Monday, March 28, 2011

Ask Us Anything: How Can I Prevent Sickness & the Spread of Germs?

"If someone in my household has a fever, what steps can I take to prevent myself from catching it as well?"

Registered Nurse Rachel Schneiter Responds:

Registered Nurse Rachel SchneiterWhen someone in the home is ill with a fever, the best way to protect yourself is with handwashing.

Also, replacing the bathroom hand towel with paper towels may help to prevent transmission of germs.

Getting enough sleep will help your immune system work its best, so make sure that you're going to bed early enough to feel rested.

In addition, vitamin D, which is known for bone support by enhancing calcium absorption, has considerable effects on the immune system.

The body will normally synthesize vitamin D after exposure to UVB rays, but since those of us on the east coast don't see much sunlight for as much as 6 months a year, you should consider supplementing every winter to get the immune benefit.

Starting every year in about October, take 1,000 IU orally every day. You can buy this over-the-counter and discontinue taking it when we are seeing more of the sun in the spring.

Vitamin D deficiency will contribute to fatigue, depression symptoms, and muscular pain. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, talk with your doctor about monitoring your blood level of vitamin D.

A flu shot will prevent a fever related to Influenza. Persons with egg allergy should see their doctor before getting a flu shot. Many area doctor offices, clinics, and pharmacies will administer flu vaccines. Pregnant women should receive a preservative-free vaccine after 12 weeks of pregnancy. Infants older than six months old can get the flu shot also but will need a booster (a second dose a month after their first dose). Adults need one shot annually.

In conclusion, handwashing, adequate sleep, and a healthful diet rich in antioxidants will continue you on the road to maintaining wellness.

— Rachel Schneiter, RN

Rachel Schneiter is a Registered Nurse in OB/GYN services at the M. Steven Piver, M.D. Center for Women’s Health & Wellness in Buffalo. The Piver Center provides medical obstetrics, infertility treatment and other services for women.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ask Us Anything: How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treated?

"Are there any other treatments, besides surgery, for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?"

Bill Hyland, MS, OT, Responds:

Bill Hyland, MS, OTCarpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is the result of pressure or irritation to the median nerve.

CTS has many causes, such as repetitive movement, arthritis, injury and weight gain.

Persons with CTS can experience pain, tingling, numbness and weakness in the wrists and fingers, thereby impacting motor skills in the hand. If left untreated, the symptoms can become progressively worse over time.

There are several non-surgical options in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome:
  • Avoid compression and wrist strain.
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to repetitive hand movements, such as typing.
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to cold and vibration.
  • Apply warm and/or cool compresses for intervals of around 20 minutes each. After 20 minutes, they should be removed and not reapplied until the skin has returned to room temperature.
  • Wear hand splints for wrist support.
  • Take medication as suggested by your physician.
  • Perform CTS exercises as suggested by your occupational therapist.
The treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome aims to reduce pressure and irritation to the median nerve. In doing so, a reduction in pain, tingling, numbness and weakness can occur, resulting in better hand function.

— Bill Hyland, MS, OT

Bill is an Occupational Therapist at Partners In Rehab Sisters Hospital, which provides Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy in Buffalo, NY.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ask Us Anything: What are the Symptoms of Sundowners Syndrome?

"Can Sundowners Syndrome affect patients during the day? If so, what types of signs should my family and I watch for with my grandparent in a rehab facility?"

Patricia Weeks O'Connor, Executive Director of the OLV Senior Neighborhood, Responds:

Patricia Weeks O'Connor, Executive Director of the OLV Senior NeighborhoodSundowners Syndrome is a set of behaviors exhibited by a person with Alzheimer's disease that generally occur in the transition between daylight and darkness.

It is not common to see these symptoms during morning or afternoon hours. However, some persons with Alzheimer's disease will exhibit restlessness or wandering behavior throughout the day.

Not every person with Alzheimer's disease will exhibit Sundowners Syndrome symptoms, but things you should look for include:
  • agitation,
  • restlessness,
  • wandering,
  • rapid mood changes,
  • and anger.
The person may become violent if re-directed, or may be very "clingy" or paranoid.

Unfortunately, there are few cures for Sundowner's Syndrome. There are environmental steps that may help, such as keeping lighting on (even using a light box that mimics sunlight) or the use of quiet music.

Some people respond to gentle touch, such as hand or neck and shoulder massage, but in the highly agitated person, this may have the opposite effect.

Medication may be helpful in curbing some of the agitation, however these must be closely monitored to minimize side effects.

If your family member is currently in a rehab facility, alert the staff to any observations you make about a change from their past behavior or personality. Your grandparent is likely new to the staff and they may not be familiar with his or her customary behavior. The staff will work with you, your loved one, and the physician to identify the appropriate interventions.

— Patricia Weeks O'Connor, Executive Director of the OLV Senior Neighborhood and Mercy Nursing Facility

Patricia Weeks O'Connor is the Executive Director of the OLV Senior Neighborhood and Mercy Nursing Facility in Lackawanna. OLV Senior Neighborhood provides senior housing, nursing home care, LIFE (a PACE program for the elderly) and blood testing.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ask Us Anything: How Can I Build Up Muscle with a Torn Meniscus?

"I have a torn meniscus in my left knee. It was pretty painful when I first tore it last winter – I am a regular jogger – but when I swam and biked for a few months instead of running, the pain went away, and I am now able to run regularly pain-free.

However, my left leg muscles are noticeably smaller than my right leg muscles. Is this the sign of a bigger problem? How can I build up that left leg? Or do I need to get the meniscus fixed first?"

Physical Therapist Jeff Castiglione Responds: 

It sounds like you did the right thing by taking a rest from running and doing other exercises to maintain strength and cardiovascular endurance.

Muscle shrinking, otherwise known as atrophy, can be the result of disuse, but it could also be a sign of more serious pathology.

Did the atrophy coincide with the period of inactivity or was it present prior to the injury? Do you have a history of back problems? Are there any other symptoms besides the atrophy?

Generally, if you are immobile for a long period of time, a muscle will have atrophy; this is a normal process. But, because it is only in the one leg and because you have remained active with exercise, I would recommend a follow-up with a physician to rule out other disease processes.

If other problems are ruled out, a follow-up with a physical therapist or trainer would be recommended to assess the atrophy and issue appropriate exercises. Your physician can provide you with a referral.

Keep in mind that differences in muscle size is generally not an issue for most people except visually, as long as there are no major strength differences between each limb.

— Jeff Castiglione, Doctor of Physical Therapy, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist

Jeff is the manager of AthletiCare - Amherst, which provides Physical Therapy and Sports Training and Injury Prevention services in Amherst, NY.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.
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