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Health Capsules: March 20

By: Lisa Russell


Awareness week spotlights poisoning risks

March 17-23 is National Poison Prevention Week, an annual event designed to increase awareness of the most common sources of accidental poisoning in the U.S. Statistics show that more than 90 percent of the time, poisonings happen in people’s homes, with the majority of those incidents occurring in the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. 

National Poison Prevention Week serves as a reminder that most poisoning accidents happen at home, and highlights the actions needed to prevent them.

Because poisoning is a risk for people of all ages – but especially young children – it’s important to know those sources, as well as what to do if you suspect someone may have been poisoned. Following is a list of the most common causes of poisoning from the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration [HRSA] and the American Association of Poison Control Centers, and tips for keeping yourself and your family safe.

Medicines 

• Keep medicines in their original containers, properly labeled, and store them appropriately.

• Medicines which have the potential for abuse, such as opioids, sleep medicines and amphetamines, should be kept under lock and key if possible.

• Be aware of medication “look-alikes” – such as Sudafed and candy red hots – and make sure they are kept out of children’s reach.

Household products and chemicals

• Many household cleaners and related products are potential poisons if inhaled or ingested.  Store them out of sight and out of children’s reach.

• Keep all products in their original containers. Do not use food containers such as cups or bottles to store cleaners, paints, and other chemicals.

• All laundry products, along with hazardous chemicals like antifreeze, pesticides and pool chemicals, should be kept on a high shelf or in a locked cabinet.

Carbon monoxide [CO] 

Have a working carbon monoxide detector in your home; the best places to put one are near bedrooms and close to furnaces.

• Be aware of the most common symptoms of CO poisoning, which are described as flulike and include headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.

• Have your heating system, water heater, and other gas- or oil-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year. Chimneys also should be professionally checked for proper venting.

Food 

• Wash hands and counters before and after preparing all food.

• Store food at the proper temperatures. Refrigerated foods should not be left out at temperatures above 40 degrees F [5 degrees C].

• Use clean utensils for cooking and serving.

Art and school supplies 

• Some art products are mixtures of chemicals which can be dangerous if not used correctly. Make sure children use art products safely by reading and following directions.

• Do not eat or drink while using art products.

• Wash skin and wipe tables, desks and counters after contact with art products.

If you suspect someone may have been poisoned, stay calm – most poisoning emergencies can be resolved quickly. Even if you’re not sure, call the toll-free Poison Helpline at 1-800-222-1222, which will immediately connect you to the nearest poison control center to your location. In non-emergency situations, fast help is also available online at PoisonHelp.org.

Health officials on alert as measles outbreak grows

As of February 28, just over 200 cases of measles have already been diagnosed among Americans in 2019, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] recently reported. The largest cluster of cases to date this year is in the state of Washington, where the number of confirmed cases now exceeds 70.

Measles is emerging as a threat in the U.S. once again in 2019, with spread of the disease among unvaccinated children as the primary cause.

Because measles can spread quickly when it reaches a community where groups of people are unvaccinated, the potential for a larger U.S. outbreak is prompting warning calls from health officials. Children who receive the required two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella [MMR] vaccine receive 97 percent protection against the disease.

Measles is a highly contagious virus that spreads through the air via coughing and sneezing. Symptoms such as high fever, rash all over the body, stuffy nose and reddened eyes usually disappear without treatment within two or three weeks. However, complications such as ear infections, diarrhea and pneumonia do commonly occur, especially among children younger than 5 years old. One of every four measles victims will require hospitalization, and one or two out of every 1,000 children who get measles will die from complications, according to the CDC.

Although measles was declared eradicated from the U.S. in 2000, outbreaks have re-emerged in recent years. The CDC believes these cases have originated with international travelers who have either visited or returned to the U.S. after being exposed. In 2018, 349 individual cases of measles were confirmed in 26 states, including Missouri – marking the second largest number of annual cases reported since measles was officially eliminated.

Coming shortage of primary care may impact Americans’ longevity

The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that by 2030, the U.S. will see a dramatic shortfall in the number of primary care physicians necessary to tend to Americans’ day-to-day health care and help catch illnesses like cancer and cardiovascular disease in their early stages. Recent reports predict a shortage of up to 49,300 primary care doctors by the end of the next decade.

As a shortage of primary care doctors looms in the U.S., new research shows their importance to the longevity of Americans.

At the same time, new research shows just how important primary care physicians are in prolonging American lives: Every 10 additional primary care physicians per 100,000 people in the U.S. was associated with about a 52-day increase in life expectancy during the decade from 2005 to 2015, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School.

By comparison, the researchers found that an increase of 10 specialists per 100,000 corresponded to only a 19.2-day increase.

The main reason cited for the worsening shortage is the significant disparity in pay for primary care doctors compared to specialists. “There are few incentives to go into primary care among U.S. medical school graduates,” said Sanjay Basu, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine and of health research and policy at Stanford. “Pay tends to be lower, burnout rates higher and prestige lower.”

People in rural areas, who are already experiencing a decrease in the number of primary care physicians available, will be especially hard-hit by the shortage, the report said.

By identifying the extent to which the number of primary care physicians might impact overall mortality, the researchers hope to encourage U.S. policymakers to consider the importance of encouraging more medical students to become primary care physicians.

“The passionate students who care about population health really want to go into primary care, but they also have serious education debts and are looking at the paychecks for fields like dermatology, ophthalmology or urology,” Basu said. “I think the problem comes down to money. We pay less for prevention than treatment – and the former is where primary care lives.”

On the calendar

St. Charles City-County Library offers a Growing Healthy: Yoga Story Time program for preschool-age children on Monday, March 25 from 6:30-7 p.m. at the Kathryn Linneman Branch, 2323 Elm St. in St. Charles. Kids can practice basic yoga moves through stories, songs and videos. Please bring a towel or yoga mat if possible. The class is free. Advance registration is required by visiting youranswerplace.org/ecalendar.

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St. Luke’s Hospital and Dierbergs Markets co-sponsor Learn to Shop for a Healthier You on Wednesday, March 27 from 6:30-8 p.m. at Dierbergs Bogey Hills Plaza, 2021 Zumbehl Road in St. Charles. Join a St. Luke’s dietitian for a store tour that will focus on how to make better choices, read labels and plan meals. Tour will meet at the store’s School of Cooking. The cost is $5, but all participants will receive a $5 Dierbergs gift card at the end of the tour. To register,  visit Dierbergs.com or call (314) 238-0440.

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BJC of St. Charles County offers free Know Your Numbers health screenings on Friday, April 12 from 7:30-9:30 a.m. at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, 10 Hospital Drive in St. Peters, in Suite 117 of Medical Office Building 1. These screenings for adults include fasting glucose, cholesterol, lung function, blood pressure and BMI measurements; participants should fast for at least 10 hours prior to screening. To register, visit bjcstcharlescounty.org/Events.

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The St. Charles City-County Library Foundation sponsors a free Grow Your Reader program on Wednesday, April 17 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, 10 Hospital Drive in St. Peters, in Medical Office Building 1, Suite 117. Parents and children ages 0-5 can learn simple strategies to help prepare your child to become a successful reader and learner through reading, writing, talking, singing and playing every day. Attendees will receive a bag and free books. Advance registration is required by visiting bjcstcharlescounty.org/Events.

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