a day.

"I was relatively healthy as a child," Stavenger said. "The most challenging thing I remember as a child related to CF was in fourth grade. The class was discussing what we wanted to do when we were older and I said I wanted to go to college. One friend - a very supportive friend - wondered why I would 'waste my time', because I wouldn't live much past graduation."

Although Stavenger says "this was devastating to hear", he used it as a source of motivation and decided that he would never let CF make decisions for him. This mindset helped Stavenger not only complete his undergraduate studies, but pushed him to get his Ph.D. and to pursue a career in antibacterial drug discovery.

Unfortunately, during his second year of graduate school, Stavenger fell very ill and needed to be hospitalized.

"It was the night before Christmas break and I had just finished giving a seminar," Stavenger said. "I started coughing and the inside of my chest felt wet. I coughed again and a mouthful of blood appeared."

The next morning, Stavenger called his physician and was given oral antibiotics. With little change and more bleeding events, Stavenger was rushed to the emergency room the following day where he started a course of IV antibiotics and, luckily, recovered quickly.

Over the next 15 years, though, his health got progressively worse. Numerous hospital stays and an increase of IV antibiotics were only the start. In 2008, Stavenger became quite sick and was hospitalized for several days. During his stay, he was told that he would need supplemental oxygen 24-hours a day.

For two years, Stavenger continued to live his life as he always had, working full time and even traveling. His lung function continued to decline, though, and Stavenger was getting sick much more frequently.  He also struggled with day-to-day activities such as playing with his daughter and his need for oxygen had gone up dramatically. Finally, one Saturday morning, things got even worse for Stavenger.

"I simply couldn’t get out of bed. I didn’t have enough energy to stand up," Stavenger recalls. "I was taken to a local hospital to be stabilized, and then transported to Penn Medicine's Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU)."

While in the MICU, Stavenger's lungs were "washed" in an attempt to cleanse them. This helped only for a bit, but he quickly went downhill again. With few options remaining, doctors gave his wife the news: matching lungs had been identified and surgery would occur the following day.

"I remember waking up and asking my wife if I was too sick for a transplant. Basically, if I still had any hope," Stavenger recalls. "I had no idea the transplant had already taken place."

"It's been over two years post-transplant," Stavenger says. "It is an incredible feeling to take a deep breath and know that I am able to do so only because of the help of countless people, the support of family and friends and a difficult sacrifice from a stranger and their family. I am so thankful and still have so much to look forward to in my life."

 It took Stavenger quite a while to get back to where he was prior to the surgery. He exercised a great deal and adopted a healthy lifestyle. While exercise and a healthy lifestyle are important for Stavenger, clean air is at the core of good health.

"Air quality impacts every single person," said Stavenger, "But it has a much larger impact of individuals that suffer from diseases that affect the lungs."

Stavenger encourages people to participate in the Radnor Run in an effort to help spread the message about clean air and help the American Lung Association raise money for the prevention of, and research into new treatments for, lung disease.

When: Sunday, October 27, 2013
Where: Radnor Township building, 301 Iven Avenue, Wayne Pa.
Register for the Penn Medicine Radnor Run today.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Penn Orthopaedics and Coach Dick Vermeil: A Perfect Match

More than 30 years have passed since one of the most distinguished coaches in NFL history paced the sidelines of Veteran’s Stadium each game day. His legacy has only grown since his departure. An impeccable work ethic, a burning passion to succeed, a positive attitude and a drive for perfection has made Coach Dick Vermeil one of the most beloved sports figures in Philadelphia history.

Dick Vermeil
Dick Vermeil
Similarly, Penn Orthopaedics has used those same attributes that led Coach Vermeil to his on-field success to become one of the best in the nation for outstanding orthopaedic care. A team with years of experience, the highly skilled and highly specialized team at Penn Orthopaedics treats each patient with a personalized approach.

A few years ago, Coach Vermeil was one of those patients. He was experiencing severe pain in his right hip due to arthritis. Just as fans turn to the Coach for his football expertise, Coach Vermeil turned to the pros at Penn Orthopaedics for his hip replacement.

Now, in the weekly feature, Ask the Coach sponsored by Penn Orthopaedics, Coach Vermeil will give his thoughts on a variety of topics during the Eagles Countdown to Kickoff show on SportsRadio 94 WIP. Listen to the show to hear more about Coach Vermeil’s thoughts on the Eagles, coaching decisions, and the NFL standings.

And be sure to check out the new Coach Vermeil website for exclusive interview excerpts and the story of his successful hip operation.
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