December 2011 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

Pertussis. Whooping Cough. What do you think about when you hear these words? There have been a lot of news reports in recent months about Pertussis and about Pertussis outbreaks across the country and in our State.

Pertussis is caused by the bacteria (Bordetella pertussis). It is spread from person to person through the air by droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. A non-infected person breathes in the droplets and gets sick. Whooping Cough is one of the most highly communicable childhood diseases. Even in immunized populations like those in the United States, outbreaks occur. Adults may carry the bacteria without symptoms but they transmit the disease to children, especially when immunization rates decrease.

Pertussis begins with cold like symptoms. These include a runny nose, sneezing, low grade fever, and coughing. After a few weeks, the cough gets much worse. The cough is often much worse at night. The cough is uncontrollable and one cough may follow another and another without a break. Vomiting frequently occurs after coughing. Many children will make a high pitched “whooping” sound when breathing in after a coughing episode. The cough can last for several weeks or months! If you have a cough that lasts for two weeks or longer, please see your healthcare provider.

Pertussis is treated with antibiotics and treatment is important in preventing the spread of the disease to others. Antibiotics may also be given to close contacts of persons with Pertussis to prevent them from getting sick. Persons who are sick with Pertussis can infect other people during the first three weeks they are coughing. Cough medicines are not helpful.

Pertussis in infants is often severe and life threatening. Infants are more likely to develop complications like pneumonia and seizures. Older children and adults can get Pertussis but it is usually less severe. They can however still spread the disease to younger children and infants.

There is a vaccine for Pertussis. The vaccine is given in combination with the tetanus vaccine and the diphtheria vaccine. Children under age seven should get five DTap shots at 2,4,6,12-15 months and again at 4-6 years of age. Adolescents should get a booster usually at 11 years of age. Adolescents 13-18 years of age should receive a booster if they have not received a tetanus shot within the past five years. Adults should receive a booster if they are in contact with infants that are less than 12 months of age, are elderly, or work in the healthcare industry. If you are pregnant, check with your healthcare provider. There are new recommendations based on studies that show a pregnant woman who receives a booster may transfer antibodies to the unborn baby that will help to protect him/her from the disease during those first few months of life. Children who are vaccinated may still get Pertussis, but the disease will generally be milder. Protection does decrease over time so ask your healthcare provider if it may be time for a booster.

In Maine, Pertussis has been reported in all counties and outbreaks have occurred, especially among school aged children.

Pertussis can be prevented by vaccinating all children on time, avoiding close contact with others who are sick or coughing, frequent handwashing, staying at home if you are not feeling well, covering your mouth with a tissue or coughing into your sleeve, taking antibiotics as directed by your health care provider, and by finishing all medications as ordered.

For more information visit www.cdc.gov, www.immunizeme.org, or www.mainepublichealth.gov.

 

November 2011 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. An estimated 443,000 deaths each year are caused by smoking and exposure to second hand smoke. Half of all long term smokers will die from a smoking related disease. The American Cancer Society initiated the first Great American Smokeout in November, 1977. The Great American Smokeout is now held the third Thursday of every November and this year will be held November 17th. The motto is, “Help create a world with less cancer and more birthdays”. The Great American Smokeout increases community awareness of the dangers of smoking, emphasizes the rights of nonsmokers to breathe smoke-free air in public places, and encourages smokers to put their own health first by making a commitment to quit smoking for good. Friends, families, and health care professionals can encourage and support all quit attempts and assist smokers to make a long term plan to quit smoking for their own health and for their family’s health.

Forty six million adults in the United States still smoke cigarettes. Forty percent of nonsmokers and fifty four percent of children aged three to eleven years old in the United States are exposed to second hand smoke. Ninety percent of adult smokers started their tobacco addiction as youth. In Maine, about one quarter of all adults and high school students are addicted to tobacco. Everyday in Maine, seven people die from a tobacco related death. Almost one in three children in Maine will have become an addicted smoker by the time he or she reaches eighteen to twenty four years of age.

Nicotine dependence is the most common form of chemical dependence in the United States. Nicotine, the active ingredient in tobacco, is as addictive as heroin. Quitting smoking is difficult and often takes multiple attempts. But forty million Americans have quit smoking and it is important not to give up! Smoking increases a persons risk for lung, throat, and bladder cancers, heart attack, stroke, and chronic lung diseases like COPD and emphysema.

Secondhand smoke is the unfiltered smoke coming off the tip of the cigarette and the smoke exhaled by the smoker. It is also found with pipe and cigar smoking. Exposure to secondhand smoke is associated with unhealthy low infant birth weight, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, childhood pneumonia, childhood and adult asthma, childhood throat infections, and childhood ear infections. There is NO safe human exposure to secondhand smoke.

