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True or False – You should usually let fevers run their course without giving medications?

Posted on October 22, 2013


 77 let a fever run its courseA fever is when our core body temperature is higher than it is supposed to be.  Normally, our body temperature hovers around 98.6 degrees F, but it is common for that number to fluctuate a degree or so during the day.  Usually, our temperature is at its lowest point sometime in the early morning and at its highest point sometime in the late afternoon.  Our temperature will also rise during periods of increased physical activity.  Many consider the temperature of 100.5 degrees F to be the point where we officially have a fever.  As parents of three children I can tell you that the first time one of our kids had a fever my wife and I experienced panic.  What is wrong?  What if the fever keeps going up?  When should we go to the doctor?  What can we do to lower the fever?  How long before brain cells start dying?  What we experienced is common and is sometimes referred to as fever phobia.  Generally speaking, fever phobia is the fear that something bad is happening when someone (e.g., your child) has a fever. 

As parents, our first desire with a sick child is usually to treat and take care of our children.  When a fever is involved, many think that means doing something to lower the fever.  However, experts say that is not what we should usually do.  It turns out that a fever is part of our body’s natural immune system defense against invading microorganisms.  Glatstein & Scolnik (2008) published an article titled Fever: to treat or not to treat in the World Journal of Pediatrics.  The authors state that “In humans, increased temperature is associated with decreased microbial reproduction and increased inflammatory response”.  Both help us fight invading viruses and bacteria.  The authors also state that “Since fever is not in itself harmful, and might even be protective, there is no particular reason to treat it other than as a comfort measure”.      

Glatstein M & Scolnik D: Fever: to treat or not to treat.  World Journal of Pediatrics (2008), Vol 4, pps. 245-247.  

True or False – Touching reptiles and amphibians increases your risk of contracting a salmonella infection?

Posted on October 17, 2013


85 touching certain animals risks salmonella

One of our family’s favorite summertime activities is to get in our canoe and float down a river not too far from our house.  The float usually covers 4 to 6 miles and we make frequent stops along sandbars to play football, swim, roast hotdogs, build sand castles, and of course, search for animals.  Our three boys always view these trips as mini adventures and they are continually on the lookout for critters.  They commonly find snakes, frogs, turtles, and toads and are never bashful about playing with them.  It hasn’t been until recently that I’ve learned that handling reptiles and amphibians can increase your risk of contracting a salmonella infection.  People often associate salmonella infections with eating contaminated foods like chicken or eggs.  However, it is true that you can get a salmonella infection from reptiles and amphibians.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also says that birds, cats, horses, and even dogs can pass salmonella in their feces.  Mermin and colleagues (2004) performed a study to estimate the burden of reptile- and amphibian-associated salmonella infections and published it in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The authors concluded that reptile and amphibian exposure is associated with about 74,000 salmonella infections every year in the United States.  The authors also stated that their findings “emphasize the need for improved prevention efforts without which thousands of preventable cases of reptile- and amphibian-associated salmonellosis may continue to occur annually in the United States.”  If you are interested in decreasing you or your family’s risk of contracting a salmonella infection, avoid contact with reptiles and amphibians (especially for young children) and thoroughly wash hands after doing so.

Mermin J, Hutwagner L, Vugia D, Shallow S, Daily P, Bender J, Koehler J, Marcus R, Angulo F: Reptiles, amphibians, and human Salmonella Infection: A population-bases, case-control study. Clinical Infectious Diseases (2004), Vol 38, pps. S253-261.

True or False – Crossing your legs leads to varicose veins?

Posted on October 9, 2013


image50Most people who cross their legs probably do so because they feel it is a comfortable way to sit.  However, I ran across a few sources that claim people will cross their legs for a variety of reasons in a variety of social situations. For example, some people may cross their legs when they are nervous or anxious, others because it makes them feel distinguished or sophisticated, and for some crossing their legs may be a way to create a barrier and protect personal space when interacting with someone new. For me, I often cross my legs when I am sitting in long meetings due to pure boredom. It gives me a reason to move around a little bit and helps me stay awake. Sometimes I pretend the foot I have elevated in the air is a fishing rod and I am casting for rainbow trout in a secluded mountainous river in Colorado.

Some believe that crossing your legs can increase the pressure in your lower legs or block blood flow and cause varicose veins. There is no evidence that crossing your legs causes varicose veins, or makes existing varicose veins worse.  A varicose vein is a vein near the surface of the body that for a variety of reasons might begin to lose its elasticity, the walls (or sides) may begin to weaken, and blood may pool in these veins causing them to enlarge or balloon up. Roughly 20 to 25% of adults will develop varicose veins. Even though crossing the legs doesn’t cause varicose veins, some people report discomfort in the ankles, knees, hips, and even low back after they sit with their legs crossed.  Lee and colleagues (2003) showed that height, family history, and obesity are likely reasons people develop varicose veins. Other reasons might be pregnancy, standing for long periods, and physical inactivity. If you enjoy sitting with your legs crossed you can do so without fear that you are causing varicose veins. Happy fishing!

Lee A, Evans C, Allan P, Ruckley C, Fowkes F: Lifestyle factors and the risk of varicose veins: Edinburgh vein study. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology (2003), Vol 56, pps. 171-179.

True or False – Covering a wart with duct tape will usually make it go away?

Posted on October 1, 2013


imagesWarts are very common. Recently I had the chance to look at a wart on the thumb of one of my kids – he thinks they are really cool! When I was younger my mother used to take me to the dermatologist every 12 to 15 months to have a cluster of warts frozen or burned (with liquid nitrogen) off of my elbow. For the most part warts don’t significantly impact our daily activities. My son functions just fine, and at times I think he enjoys having something readily available to pick at. And even though my warts were a source of some embarrassment during my pre-teen years, I managed to make it through without lasting psychological damage. Many people choose to have their warts removed; however, about 70% of warts will go away on their own in 1-2 years even without any type of treatment. Some people chose to visit their doctor to have their warts frozen or burned off, and many others purchase a variety of over the counter wart removers. One home remedy that appears to be successful is applying duct tape to warts. Dr. Dean Focht and colleagues (2002) did a study where they compared using duct tape vs. freezing with liquid nitrogen. They found that at the end of the study 85% of the research participants who used duct tape had complete resolution of their warts vs. 60% of the participants who had their warts frozen off. The process usually involves applying duct tape over a wart for 5-6 days, then soaking the wart, and abrading the dead skin off the wart with a pumice stone or something similar.   This is to be repeated until the wart is gone. No one is sure why duct tape helps remove warts but the current thinking is the tape causes irritation around the wart which then stimulates the body to attack it.

Focht D, Spicer C, Fairhok M: The efficacy of duct tape vs cryotherapy in the treatment of Verruca Vulgaris (the common wart). Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (2002), Vol 156, pps. 971-974.