Maine’s Tobacco Helpline provides counseling and support to any Maine resident who wants to quit using tobacco. Most public indoor places in Maine are smoke free, including workplaces, stores, movie theaters, libraries, museums, enclosed areas of hospitals, daycare centers, restaurants, elementary and secondary schools, and on school property. It is illegal to smoke in a car in Maine with children under the age of sixteen years old present. It is illegal to smoke within twenty feet of a beach, playground, or any enclosed areas like rest rooms in a state park or in a state historic site. It is illegal to smoke on a public bus, train or taxi.

For more information call the Maine Tobacco Helpline at 1-800-207-1230 or visit www.tobaccofreeme.org, www.tobaccofreekids.org, www.cdc.gov/tobacco, www.cancer.org, and www.smokefree.gov.

October 2011 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

It is that time again when people begin to think about heating their homes. Many of us have already turned on our furnaces or started our wood stoves to “take the chill off” in the early mornings or in the evenings. Most people do not think about carbon monoxide or carbon monoxide poisoning when they begin to plan for a new heating season.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas created when fuels like gas, wood, coal, oil, and propane burn incompletely. The fumes can build up in enclosed places like homes and can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide poisoning claims more than four hundred lives every year and sends twenty thousand people to emergency rooms each year. The most common signs of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea and vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. A person can be poisoned by a small amount of carbon monoxide over a longer period of time or by a large amount of carbon monoxide over a shorter period of time. High levels of carbon monoxide inhalation can cause loss of consciousness and death. People who may be sleeping or who are intoxicated can die before they even experience any symptoms at all. Never use gas generators, charcoal grills, or fuel burning camping heaters and stoves inside homes or in other enclosed places like garages during power outages. If appliances that burn fuel are maintained and used properly, the amount of carbon monoxide produced is usually not dangerous. When appliances are used incorrectly, installed incorrectly, or are not working properly, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can result.

All heating systems including chimneys and vents should be inspected and serviced every year. Burn charcoal outside only. Do not use gas appliances like stoves, ranges, or clothes dryers to heat your home. Never keep a car running in a garage, even with the door open. Always use generators outdoors away from doors, windows, and vents. Do not use generators in basements or crawl spaces. Install carbon monoxide alarms in the hallway of your home near sleeping areas and test the alarms every month. Don’t sleep in a room with an unvented gas or kerosene heater. Know the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you experience any signs or symptoms you think might be from carbon monoxide poisoning, get fresh air immediately, open doors and windows, leave the house, go to the emergency room or call 911 and tell the doctor or health care provider that you think your symptoms may be from carbon monoxide poisoning. Don’t ignore the symptoms! Plan ahead now for a safe heating season.

For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/co/faqs.htm, www.usfa.fema.gov, www.redcross.org, or www.epa.gov.

September 2011 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share! This month’s topic is especially timely and important… all adults (including school volunteers and Bookworms) have an opportunity and responsibility to be sensitive regarding this issue!

September has arrived and Maine children are returning to school. It is an exciting time! Some children will be riding on a school bus for the very first time. There are new teachers and new friends to meet. There are old friends to see again after summer vacation.

However, many children are not looking forward to going back to school. According to the 2009 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, over forty-seven percent of middle school children report being bullied on school property and over twenty-three percent of high school students report being bullied on school property. Children are also bullied away from school property and on computers and other electronic devices. Twelve percent of high school students report receiving comments that are offensive regarding race or ethnicity and over nineteen percent report receiving offensive sexual comments related to sexual orientation, masculinity, and femininity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, bullying is a form of youth violence. Bullying includes attack and/or intimidation with the intention to cause fear or to cause harm that is physical, verbal, or psychological. There is a real or perceived imbalance of power between the bully and the victim. The bullying involves repeated attacks or intimidation between the same children over a period of time. The most common form of bullying is verbal bullying.

Bullying does affect health. Bullying can result in physical injury, social and emotional distress, and even death. Children who are bullied are at increased risk for mental health problems and substance use. They have higher school absenteeism rates. Children who are bullied do not feel safe in their schools. Victims are more likely to experience headaches, sleep problems and stomach ailments. They also have higher rates of suicidal thoughts.

Children who are bullied often do not tell a teacher or another adult because they fear retaliation by the children who are doing the bullying. Children who are bullied are victims of abuse and often do not have the confidence or the skills needed to stop the bullying behaviors on their own.

Bullying is not about “kids being kids.” Bullying only occurs when there is a power imbalance where one child has a hard time defending herself/himself and is not simply a disagreement. A child who is bullied should be told that bullying is wrong, no one deserves to be bullied, and everything that can be done will be done to stop the bullying.

Research suggests that the best ways to deal with bullying are through school wide programs that discourage bullying, developing consistent rules against bullying, identifying and utilizing a consistent disciplinary program related to bullying behavior, developing and implementing classroom activities related to bullying and bullying prevention, individual and group work with children who are bullied and for children involved in bullying others, staff training to learn to recognize and respond to bullying, improving the supervision of students, and involving parents in bullying prevention and intervention activities.

For more information, visit www.maine.gov/education/bullyingprevention , www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention, and http://www.education.com.

The goal is to STOP bullying before it starts!